It wasn’t quite as easy as saying “I divorce you” three times in front of witnesses, as one culture allows, but I have made my separation from Facebook permanent.
The initial infatuation was not sudden. I resisted the burgeoning social media giant in its early years before finally succumbing to its lures, and the fondness gradually grew to the point that I would not have thought the relationship would ever end. It worked for me, for a decade I supposed, in part because I was just as judicious in making Facebook friends as I am in my personal life. I enjoyed seeing what they were doing in their lives that they felt worthy of sharing and I loved the family photos, travel reports and even the shares of art posts and humorous videos.
From Day 1 I took a strong dislike to the “Share if you…” messages. You know the ones—“Share if you support cancer victims”, “Share if you support our military/police/firefighters/dogcatchers”, “Share if you want little Johnny to get a new bike.” After expressing my displeasure about these inane messages (saying they are the modern equivalent of the chain letter) to a friend with whom I had reconnected after nearly 20 years, another came and I unfriended her.
In the last year I began to unfollow more and more friends, having grown weary of seeing several updates a day—no one I know is that interesting. Occasionally I stopped following friends whose posts I generally liked until they started to post photo after photo after photo of their dogs and cats and other pets. I am not an animal lover (or hater) and I have no interest in that particular subject. So my choice was to tolerate the ninth photo of the cat each week or unfollow and lose track of the parts of my friends’ life that I do have an interest in.
It wasn’t until my recent vacation that it really began to hit home about how many times I was checking my Facebook page. I carried on my usual routine of opening my emails and then immediately tapping the Facebook icon (unless weather was of concern, then Facebook became my third choice). Because I, by choice, like to keep in touch with our office when I am away, that next step of checking Facebook had gradually become time-consuming, and gradually less satisfying (particularly since the increase in the number of advertisements) habit.
One day I simply began to wonder, “Why am I doing this?” I waited until I returned from home, because Facebook was the easiest way of connecting with family members from afar, and then made the decision to leave.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how we get caught up in these routines without realizing how they eat up time without giving a big return on that investment. I felt much like I did when we cut the television feed to our house. Time suddenly expanded. Evenings seemed so pleasantly longer. I read and listened to music more. I no longer tuned into a hockey or baseball or football game on most nights. Admittedly, we still watch television series, but we do it on our terms—no commercials and no pre-determined schedule. We stream it on my computer and typically follow one series through to its end before starting another. And I still follow my favourite sports, but only watch games I have a particular interest in.
There is no real alternative to Facebook, but our kids will send grandchild photos by text or email, and we can visit by Skype or telephone. As for the rest of my former Facebook friends they know how to find me. If they don’t have my email I am still listed in the telephone book. For now, anyway.