Sea turtle rescues on video, lengthy political rants and daily selfies. Multiple captures of tasty food and romantic moments. 25 versions of outrage about an appalling news item. It is time to turn down the volume.
For a couple of months I have rehearsed the idea of stepping away from Facebook. After seven years of being able to peer at the veneer of people’s lives, I thought it was time to analyze the purpose of this digital connection. This exploration has inspired me to converse with people who use it regularly, and a few who have either deleted their profile or were never on Facebook.
After telling a good friend about my plan, he replied, “Oh, going back to normalcy.” We then reminded ourselves of what it was like back in the days before social media, and even before email. (Yes we are old enough to remember this.) Social time was allocated between close individuals and then remaining interaction would happen with colleagues after work or with teammates after a game. And then, unless you received a phone call or a letter, you caught up with people the next time you met.
So what is the value of being on Facebook? Looking at the newsfeed of my connections, I see an easy way for family to stay in touch with each other around the world. My actor friends can invite each other to their shows. I detect that some folks who feel isolated may consider Facebook a lifeline. Some companies build a business page for sharing their products and like-minded people support each other in various groups.
There is also a lot of ‘stuff’ on Facebook that can be distracting. A colleague suggested to just limit the time on Facebook and I have, although with less time logged in, I discover that I do not have a particular need to go there. This prompted me to take a look at my activity and study my use of the interface. It has been neat posting topics that have stimulated lengthy conversations. And the pictures of events are fun to look at! Not surprising for this minimalist, however, I started to delete my albums.
Just as I would when decluttering a house, I paused to honour these photo memories; past performances, civic duties accomplished and glamorous events I attended. There were plenty of posts titled, “Minimalist Jo strikes again!” featuring clothing, housewares and sports equipment to give away. And there is the reminder of darling people who have passed away, their images alive on Facebook. Summed up, all are memories of a previous life that I will never forget. But this is an invitation to move on. I am a different person now.
I slowly removed about 300 friends, from high school mates who found me over the years to former colleagues, many who do not respond to my comments or even participate at all on Facebook. The 235 I have left I can say I actually currently know! And they are all so fantastic. But the stream of chatter is taking up mental space. Time is finite; as I pare down and slow down in life, disconnecting from Facebook just makes sense to me.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come. Will I experience FOMO? (“Fear Of Missing Out” is actually a thing!) I expect I will not hear about some invites, as the people who are not on Facebook have reported to me. I will only have time to truly connect with good friends, closer acquaintances and a few fun colleagues throughout the year. Others are relegated to party or on the street happenstance. But it will be such a unique pleasure to reconnect when we do.
I see lots of my Facebook folks on Twitter and Instagram, although by design the interaction there is brief and less personal. The short and sweet nature appeals to my minimalist tendencies! And although I love taking pictures, I have been experimenting with reducing the constant documentation of my life. something about just letting the experience flow through me, allowing just my mind and body to keep what it wants.
Deleting this simple digital interface has prompted such consideration! What kind of hold does Facebook have over me? None of course, but as a minimalist I consciously curate what is in my life so this exploration is part of that process. I acknowledge that for me the constant awareness of the lives of others does not equate connection. With the removal of Facebook, I hope to steal back a few minutes each day to be present in the moment of living my daily life and that includes direct contact with some amazing people.
I would love to hear from you. Why do you (or perhaps do not) use Facebook?
If you are curious to know what it would be like to live without Facebook, log off for one month and tell me about your experience!