Dear family and friends,

You may (or may not) have noticed that I barely spend any time on Facebook these days. Today is the first time I’ve logged in for quite a while, and although I have definitely missed hearing what some of you have been up to and keeping up with your goings-on, I have to say I have really not missed “the Facebook experience”.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook… I know there can be some great stuff happening there, but I was increasingly finding Facebook as a huge time suck that was stealing more and more hours of my life for very little real return. I, probably like you, have spent far too much of my life liking and commenting on other people’s posts, watching inane videos, or observing some of humanity’s ugliest sides in many of the discussion threads.

I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole Facebook experience, so I just decided to stop using it. If you’ve read my blog you will know that I’ve got to this point in the past, where I’ve ranted about it, even deleted my account, etc, but I now realise it was far more about how I used Facebook than Facebook itself. (Although I still have many concerns about the way Facebook does things and the many unethical ways it deals with user data).

I do find Facebook useful as a single sign-on tool for other web services, and that is one reasons I have kept my account active. The other main reason is you… I am connected to many people here on Facebook, and I consider most of you friends. However, I’ve seen less of most of you over the last few years than ever before, and if that’s what it means to have friends these days, then it’s not enough for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of having friends in online spaces like Facebook at the expense of having friends in actual meetspace.

I have to say that since I have deliberately been avoiding Facebook, I’ve been happier, fitter, healthier, and have spent more time doing more things that I like doing. I’ve read more, exercised more, travelled more, and used some of that time to learn a new language. (In fact, the loading page in Duolingo actually says “15 minutes a day can help you learn a new language, what does 15 minutes on social media give you?”) It turns out that I was spending WAY more than 15 minutes a day on social media, and the truth is I was getting very little back from it.

I know some of you love Facebook and get great value from it, so good luck to you. Facebook is not all bad and for many of you it helps you remain connected with people you care about. I’m glad it works for you.

For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…

I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.

Crossposted to Facebook

CC BY 4.0 Dear family and friends, by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

6 Replies to “Dear family and friends,”

  1. My FB experience has been more interesting (sometimes disturbing) since I accepted friend requests from people who aren’t my friends but who I’ve met through some common interest (e.g. support of a sporting team). This has exposed me to their thinking (or lack of thinking) on important issues. Mostly I don’t comment (at least on FB, though I do verbally to family and friends in processing the views of others that confront me) but occasionally I might attempt to gently prod others to think about what they are saying. I don’t want to alienate myself from these people in situations where we physically interact (e.g. at a sporting event) but I do want them to know that I generally don’t agree with their thinking and that some things can’t go unchallenged. My hope is that by connecting more diversely on social media we can open channels for rational debate and discussion rather than rants and raves.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Gerard.
      I also get quite a few friend requestson Facebook from people that I barely know or that I don’t interact with on a regular basis, and sometimes I feel a little rude in not accepting them. I’ve cone to the conclusion that my baseline tests for being accepted as a “Facebook friend “is, at least, have we met in real life? And preferably, have we ever shared a meal or a beer together? If not the latter, then I will probably not accept the invitation. If not the former, then no chance.
      I’m surrounded by many social spaces and they each have a different purpose. LinkedIn is sometimes the right place, Twitter is sometimes the right place, sometimes it’s Instagram, and sometimes it’s even GooglePlus (may it rest in peace). And of course, I have had this blog since 2006 (OMG is it really over 12 years old now!?) so there is that. I’m confident that If someone I don’t know well really wants to connect with me, they have plenty of options. I even have a Facebook page that people could follow if they absolutely require it to be via Facebook.
      I take your point about connecting with people who hold opposing views to me, and not living in an echo chamber or a confirmation bubble… it’s a good idea, but in practice I really have come to a point where I am pretty much over the need to re-educate people who hold a diametrically opposing viewpoint and to engage in arguments that are never going to be resolved sensibly. I’m not against a good argument, in fact I really enjoy a good argument. But I prefer they meet me for a beer and talk in person, rather than slinging mud back and forth on Facebook.

  2. I too have progressively stepped away from social media. What I find interesting about all this is where it leaves blogging? Sometimes it gets tainted with the same brush, maybe because it is based on the same technology, however I still believe it is something different. That is why I have embraced the IndieWeb and the effort to manage my own online interactions.

    Also on: Read Write Collect

  3. Chris,
    I absolutely relate to this. When I am not on Facebook, I feel happier, healthier, and more connected! Weird. I love that you write about these things. Facebook is an advertising stream for things I don’t want.
    You are such a great role model on how to live in a digital world and I always love your posts. I am looking forward to catching up with you in Sydney maybe at the Google Summit in July? Thank you for sharing your observations which are always en pointe and part of the zeitgeist of the time!

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