To me, Facebook is a sea of noise. Having joined it a decade ago, I had befriended a great many people on the mother of all social media platforms long before its current format, which has left me with a news feed which demands way more time, attention and emotional energy than I have to spare on most days. Trying to scroll through days and days of updates I didn’t care about was extremely stressful, and every time I clicked to ‘unfollow’ someone I’d be racked with guilt. Friends told me I should change my settings, put people into lists, but that just seemed to involve even more time and effort so I just stopped.
The problem is that the way people use Facebook now was not the reason I joined in 2007. Back then, status updates were short and photos were mainly posted in batches after events. It was a way to keep in touch with people you’d just met and reconnect with people you hadn’t seen for years. Now Facebook feels more like a way for brands to connect with their customers and a blogging tool for people who don’t have/want a public blog. Just because I would like to stay in touch with someone doesn’t mean I enjoy reading their daily essays on issues I care very little about. If they had a blog I wouldn’t subscribe but, rather annoyingly, if we’re Facebook friends I get subscribed automatically.
As a result of opting out of this onslaught of information, I removed the Facebook app from my phone. I now just have Messenger, which I admit is very useful, and so I don’t get notifications of newsfeed items straight to my device. I made a conscious effort to check Facebook less in my browser too, and I mostly use my limited time on the site for promoting blog posts, discussing things with The Underpinnings Museum team, and making plans with Brunch Club. Anything else is just hit and miss whether I spot it or not. I’ve even put a disclaimer in my intro, saying “…doesn’t use Facebook much these days.”
Doing this might seem uncaring, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take as it also meant that an unnecessary source of stress was removed. The people who know me well can still reach me directly using Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp, Instagram or Twitter, so what’s the harm? However, reading Viv Groskop’s recent article for The Pool, entitled ‘How to put away your phone and stop pointlessly scrolling, watching and clicking‘ reminded me that I still have a long way to go with removing unnecessary online ‘noise’ from my life.
Often, as I’m sat watching Netflix, I’ll be unable to resist the urge to pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram. The photo sharing app is now unquestionably my favourite social media platform, as I love the positive effect that images from people I follow has on my mood. But do I really need to check it on the commute, at my desk, while watching TV, or while waiting for a movie to start? Perhaps my social media addiction has not abated, just changed its focus?
Top image via magicatwork‘s Flickr photostream. The other images are self-portraits that I uploaded to Facebook way back in 2007.