I've been giving my relationship with Facebook a lot of thought over the past months and while on holiday with my girlfriend in France I made some decisions.
Expressing disapproval of Facebook is very much in vogue at the moment and it’s not hard to see why. From the insidious way they capture your personal data that would have made even George Orwell raise an eyebrow to the disingenuous adverts trying to convince us that they really have turned over a new leaf and that they are the only social network you need. Telling the masses that Facebook is the one place you need to get all of your news and information about your friends and the wider world. I find this deeply concerning. I feel we are losing perspective of what it really means to have dedicated, professional and full-time journalists seeking out new stories and presenting and accurate to picture of the world. I would be concerned if people went to the same place to look at pictures of their friends night out and also for information to reinforce their worldview, however is not the creepy data scandal or the allegation of election meddling or the role that its played in bringing us 'fake news' that has made me question my relationship with Facebook.
My primary goals this year includes focusing on being a more productive and peaceful person and after some reflection, I have begun to appreciate the negative impact social media was having on my personal life. It’s no secret that people use Facebook to portray a life they want others to know about. The photos of envy-inducing holidays or fabulous culinary creations are not necessarily what that person is living every day. On the flipside, the numerous posts of people’s self-pity can be equally as damaging and fallacious. These posts can have equal power to create a sense of anxiety. Facebook also offers people an unrealistic expectation of what the world is like. We naturally surround ourselves with people with whom we share our worldview with, and who frequently post news clippings or quotes from similarly aligned news outlets and influencers. That's all well and good, but people then get violently jerked back to reality when the world they were experiencing through social media doesn't relate to what's actually going on. One such example concerns an anecdote I heard about the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Many people on the remain side simply couldn’t believe that the British public would vote to leave because when they went to check on their social media sources which, as I mentioned earlier could be there the only source of information on current affairs, they found that nobody they knew was considering voting to leave and besides there are so any convincing and coherent arguments to remain and why would anybody choose any different. How wrong we could be.
This is the environment that I used to spend minutes upon minutes each morning delving into and getting into a slightly hypnotic and rhythmic action of just scrolling up and up to be presented with a never-ending stream of opinion, misery and misinformation. Surveys that have been conducted show that many of us engage in this activity before even leaving their bed in the morning, so not only is this a disastrous way to start a morning routine but it can really put you in a terrible and solemn mood for the day. The morning is the time to be enacting a routine that will make you happy and healthy for the day ahead, but there are occasions when having read some awful news story or seen a distressing post from my friend on Facebook I get anxious, concerned or angry even before my feet have even touched the ground. It’s not healthy and it’s not productive but unfortunately, I have a problem which means I can’t just ditch Facebook and be free.
As somebody who regularly communicates with the public I need to be where my audience is and this, for the most part, is Facebook. Of course, I would love for people to regularly visit my blog and subscribe to my newsletter where people get the find out about my latest work the moment it comes out, but that's not how the majority of my audience wants to find out about me and the work I do. So, I will have to accept the reality of the world and continue to share what I do on Facebook.
However, I have to be careful when talking about my addiction to Facebook as it could sound condescending. I don't want to imply that Facebook is, to some, the home of anxiety and misinformation which I’m trying to abstain from but it’s perfectly acceptable for other people. I’ve just noticed that in my own life, on balance, it makes me less productive, more anxious and from a purely business perspective doesn’t yield that many returns to warrant me checking it as often as I did. Of course, I appreciate that for some people it does exactly what it was designed for; it brings them closer to their family and friends and keeps them in contact with people they may have drifted apart from over the years. At times I have felt the opposite, I have felt that I’ve often used social media and internet communication as a substitute for taking the time to make contact with friends and acquaintances I really should find the time to speak to, but this is a story for another day.
From now I won’t be checking in the morning. It might be that I only check every other day. My website automatically posts my blog posts and newsletters to Facebook so I will still have to keep an eye on my business page and if I get any comments. However, I think it’s safe to say that the best way to get in touch with me is either via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone or via Twitter. If Facebook works for you then that’s great but a slow realisation for me is that it hasn’t been working.
Finally, as I said earlier, the best way to keep in touch with me is through my newsletter. Every time I create something I send a quick little message out with all the information. From time to time I also send out messages to share things not found anywhere else so it’s well worth signing up.
Anyway, thank you for reading and I will speak to you very soon.
P.S. While I was writing this it came to my attention that the Royal Society for Public Health has launched an initiative called 'Scroll Free September' aimed at getting people to spend less time on social media and more time doing something productive. Check it out and see if it resonates with you.