I still can’t quit Facebook, despite being aware of its harmful effect

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The mass exodus from Facebook is real. It is obvious that people don’t log in, share or comment as much as they used to. Facebook  has become uncool.

Cambridge Analytica was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even celebrities like Elon Musk  and Will Ferell have hit the delete button. But this isn’t what made Facebook unpopular. As any avid Facebook user will tell you, it was evident to everyone that Facebook was spying on us even before the evidence became public.

Though Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to  Facebook users, it still feels like the social platform is playing psychological games on its users. I get all tensed and reluctant  before logging in. People and pages I have unfollowed show up on my feed, and it feels like information I’m not interested in is constantly being shoved down my throat. Why? The Facebook algorithm is clearly taking the piss out of its users.

Facebook has become like the nasty next-door neighbour that you don’t like, but are obliged to greet on a daily basis.

Still I have no plans to delete my Facebook account. Why?

I am not ready to give up on the Facebook groups

Throughout the years I have joined a number of common interest groups, that I am honestly not willing to give up . They are not just information gold mines, but genuinely great digital communities for sharing your passions, thoughts and insights.

Back in 2015 during a dark phase in my life I deleted my Facebook account. My life immediately transformed for the better. My stress levels dropped, I made new friends and focused on myself. It was like a huge weight was suddenly lifted off my chest.

It was also like the ‘virtual reality’ lens was finally switched off and I could see the real world around me. I felt liberated.

However after three great months of abstinence I decided to join Facebook again because I missed those online communities (especially my Hong Kong photography groups). But most importantly, as soon as I started taking freelance writing work, sharing my work on Facebook was seen as crucial. I simply couldn’t afford staying off Facebook.

I use Messenger- a lot

Having made friends and acquaintances from around the world, I never use people’s phone numbers to contact them. It just has to be online.

You are right thinking this sounds lazy AF. Surely there’s Skype, Viber, Whatsapp… and what happened to e-mail…?

Facebook has dampen my social skills.

The thing is that until now everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, had Facebook, whereas not everyone used the same messaging platform. It takes time and energy to trace down people digitally, and Facebook made that so much easier. (The downside being,of course, that you waste so much time wishing people you don’t really care about happy birthday, instead of contacting those that you do care about.)

Now that this is changing, I am willing to explore new platforms as my primary messaging platform. I suspect that as soon as I do that, I will communicate in a much healthier way with others, and give priority to people I genuinely care to contact.

Fear of Missing Out

Even though FOMO is clearly the reason why everyone should quit Facebook right now and never look back, it is also the reason why some of us stay.

And by FOMO I don’t mean browsing other people’s carefree look-at-me pictures but rather knowing that the mommy group from your child’s school is having all the important conversations on their Facebook group page.

That’s right, Facebook still has me by the balls.

In any case, Facebook is bad for your mental health

I often have vivid flashbacks of life before Facebook. I am so amazed at how simpler things were before this social media craze.  I realize that insidious platforms like Facebook and Instagram completely changed every aspect of how I saw myself and how I saw others.

Joining Facebook was like putting on goggles-I started seeing life through a blurry lens. What’s more, when I signed up I didn’t realise I was giving up something I wouldn’t be able to get easily back (despite being ‘free’ to do so): my freedom.

There’s no doubt that Facebook is damaging our mental health, as social media addiction pushes us on the brink of a mental health crisis.

But when push comes to shove, it’s up to us to fight back and just say no. It’s not easy. You don’t ask an alcoholic to give up addiction by drinking less.

But I hope that I manage to take longer mental strides away from Facebook’s mind control practices, at least until a less domineering substitute becomes available.

Freedom is a state of mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Facebookholic

Facebook-addictions

I vaguely remember these last few months before I opened a Facebook account. It was a particularly cold chinese Winter back in 2007 and I was a language student in Beijing. I did not have a soaring social life and I frequently spent the night in watching a movie or reading a book. These two activities were done always unobstructed, without me having to check on my laptop, a mobile device or an ipad to connect to others. Weirdly enough I never felt lonely too, despite spending most evenings alone in small 27th floor Beijing apartment. Every now and then there was always something to do with someone, who might not have been classified as a “Friend” but neither was there any pressure to become one. However nothing felt wrong.

There were of course established Facebookers around at the time. Usually they were younger girls around 18-20 years old that were too eager hang out with the “right” crowd (whatever that meant for them) and dismiss people who would not impress them in the first three minutes. I was watching them daily checking their Facebook accounts while browsing pictures of themselves posing and partying, and I thought what a waste of time narcissistic habit that was. (And imagine back then “selfies” were not even popular)

Six months later I got a Facebook account.

Seven years later and I feel I might be the last one of my generation that did not realize on time what an addiction Facebook is. Just like alcohol or smoking it depends how well you handle it. But it has not been inviting you to handle it well.

Facebook is a great marketing tool, especially if you are a creative artist, writer or self promoter and want to share work. It also artfully creates excuses through sharing to stay connected with people with whom you would otherwise might not stay in touch. Even if the latter might sound to some more like a curse than a blessing; we do live in times where self promoting and networking are essential for professional survival.

Recently I read this piece written by The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman which I found to be spot on on my own experience. Rothman argues that Facebook and social media in general have become our Kafkaesque “altruistic punishment”: This is how we “punish” ourselves when we are being asked to contribute to the good of the community by posting our life success but we fail to do so. When this happens viewing the posts of others can only make us feel like we are being judged for failing to contribute with a similar if not greater success story: a photo attached to an update on a job promotion, an exciting job offer, an international lifestyle.

In that sense Facebook’s hyperconnectivity does not make us feel better about ourselves. Staying in on a Friday night, for example, can only get worse if you decide to check what your Facebook Friends are doing. They are either connected or not, but both cases are likely to make you feel worse about yourself.

But above all it is the false sense that the virtual space you enter is a real space where people enter to have a common social experience for a defined period of time , like they would do for example if they went together in a pub to get a pint. The only person you really confront when you seek sociability on the web is your own lonely and insecure self.

I am still on Facebook and I am not planning to quit. But I can only imagine how lonely my Beijing winter might have felt if I had spent it on the web, and I am thus grateful for the “naivety” of those older times.

Expat communities: How it can get awkward

Last weekend I was invited by my friend Maria to an event of a well known international expat community, whose goal is to bring expats from around the world together. Before moving to Stockholm I would probably not consider joining an expat community. Nothing wrong with joining, you actually meet people in your shoes. In fact I met one of my best friends in Stockholm at an expat event. But in other places where I have lived, like London for example, I never had to join such community to meet expats. For one thing in a place like London it is hard to meet locals, not expats. People come and go all the time. There was always something to do and someone to hang out with, even if most times you never became friends with people. (Very often, the closest you would get was to become Facebook friends).

But Stockholm is another story. Much smaller and homogeneous, Stockholm can be challenging and you have to work on building a social network. Random or spontaneous hanging out is not common. In fact you need to plan your social life days ahead and preferably coordinate it with Systembolagets opening hours.  In this sense membership in expat communities in Stockholm makes more sense.

However in last week’s event something was off. It could be that there was the general blah feeling of a fabricated social event. The day and hour to start: Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the day God intended for rest. Giving the introduction speech of who you are and how you ended up in Stockholm times the people you interact is the equivalent of unpaid WORK. I am Greek, yawn. I am here with my husband double yawn. Then comes some comment about the Swedes, how expensive Sweden is, and how do we like it here, yawn, yawn, yawn. Why don’t we just skip introductions and talk about MH370 disappearance scenarios. Or about what we ate for lunch.

The nature of the event also (fika, which means short break for coffee, quick drink), which had everyone sitting in one spot and ultimately you ended up spending two hours talking to whoever was sitting next to you. Of course there were some people who attempted to mingle by changing seats but then again who mingles while sitting at a table.  What thirty- something will actually leave their seat with the naïve conviction that there is something more to be gained than if, for example, they changed seats in the metro or the bus?

Because after ninety-five minutes, (exactly the time when in silent coordination people who were not there to mate decided to leave asap), the impression was just that: you simply had a long anonymous chat with a stranger on the bus and once you reached your stop you simply got off. Only that in our case the stranger  can track you down from your online profile at the community’s site.

Why do I find that slightly weird? Some people had left their partners at home to spend their Sunday afternoon chatting with people they will probably never see again, sitting among strangers at what looks like a wedding party social arrangement .  In other events other people who took a “Me” evening away from their partner.  Scary as it may sound, they had no ulterior motives. They were not there to meet friends, hookups or professional contacts. They were simply there to have a drink and a friendly chat and disappear as soon as the clock strikes 12.

Or perhaps they were there for the same reason I was:  they thought they needed a break.

“The guy sitting next to you was very hot” my friend Maria told me on our way out. “Then why did you spend the last two hours talking to the bald one with the glasses? “

I didn’t mind really” she said.

That’s what I am talking about.