It was one post in late 2016 that did it. A friend tagged me in a funny video of a sleepy cat in a bunny costume trying to wake up enough to drink from his water bowl. Cutest. Thing. Ever. But then again, I’m a sucker for cats. I might even qualify proudly as a cat lady as long as that involves receiving a cape from some mysterious catty organisation that monitors things like that kind of thing.
So, the video was playing for the twentieth time (because of the cuteness) and while watching kitty falling asleep next to his little bowl, I made the mistake of looking at the comments section. I know, right? I can sense that head slap you just did. I know that reading the comments on anything online is never a great thing. But this wasn’t Youtube. This was Facebook, on a post of a cute kitty too tired to drink water.
And unsurprisingly, instead of being all lurved up, there was yelling lecturing, and ridiculousness to the point where the person running the page apologised for putting the video up because they had reposted the video from someone else’s page. In doing so, they’d inadvertently introduced the clip with the word ‘milk’ in the same sentence as ‘cat.’ Needless to say, it was readily apparent there was no milk in kitty’s bowl and people are idiots.
I won’t go into further details and you can check the original post from instagram out yourself while turning to mush like I did at the cute kitty cat.
So, I got to thinking… or more to the point, brooding. And I realised that Facebook and I have had a thing for a while. Essentially, for the past couple of years it’s felt like I’ve gotten out of bed, made myself a cup of tea and then walked into a room where a bunch of people are milling around—some of them goose-stepping around—screaming their thoughts and opinions so loudly they can’t actually hear what anyone else is saying. And because I’m a bit of a people pleaser and had brought into the whole ‘you have to be on every single social media platform in existence to succeed as a writer’ thing, I was spending waaaaay to much time there.
Now don’t get me wrong. My little metaphorical Facebook room isn’t all bad. There are cool people hanging out in the corners—The people I actually enjoy spending my real and virtual time with who post things I want to see. (Including pictures of cats, dogs, unicorns Guinea pigs and moles, because they are all awesome.) But after looking at my wall the morning after kitty-milk-gate, I realised I was looking at the awesome people’s post with an air of grumpiness because I’d just been shouted at by everyone else.
Looking at the comments on a cat video brought everything into focus and I realised that I actually dreaded visiting my Facebook wall every day. And with this realisation came the question “Why bother?”
Sure, FB has some great aspects that I don’t have to give up. It’s not like I’m entering into some kind of all-or-nothing vow or anything. I’m still using messenger, I still keep up with my local and writing communities by scanning their public pages once a week. And I I adore catching up with my Naughty Ninja broads on our secret Ninja dojo page for some private, non-shouty, ultra-dodgy conversation.
I’m also keeping my author page to share news with the wonderful people that read my books but instead of hanging around there, I’m posting and then going back to writing more books because, presumably, that’s what my readers would prefer than to see my latest opinions about what I had for dinner.
In short, I’m just making an effort not to look at my wall at all and so far I’m feeling pretty good about it. It’s been a while now, and after spending the last few weeks not being subjected to shoutiness in the mornings, I have discovered the following:
- When people haven’t been able to just check in with my posts and to then assume how I am, they’ve called, emailed or we’ve visited each other. The resulting conversations have been so much more enjoyable and meaningful, even if they’re only thirty seconds or for hours on end.
- I’ve enjoyed not knowing what’s going on in people’s lives. It’s meant that I’ve actually had to make an effort to ask my friends and colleagues how they are, which has frequently revealed that most of the things I’ve seen on their FB pages over the past couple of years has been much less interesting than their real lives at large.
- I like people more. Having travelled the world as I have and making friends from all over the place, it’s really nice to be back to asking what they think about religious and political things, rather than assuming what they think based on some of the crazy propaganda they’ve posted on Facebook at two in the morning after eating far too much midnight-cake. (Or maybe that was just me that did that...)
- I’ve got way more time on my hands to write long posts like this one. Waaaay more time on my hands. So much so that I’m back to reading that huge to-read pile of novels in my book case. So far I’ve got four more books read this month than I would have otherwise, I’ve written more and I’m weirdly had way more time to catch up with friends without losing working time.
So, that’s where it’s at. I don’t know if my little Facebook wall embargo will go on forever. But if it does, it’s not like I don’t have Instagram, Twitter, my blog, skype, whattsapp and every other app under the sun to feel connected…