Today is day 2 of a two-week Facebook hiatus. I would not consider myself an addict, but like most people I know Facebook is consistently running at least in the background of my life, and very often in the foreground. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it can be:
- A VORACIOUS APETITE FOR NEW STIMULATION: I felt mostly that I was just scanning through Facebook, not even really engaging with the posts. Just ‘liking’ what I thought might interest me or because I liked the person posting it. I would never comment without reading what I was commenting on, but mostly I was just scanning through the never-ending pictures, memes, gifs, videos, rants, jokes and anecdotes describing the minutiae of my ‘friends’ lives. The sheer volume of data was drowning me and giving me the sense that my life had become at least partially superficial.
- A PATHOLOGICAL NEED FOR APPROVAL: even before I rejoined Facebook a few years ago I noticed an unhealthy need for approval which causes me to adjust my behaviour in the hopes of pleasing others. Through Facebook I became acutely aware of how many likes a post or picture received, how many comments there were, and who was commenting. I love the dialogue, I love the new ideas and the stimulation but too often I found myself thinking that more people should engage with me and feeling dissatisfied. Which given my first point, it is incredible that anybody engages at all.
- THE NEGATIVE SPACE TAKES OVER: I don’t mean negative as in bad, I mean negative space as in the space that defines an object, or in this case my life. Facebook has begun to fill in the negative spaces of my life so whenever I am not directly engaged in an activity I will be on Facebook. Sometimes I am directly involved in something, work or having wine with a friend and I will still automatically open up Facebook. This is probably the most frightening aspect for me as it gradually erodes my solitude and how deeply I engage with the world around me.
- DISTRACTION FROM BOREDOM: Facebook is lethal to boredom, well it is the Valium to boredom. It creates the illusion of entertainment, connection and amusement. Boredom I think is a crucial part of finding ones way to activity that has real interest. These activities usually take more effort and often have more risk associated, Facebook is easy, and safe.
There are many positive aspects to Facebook that I love and are meaningful to me, the surprising ‘friends’ I have made, the ability to stay connected, the debates that have persuaded me to change my mind. I never intend to quit social media altogether, but I want it to support and enrich my real life not be a substitute, not be the thing that stops me from being bored.