Just over a week ago I reached saturation point with social media. Particularly Facebook. I was suddenly totally sick of it – not just, ‘that’s enough now, thanks’, but more, ‘oh for God’s sake will everyone just SHUT UP!’
This, of course, is my issue and not the fault of my Facebook friends. I wasn’t irritated by any one person or few people, just generally by the whole notion that we all share so much so often. And personally I’d had enough of being constantly aware of so many things that so many people were doing, or the thoughts they were having or the way they were feeling or the things that they, their kids, their dogs, cats, mice and ferrets were eating or drinking or dancing at any one moment. It felt like just too much input.
I’ll admit I’d been on Facebook far too often. If I’d just looked once a day it would have been fine, nice even to see what people were getting up to. But I’m not like that with it. I was checking my newsfeed all the time – like a nervous twitch, any spare moment – in the car waiting outside school, in a queue, while the kettle was boiling, on the loo… my phone would suddenly be in my hand and ‘click’ the hundreds of voices poured in. Sometimes I’d just glance, sometimes have a quick scroll but given the chance (in the evening) I could lose hours. The word ‘feed’ is far too accurate – it made me feel bloated and overloaded and sluggish. Like I’d gorged on something unhealthy. I had Facebook flab.
So I took a step back. Last week I buried the FB app in a seldom-visted backwater of my phone and I haven’t looked at my newsfeed for over a week now. I’ve still popped to my groups when notifications have arrived but that feels much more controlled – more like nibbling on crudités than overeating. I’ve also still been on Instagram and Twitter but they’ve never had the psychological pull that Facebook has (let’s call them the reasonably appealing yogurts of the metaphor) so I didn’t feel the need to avoid them entirely.
And how have I found it? Well, in the most part good because I really do experience social media as noise and I like a bit of silence. There have been (brief) moments when I’ve luxuriated in it this past week. Since I’ve always prioritised real world interactions over the online world anyway (as introverts go, I’m a bit of a social butterfly) I’ve not felt lacking in interaction, there’s just been less chatter in my head. I’ve been more able to hear myself think.
But… I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been odd. I feel a bit out of the loop – like I suddenly don’t know what my friends are doing or how they’re feeling about things. World events happen and I only know what a few people think about them. Things happen in people’s lives and I don’t have a clue. Or maybe nothing’s happened and I don’t have clue. The point is I don’t have a clue. And when you’re used to knowing things about a lot of people, that’s a weird feeling.
It’s made me realise though, that I don’t actually need to know. If it’s important then I’ll find out. If our friendship is important they’ll tell me the crucial stuff, as I will them. Even though social media has become a common way of making announcements, really, when relationships are genuine and when things are really important, we contact people personally. And the people who matter, matter regardless of what you know about what they’re doing or thinking on any particular day.
Behind the scenes this week, I’ve continued to connect with people, if anything slightly more than I would have done if they’d been popping up in my feed. And I know that as time goes by I’ll do that more and more: ‘I wonder how so and so is doing? I know – I’ll ask them!’ It’s a more genuine way to be a part of people’s lives really isn’t it? I’ve often thought that reading people’s status updates gives you a false sense of having communicated with them – that we’d make more personal effort if we didn’t have that tenuous connection.
Without social media we might know fewer people. But we also might properly connect with more.
So I’ll be staying away from my newsfeed for a while longer. At least.