I’ve done something so unbelievable for me, that I have shocked even myself. No I have not got a job in an office, I have suspended my personal facebook account.
For those of you who can’t even remember their log in, this will seem an odd revelation. But for those of you who, like me, got sucked into the vortex and loved every minute of it, you’ll be reaching for your device and checking, just to make sure that I’m not just attention seeking by saying something outrageous. Because I am, as Tommy Honey once said, and I quote: A promosexual. Someone who seeks every opportunity to say ‘Look at me!’ and facebook is perfect for that. And I LOVE it. I can exercise my wit, and have my opinion noted, which as I realise, in the famous words of Harry Callahan in Dead Pool (1988) ‘Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.’
So skip forward a few years to now, and why the change of heart?
Well, it’s not just because of Black Mirror Season 3’s ‘Nose Dive.’ (watch that and you'll put down your phone...)
It started out innocently enough. It always does- reluctantly joining, getting the kids to show you how, just 9 friends for a long time including my family… then 5 years later, ending up with over 300 fb friends, not because I’m wildly popular, but because I meet people I want to follow and they don’t have a separate public page for their work, so I friend them and (uncomfortably) they just post their work and links to events, but are party to my political opinions, family moments, and occasional rants, most of which are written to amuse my actual friends and family, you know, the ones you hang out with.
But last week, I had an issue that I’d been simmering about. I vented on facebook, to my friends (I never go public on the settings) and to cut a long story short, social media bit me in the ass, after I had willingly bared it. Waved it even. I won’t go into details, because I’m STILL RIGHT. You know? But it had repercussions that I was uncomfortable with and made me feel bad about myself in the world.
Note to self: just because people aren’t liking or commenting, doesn’t mean they aren’t noting everything you say and sharing it well beyond your internet walls.
When I took down the somewhat out of hand thread, I considered all the time I spend on facebook. I reach for it first thing in the morning, before I pee (TMI I know, sorry). It’s at the breakfast table with me on my tablet (this outrage with poor grammar was in The Herald, share), and in the traffic jams on my smartphone (just as well I have this great coffee from Raglan Roast! share). When I’m working, it’s there on my desktop (I have this major deadline, share) and with me again whilst cooking dinner (My Food Bag, facebooked plated deliciousness, share), binge watching TV drama (can you believe how ridiculous the plot is for TheKettering Incident? share) and the last thing I see before I sleep (I’ve got this great book, click, share). Not much of a compliment to my husband… (he’s snoring, share).
I’m a writer but I barely read anymore. That little red notification icon is like crack. I can’t ignore it, it draws me in. Distracting me. The FOMO is unbearable.
So I decided to commit facebookicide. I warned all friends who cared to notice that I was shutting down my account and would be offline by 9pm. They could get hold of me the usual way, by email and phone, and bumping into me at cafes. Then I went about the deactivation process.
Hah! It’s not as easy as you think. Facebook asks you every step of the way, Why? Are you sure about this? Would you like to speak to someone? Would you like to leave your estate to someone you care about? Download your digital life for posterity. Don’t go, it pleads, don’t LEAVE US!
In the end I opted for suspending it, for a time. It was such an ordeal to leave, I figured it would be the same to log back in. Phew, safe from myself. Then I had a sudden panicked thought ‘My public pages! My hard won 1000 plus followers. MY WORK!’ I had literally made myself redundant by shutting down my facebook account which had several pages linked to it.
I rushed to my husband’s computer and looked at his facebook page, luckily logged on and searched for myself. As his wife and friend I was gone- no trace of me. He could start afresh if he wanted to. With a new wife. My children were motherless; I was invisible to myself and the world. But Fifi Colston Creative, the public woman of no political persuasion, just fun art, what of her? I logged into my pages manager on my tablet. Well helloooo from facebook. You're back! (no I'm not!) She was there- thank the gods! But untouchable unless I was me. I couldn’t post on my own page. I was like a memory of myself, before I ruined my life by opening my big mouth.
I considered the options and considered appointing the husband as an administrator. But that was clearly not going to work, as it meant logging into his account and whilst we share pretty much everything, he still won’t tell me his password (I think in truth he’s forgotten it.) The only solution I could come up with in the end was to create another personal page as a fictitious persona, then log back into my own account, friend ‘myself’ and grant the new ‘me’ admin status.
I made my new self 20 years younger and with a much more interesting degree.
I logged back in to my old personal account, hating myself for doing it, waiting to answer the trillion fb questions about why I was back so I could access myself. Pressed enter and… welcome back Fi!
Like I’d never been away. The red notifications beacon told me 97 important things had happened since I’d been away for a day. I nearly looked at them, but pulled myself back and kept on with what I was there for. Get in quick, do the business and out again, leaving no footprints.
I’ve been 6 days without facebook now. That’s a lie of course, I have my new account with 4 trusted friends who know the ins and outs of why I left. I have only liked one public page- my own. The friends friends have already tried to friend me (why? I’m not actually real) but I remain aloof and unfriendable, all my controls locked down to ‘only me.’ I don’t post (except for my public page). I have got on with work deadlines, I might even read a book, and finish that novel I’ve been writing. It’s liberating as hell. I might never go back.
And anyway, there’s always Instagram.
I first met you, Fi, through your poems in Next Magazine. They lifted me out of the dirty nappy hole that was full time mummy and full time teacher. Your words and pictures and art has always WOW'd me. Thank goodness there is still your public page. What a pity there isn't a place for your commentary and stinging and funny wit in a place like a mag or newspaper. The advantage of that medium is allows heels to cool and a distancing that FB doesn't afford.
You are a braver soul than me but I guess you have nailed why we love FB - we are writers; communicators. It's our way of scratching that itch to comment on the world we see. It's more of an instant fix that the (at least two years) it takes to get a book out into the world.
But, the 'sucked into the vortex' nature of FB is also why we creatives love it too - it's Alice in the Rabbit hole - a chasing of stories; the fascination with other people's (interesting) lives. Fodder for our own art. I envy those who don't have FB or use FB like me - they are oblivious and have more time but they are missing out on SO MUCH.
Yet, despite being locked down way more than you, I've been hurt (as you know) also by friends of friends who have tried to twist things said by others on my page as a way of condemning me. It was a tough but important lesson. I censor myself a lot even though people still 'admire [my] honesty. Though, tbh, what other way is there is be but honest? Unfortunately, the world doesn't like little boys (and girls) who point out the ridiculous behaviour and the unfairness of society like the fact that the emperor is NOT wearing any clothes and people who think he is are just stupid.
Your actions have given me pause to think. Now, if I could also apply your fortitude to my relationship to sugar
I agree with Tania, that you're brave and admirable, taking this step away from the addiction that is Facebook. I also agree with her, that we miss you acerbic wit on the home page!
What I like to do is go "off the grid" for part of each school holiday break. I disappear off FB for a week. I find that it disengages me very effectively. Then, I get to remember what it is to live again without having to "check" social media. You're right, it's as if there is suddenly more time to do other things.
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