Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Facebook: The Hotel California of the Internet

That’s right – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. We are all just prisoners here of our own device!

Ha! But I have left. I found a loophole beneath the newsfeed and slithered though it while a barrage of ‘likes’ encouraged me, ‘pokes’ impaled me and ‘shares’ sang ‘Do you believe in life after love?’ I kept on going until FB was a dot behind me with only the faint hint of a meow in the air and the aroma of gravy, from all the cats and dinners whose pictures I would never see again.

And how does this feel? Well, I’m not going to tell you because I am now capable of having thoughts that I don’t need to share with every past co-worker, school friend, family member, party acquaintance, lover, boss and mate I have ever had. I am capable of keeping thoughts in my head and asking myself if I like them rather than pinning them to the internet and waiting for the ghosts of Hayley-past to validate me. I also don’t need to know what you’re thinking/doing/eating/wearing/reading/panicking about/aspiring to/laughing at/dreaming/philosophising/drinking/driving/playing/fancying/holding/planting/cooking or painting all the time anymore. Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t stop for a chat in the street if we saw each other in real life and I’m calling you a friend? Facebook has taken the word ‘friend’ and shaken it free of any meaning. I’m determined to reclaim it for the people in my life that I love.

You see, I have spoken to more of my friends on the phone since I left Facebook than I have in the past year. I know that I have been lax, but there’s an illusion at work: when I'm on Facebook I see you every day; you write that you’ve had a terrible day at work and I sympathise; I write a status about a publishing deal and you’re pleased for me; we are abreast of each other’s lives without ever needing to hear each other’s voices. I miss your voice. When you tell me things now I don’t say, ‘Yeah, I know, I saw it on Facebook.’ I’m genuinely excited. I can’t wait to tell you all of the exciting things that are happening in my life and see the look on your face.

But it’s not only the illusion of friendship that has spurred my voluntary exile. I have never wasted so much time on anything in my life ever as I have on Facebook. I work at home as an editor. When I work, I have two tabs open: the book I’m working on and Facebook. It takes a few minutes to edit a paragraph and it’s at this juncture that I check Facebook. That’s after every single paragraph! Every single one! I don’t know whether it’s a reward for the paragraph milestone or a complete compulsion, but at this rate my work rate is split 50/50 between the stuff that pays and the stuff that … what? It’s not as if there’s any danger of the cast of Eastenders hijacking my newsfeed with a naked Flash Mob, ‘Sound of Music’ medley. What exactly did I think was going to happen if I didn’t check it for five minutes?

And then there’s the colour of your grass…

For example, as I cruise my timeline, I see a picture of your beautiful family in perfect formation. Everyone is smiling, smartly dressed and well-behaved. The sun is shining and it looks as if you’re at a zoo or a park. Not a hair is out of place. You are a family clearly taking a day out between a shoot for Hello magazine and auditions for a commercial advertising the kind of shampoo that’s tough on adults but gentle on kids. What you neglect to show are the hundreds of pictures you had to take to get this one good shot because little Timmy’s got behavioural problems and won’t sit still for a minute and little Jesse likes to give the finger and five minutes before had been chewing mud and George would rather have been in the pub and ‘For the love of God, can we just get one good picture for Facebook please, you little fuckers! … And now look – the bastard sun’s gone in again…’

No one is actually putting the real colour of their grass on Facebook, but it’s difficult to remember this all the time. I don’t think I’m the type of person to compare lives because I’m actually quite content, but I’m aware that my subconscious isn’t nearly as chilled out as I am and is using all of this shit to make a compilation CD to play in the background over and over again called ‘How do you measure up, you useless tit? Greatest Hits’. That’s just the way the subconscious rolls.

So, that’s it. I’m out! I’m done!
But of course, as the song says, ‘You can check out any time, but you can never leave.’ I still have to keep my account so I can run my Facebook business page. Apparently you can’t be a freelance anything without one and you certainly can’t be a novelist. However, I have cut my 'friends' down to a tiny number of people that I genuinely want in my life and wouldn't want to lose contact with, so it serves as a kind of dormant address book - the account deactivated but available. You may have followed a link from Facebook to this blog, which is an irony I’m quite pleased with as I start to leach the marrow from my former captors. The irony of the existence of this blog vs. everything I have just written is one that I hope we can overlook…  

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  1. Ha! Shares singing Believe! LOL.

  2. great blog! you are quiet correct about Facebook! LOL