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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Motherhood

Lately I have spotted on the news various opinion articles written by women who confess having no regrets about deciding to stay childless. They are usually accompanied by numerous congratulatory comments from other women who have felt the pressure to become mothers for years.

I feel like this leap in human evolution has been the elephant in the room for the last decades but finally women are free to speak out the truth behind desires of motherhood. For one thing, motherhood has been regarded as a natural purpose that is manifested for every woman at some point in her life. If it doesn’t, she is seen as a person “with issues”, someone who is lacking an intrinsic part of femininity and womanliness. Women who declare they do not want children are patronizingly being told that they will change their minds when they get older and then it is going to be too late. I too know women who have regretted their decision to stay childfree. Except that they faced this dilemma a good sixty years ago.

One cannot help noticing that in today’s highly competitive world with unstable economies and relationships as well as a plethora of choices and stimulants, staying childless is something that comes naturally to both men and women and not something they have to fight off. Today’s society after all, celebrates the individual and through the social media encourages self centered lifestyles. The things you do about yourself, in short, and your career achievements are the only things you will be really congratulated for, admired or respected. Sadly nobody will ever appreciate you for the years you spend in dirty sweatpants washing bottles and cleaning like a maniac while humming the tune of Peppa Pig.

There are those of course who use children as a way to enhance their own image. These are usually women who have enough money to pay nannies to raise their children while they pursuit their careers and continue their lives as usual. In that case, the “maternity halo” make them look better in society: they make them look less self-centered and less self-absorbed, more giving and more sacrificing. But these women who experience motherhood mainly through the impression they create on others are not the women I would like to talk about.

Instead I speak of the modern woman that has too many things on her plate. Pretending career and family is an easily manageable choice, like for example my parents’ generation did with the full time voluntary help of their hard working housewives mothers and mother-in -laws is no longer an option. The new grandmas are often either still working or newly retired with little patience and little desire to babysit.

I am a mom and I would not change my daughter for the world. She filled my life with hard meaningful work, sleepless nights and despair, strength, courage and truth. She has been my comrade in this physically and emotionally difficult journey and she has rewarded and punished me with hard all consuming absolute love.

I have however only respect for the modern woman who has also made a courageous choice and has proudly declared she wants to stay child free. As a woman and a mom I understand every single why she might want to challenge the hypocritical over-romanticized idea of motherhood as a life purpose or validation of self worth.

After all that’s the kind of pressure I would never want my daughter to face.

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.