It’s been over six months since I grappled with Facebook’s settings and deactivated my six–year–old account.
As I battled to find a way to bring an end to what was increasingly feeling like a voyeuristic nightmare, I was finally greeted by a screen of ‘Friends’ who’d miss me. I hadn’t seen a single one of them for the best part of a decade.
I was a social media acolyte from the get go. I had a Friendster account in 2004, a MySpace account in 2005 and happily leapt on the Facebook bandwagon not long after it threw open its virtual doors to non–students in late 2006 - just over a year after it first launched.
But by summer 2013, I had grown weary. There wasn’t one single thing that pushed me to kill my Facebook account for good, rather myriad niggles that bugged me every time I had the compulsion to tap the ‘F’ key on my Mac, only for my browser to autocomplete the web address and send me into social media purgatory.
When I first joined Facebook, I enjoyed the fact that it afforded me the chance to interact with friends I’d lost touch with, as well as those who I was still close to. It was more casual and less cumbersome than making a call, or tapping out an email.
For me, today’s Facebook is an unending popularity contest."
But as the years went by and the service developed, it began to feel more and more tiring. It was like work. If you didn’t tend to your page, or latterly your timeline, you essentially weren’t alive.
For me, today’s Facebook is an unending popularity contest. It has gamified life itself, to the point where users take pictures, post video and update statuses in a desperate attempt to show a group of people that they don’t really know that they’re having ‘A Really Great Time’.
Gone to Argentina? Post a filtered snap of you doing the Tango on the streets of Buenos Aires. Having a meal with a friend you haven’t seen for years? Then be sure to share a snap of your hulking burger before chowing down. Woe betide actually taking joy in that moment on its own terms.
It had reached a point where I felt I was almost doing things just to service the monster that is Facebook. Whatever they tell you, Facebook is all about showing off. It’s about making yourself feel better about your life, and the things you do, rather than actually living it.
At Facebook’s core is the concept of comparison. It’s exceedingly clever. You match your life up to others, specifically others who you don’t know all that well any more.
Facebook is all about showing off. It’s about making yourself feel better about your life, and the things you do, rather than actually living it."
But as Jack Kerouac once said, comparisons are odious. The feeling of inadequacy that comes when you see someone else having a good time makes you want to post more to feel better about your own life. Ad infinitum.
Facebook is essentially selling you the concept of life. As an advertising ruse, it’s utter genius. Especially when you’ve got hungry brands looking to pile in on all that lovely data about your needs and wants.
When I quit, I found I made far greater efforts to catch up with people. I’ve reignited friendships and remembered to do things because I like them, not because I felt driven to share them digitally.
It’s made me enjoy single moments far more than when there was the nagging pressure to post my itinerary for everyone to see.
As for ‘lost friends’? Well, if we really liked each other we’d have stayed in touch. It’s all a happy byproduct of no longer taking part in the greatest popularity contest in history.
Joe Minihane is a freelance writer. He hasn’t given up Twitter and be frequently found discussing his beloved Spurs.
This article is the opinion of Joe Minihane and not necessarily that of BT.