I didn’t make it known to anyone because I didn’t plan to do it. I came home from a long, meandering walk and decided I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was time to deactivate my account. It was time to end the Facebook fatigue.
I can remember my life pre-Facebook. There was Myspace, of course, and before that there was instant messaging, and before that there was the Total Girl website chatboard, where I went by the sophisticated alias of Roxygirl3001. And before that there was nothing. There was no mobile phone, either. There was free roam of my quiet cul-de-sac street until the streetlights turned on, and there were hurriedly organised sleepovers negotiated between two sets of parents, and there was watching the nightly soap opera with mum whilst dad pretended to be reading the newspaper. There was a lot of free time and only physical interactions.
I don’t want to be that person. You know, that person who rants and raves about how technology is destroying the world and social interactions and the English language and the minds of the young generation. I love the Internet, and spend hours on it each day. But Facebook is a whole different story.
I have fewer than 200 ‘friends’ on Facebook, and I am proud of that. Of those 200 ‘friends’, a third are people I know from high school, a third are people I know from life after high school, and the final third are a motley crew of acquaintances that would either make for awkward conversations if I deleted them or are too interesting not to want to ‘stalk’. But even with the confirmation that I have 200 ‘friends’ on this device, I find that I rarely spend any physical time with more than a close few. And that if I really think about it, most of my interactions with even these close few were only occurring digitally.
I can be quite a masochist. I niggle at irritations until they become outbursts. I pester people if they haven’t been responding to my calls or messages. I re-read heated conversations that contain insults and harsh truths, wearing away at my self-confidence and enhancing my self-pity. I’m very good at self-pity. And then, when I’m feeling most vulnerable, I log on to Facebook and I find even more to work with: photos of parties I was never invited to, taggings of people clubbing in the Valley and private jokes being shared in wall posts. No little red notification button at the top? No Facebook love for you.
So on Monday the 18th of June, after scrolling past a post where my ex-boyfriend was tagged with his new squeeze and re-reading a blunt message from a hurt friend effectively telling me to “please never speak to him again”, I decided I didn’t need to be this person anymore. I didn’t need these reminders. I didn’t need this time suck.
Maybe Facebook ignorance would be bliss.
DAY 1: Monday
“Please choose a reason for deactivating your Facebook account”. I opt for “it’s no longer useful” but only because there is no option saying, “because it’s ruining my life”. Two minutes later and out of habit I click on the Facebook bookmark. This may be harder than I thought.
My biggest concern with deactivating my account is that this will make social interactions less likely to occur, which is slightly paradoxical seeing as I felt that with a Facebook account most of them never made it past the computer screen. But with only a phone to contact me through, maybe my friends would be less likely to bother. Then again, maybe I’m not giving them enough credit.
An hour later and I receive a text from a concerned uni friend, mentioning that she was about to message me on Facebook but couldn’t find me. “Did you block me as a friend, bitch?” I imagine her thinking. Her concern is comforting, however, and we have a quick relay of messages that result in an invitation to my first book club. This is something to look forward to in the coming weeks, and something that didn’t require Facebook.
Another hour later and I get a message on my blog from another concerned uni friend who has also tried to contact me on Facebook. It’s a painful process, typing less than 200 words per message back and forth to one another, but now I have plans for brunch and a movie and maybe even a sneaky cocktail or two. Score 2 against Facebook.
Four hours later and I open Spotify. Problem #1 encountered. Without a logged-in Facebook account, Spotify is off limits to me. I acknowledge this slight defeat, but I do not surrender. I simply revert to iTunes.
DAY 2: Tuesday
Plans have been made for today. Ordinarily, I would spend a couple of minutes checking Facebook before heading anywhere. Today it’s just my emails. Already, I’m 10 minutes ahead in my daily ritual.
I spend the morning in a previously unexplored suburb eating breakfast with a friend. This is followed by a movie. This is followed by a few hours in my unit, which pass quickly enough before I am off again to visit another friend and attend another movie screening. This is followed by a cup of tea and debrief, and then I am alone. For the first time today.
The impulse is there. I haven’t deleted the bookmark yet, and the curiosity is getting to me. Thankfully, it’s less about wanting to know what everyone else has been doing and more about wanting to make sure no one has been trying to get in touch with me. I remind myself that I’ve spent an entire day socialising, which Facebook has not assisted in any way. I delete the bookmark.
DAY 3: Wednesday
Today’s wakeup call comes courtesy of two text messages sent less than 10 seconds apart. “Am I crazy or have you disappeared off Facebook?” queries one. The other puts it more bluntly: “you quit Facebook?” I can visualize their incredulousness, eyebrows raised quizzically when they type my name into their Facebook search bar and are returned 0 results. Or maybe a Hayley Stockall, mother of two and native of Jacksonville, Florida. Or a Haylee Stockwell, sixteen-year-old checkout chick at Woolworths who is ‘Facebook engaged’ to her best friend.
News is travelling fast, it seems. And even though these texts interrupted my warm and cozy slumbering, I can’t feel annoyed. I’m relieved to still feel connected.
DAY 4: Thursday
I awake late, and already things are a little askew. I went to bed with plans of heading to a bookstore, a place of creature comforts for someone like myself. I envisioned walking the aisles, fingertips trailing the spines of these wonderful specimens as names both familiar and new leap out at me, distracting me or enticing me. A lunch of poached eggs or maybe just a sandwich, as I while away my Facebook-free hours people-watching in a cafe.
Instead I spend a few dreary hours wandering around the soul-sucking local shopping centre, and then head back home only to find myself called in for a spontaneous work shift. I ended up in a bookstore regardless, I suppose.
DAY 5: Friday
More work, which means less time to myself, which means less temptation to go on Facebook. I manage to distract myself by watching a 3 hour film. Thank fuck Magnolia is a magnificent piece of art. Who wants to give a shit about what’s going on over on Facebook when you can be watching frogs fall from the sky?
DAY 6: Saturday
Fuck. It couldn’t last.
I would not say I’m a very disciplined person. I don’t regularly exercise and my study habits fall into the typical “shit-it’s-due-tomorrow-but-I-still-don’t-want-to-start-it-yet” category. When I had tonsillitis a few months ago, I told myself I wouldn’t drink any alcohol until I was off the antibiotics. It’s actually an isntruction given by doctors and written on the medicine box. “Do not consume alcohol”. I lasted two nights.
Still, I would like to think that making it until approximately 7:00pm on the 6th day has been a considerable achievement. It’s not success. It’s not victory. My excuse is that I really needed to check the address of the house party I was headed to, but that doesn’t exactly account for the then hour I spent scrolling, searching, and stalking.
What I did discover is that I didn’t miss out on much.
DAY 7: Sunday
The initial achievement was no longer possible, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try for some kind of consolation prize. In fact, logging back onto Facebook the previous night had led to some foolish decision-making on my behalf, or perhaps I am intentionally linking the two to have something to blame the shitty consequences on. Regardless, I was still treating Facebook with much disdain. What did it have to offer me right now? I felt alone. I felt frustrated. I felt bitter. What I need is either something to absorb the endless amount of time that I still have, or a hug.
I head to the art gallery. The wind is quite chilling. I hug myself warm.
It takes 30 days to break a habit. A habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. If you check Facebook every day that it is possible to do so, I would consider that a habit. If you check Facebook more than once a day, I would consider that a habit. If you turn to Facebook as a way to relieve boredom, I would say that is a habit. If you check Facebook often, regularly turning to it as a way to relieve boredom or to find “someone to talk to” and find yourself using it instead of doing something more fulfilling, which to you could be knitting a sweater vest but to me would be something more like finishing that goddamn David Foster Wallace novel despite how tiring the footnotes are getting, than I would say that you may be addicted. In the loosest, least medical sense of the word as I am not about to pretend that I am any kind of professional on the matter.
Regardless, taking steps to overcome this ‘addiction’ was surprisingly relieving and only slightly difficult. Sure, I had withdrawals. I spent majority of this week completely alone, with no responsibilities or distractions. What the hell else was I supposed to do?
I walked. I walked all over Taringa, for hours at a time, exploring the quiet streets and forgetting to check before I crossed the busy streets and embracing my stinging cheeks and the smell of woodfire that so perfectly suits the dimmed twilight hour.
I went places. I sat in the art gallery’s movie cinema and fought as hard as possible to not cry in front of all the senior citizens sitting around me. I failed. Films about cancer make me weepy, okay. I went to the photojournalism exhibition and ate German sausages with a friend. I saw another movie, and another movie. I slaved away in my bookstore job. I went to a party and got drunk and ate a lot of chocolate biscuits and decided I preferred my own company and walked home. I spent a lot of time outside of my bedroom, and I spent a lot of time within my bedroom, and I just opted to not involve Facebook in my life.
I opted out of Facebook. Maybe it was only temporary, but that…
That made all the difference.