On Leaving Facebook

I don’t know if I have any new arguments about leaving Facebook. Privacy... Lack of depth... The whole thing set up in the same way as a high school popularity contest.... We’ve all considered these aspects of Facebook and weighed them against the fact that it’s a free service. And really, how Facebook is a mirror of the time we spend online, and the things we give up to do so.

But the reason I decided to leave is decidedly old-fashioned. I was lying in bed, either just waking up or about to fall asleep – in that spell of mental gloaming where thoughts that have an impact are difficult to stave off – and I reimagined what my days looked like before the internet, before so much of what we now do required us to be parked in front of a screen.

My default location was outside. Didn’t matter where, as long as it wasn’t inside. I read more. I wrote more. Most of all, I considered more. I had more time to think. To paraphrase the late David Carr on the hidden cost of the media age we’re living in: you become so busy consuming the media that you don’t have time to assess if it’s worth your time, and you have less time to create. Or to just simply wonder.

Some people have congratulated me on my decision; they’ve said things like “fight the system”. That disturbs me. Is Facebook really part of ‘the system’? Or are we allowing it to be (and if so, for what)?

To clarify: I don’t think Facebook is necessarily a bad thing, but I want to be able to opt out of more things on it than I can. I want to be able to share things – major things, like moving to a new city or country, or photos of my son – without Facebook knowing and capitalizing on it. And I can’t. Yes, it is a free service, but I’m opting out of Facebook itself before it does become a part of my system.

I know my pre-internet point of reference was also a different time in my life, and that leaving Facebook doesn’t mean I’m free from the screen, but it’s a start to considering the importance of life away from the screen.

And who knows, maybe I’ll realize what Facebook was good for once it’s no longer there, though I’m not sure about that. I didn’t use it much, and I can think of other ways to share things with friends without the details of my life being used for purposes unknown, even if it is at a distance. In the meantime, spring has reared its lovely head, a new stack of books waits by my bed, and my head feels clearer, ready for unbroken thought.