Facebook is something that has, annoyingly, played quite a big role in my life. I’ve had an account since I was a teenager, and I’ve managed to collect a pretty big, pretty random selection of friends over the years: from the people that I went to secondary school with, to friends from the various part-time jobs that I had as a student, to friends-of-friends-of-friends that I’ve met once at a party – there are lots of different faces that pop up on my feed. This is a tension in my life: I love social media – I am always on my phone and a lot of the work that I do is based on an online platform; and yet at the same time, I realize more and more everyday that I have a limited capacity for this kind of connection. I am so bad at getting back to text messages (sorry, friends), especially in the times of stress or anxiety – in these moments, my phone just brings a lot of noise into my life, which adds to the chaos that is already happening.
I run the I Am Project as an online platform, and I work freelance as a social media manager, and yet my personal Facebook platform is something different, and I am on a mission to make it a happy place to be. For lots of us, Facebook is something that is just sort of there – I use it for messages and events, and yet a lot of the time my news feed is just white noise that I can just scroll through for hours, taking in the opinions of people that I don’t spend any time with, and seeing the personal moments of people that I have no connection with in the real world.
Come with my on my mission to blast my Facebook feed, and make my phone a happier place to be. This is one of those posts that I wish I could have read when I was 15 – here are some of the ways that we can all make Facebook a better place to be:
Firstly, the world will not end if you delete your Facebook account.
You have friendships and relationships that you have made in the real world, which are a lot more meaningful than the ones stored in your phone. It is so acceptable to not use Facebook, and instead choose to stay in touch with people in a more organic way: the people who want to stick around in your life, will; and the people who are just adding to the background noise will fade away anyway. The only thing you’ll miss is the I Am Project Facebook page 😉
You do not need to see: the people that you have not spoken to since secondary school.
I am about to turn twenty-six, and that means that a lot of the people that I’ve grown up with are going through some giant life moments: they’re getting married, they’re buying their first homes or cars, they’re getting incredible jobs and they’re starting their families.
While these are all beautiful things to see, I have found this more and more odd – our lives have moved on, I have not kept in contact with them – and frankly, I have not earned the right to witness these moments in their life. There are lots of people that I love seeing wedding and baby photos pop up from – because I was there on the day, or I have been invested in their relationship and we care for each other in a way that means that we want to share these moments. I love seeing photos of babies that I have known and held and played with – but it’s a weirdly personal part of life to share with people that I sat next to in English fifteen years ago. And equally when I get married or have babies or buy my first home, I want to be able to share the moment with the people who have been there for the journey.
You do not need to see: the people that you networked with at some point a while ago.
Networking is a part of life, especially in the freelance or creative world – and networking is something that we need to invest time in. It means spending time talking to people about the things that they are up to, with a genuine interest in their work; grabbing coffee, sharing information and shooting them articles that you think they might be interested in. Networking is a skill; and yet sometimes, Facebook creates an illusion of networking that isn’t quite the same thing – and we keep them on our feed because we think it is helping these relationships develop.
Facebook can be a place where people can just hang around, without any sign of actually checking in or sharing in projects or investing in each other – with this image of a relationship which isn’t really there. There are ways to keep in touch with the people that we are prioritizing and that we really care about helping – but in my experience, Facebook isn’t really the place for this.
You do not need to see: the people who stress you out as soon as you see their name.
You know the people – that random that you have on your friends list that you wouldn’t want to actually spend any time with – the one with some -out there- opinions, and who doesn’t mind voicing them. You didn’t quite realize how strange they were until you accepted their friend request, and now you’re regretting it. It’s OK to not have these voices in your life – this is your permission to remove them.
You have a limited amount of time in your life, and a limited amount of capacity to spend time in human interaction. I’m coming to realize more and more that although Facebook is an online space, it is still a space in which I spend a portion of my day: and I would rather make decisions that mean that that part of my day is meaningful (and limited to a helpful amount of time) – and that I also have time to grab that coffee with the friend whose life I want to be caught up on; to be available to chat on the phone with my best friend when she is having a tough time; and to go and see that band I love, and experience the gig by being present in the room, rather than through my phone screen.
Facebook is precious when it brings us joy, but it is absolutely acceptable to look up, and know that it is not the make-or-break of relationships: and if it is, they maybe weren’t worth holding onto in cyberspace, anyway.