Saturday 17 March 2018

Tanya Sweeney: The end of my love affair with Facebook has finally arrived

Tanya Sweeney
Tanya Sweeney

Tanya Sweeney

You know that feeling when you’re starting to fall out of love? The small paper cuts of irritation, the boredom, the forced smile, the total lack of interest in anything that’s being said? The creeping, insidious thought that days are numbered?

Well, I think I’m coming towards the end of my love affair with Facebook. It’s starting to feel as though I’m logging on out of a sense of duty. My timeline is little more than a blizzard of pointlessness. Of the most ludicrously irrelevant content.

Baby photos that have value to no one but the child’s immediate family. Videos of koalas in costumes or dogs doing daft things. Children babbling non sequiturs on camera, mistaken by their devoted parents as Confucious-style truisms. Memes coming at a rate of knots. Basic-bitch inspirational quotes like Marilyn Monroe’s: “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure don’t deserve me at my best.” Political rah-rah statements that are more self-serving than socially rousing.

If people aren’t filling my timeline with time-sucking stuff they find vaguely ticklish, they’re working overtime on tweaking their personal brand and buffing it to a high shine. The benefits of Facebook are plentiful, but for the first time, the costs are starting to outweigh the benefits. Even Zuckerberg appears to have mapped out an exit strategy.

There are exceptions: I have a few friends who are genuinely engaging and funny on social media. Some harvest the best reads, reviews and videos online and post them so I don’t need to scrabble around the net to forage for them. Facebook makes keeping long-distance friendships aflame much easier. I get genuine belly laughs from people’s wry observations. But you do have to pan through an awful lot of pointless bilge to find them.

Another uneasy conclusion I drew recently was that my real, very close friends are nowhere to be found on my timeline. They don’t bother with ‘likes’ and comments because we talk in real life. I have ‘friends’ on Facebook that I interact with daily but have never met, nor am I likely to. I got poked today by a stranger. How is that even still a thing?

People are so afraid to stick their heads above the parapet on Facebook, meaning that no one says anything of actual substance anymore. Everyone self-censors, and the results of this self-policing are mind-numbing. Like a virtual equivalent of Disney World, it’s the happiest place on cyber-earth.

Of course, I’m guilty of the odd Facebook transgression myself. A smug holiday snap here, a preachy essay about gender-based violence there. But we have crossed over to a point where we no longer care about upkeeping Facebook etiquette.

No one minds humble-bragging, vaguebooking, duckfaces, hot-dog legs or unabashed self-indulgence. The Facebook isn’t the useful behemoth it used to be. People have been shouting about the down-slide of Facebook since about six months into Mark Zuckerberg’s venture. Time and time again, rumours of its demise have been exaggerated. Last year, Princeton researchers reported that Facebook will lose 80pc of users by 2017.

According to their findings, Facebook searches peaked on Google in December 2012 and have trailed off ever since. Derp.

Kids have ditched Facebook for

Instagram, Kik and Snapchat. On those platforms, there’s less scope for wordy bed-wetting and hand-wringing.

Twitter, too, appears to be under threat, even though its function is now inextricably linked to mainstream media and communication. According to a recent report in The Atlantic, Twitter failed to add any active American users in 2015. Twitter stock fell more than 10pc after they announced their most recent quarterly earnings. There’s no denying the might of

Twitter’s social utility; compared at least to Facebook, it is the rolling ticker tape of up-to-the-second goings on across the globe. Yet, where Facebook is a benign enclave of people high-fiving you, praising your hair in selfies and at least looking the other way when you make a boo-boo, there’s no such quaint politesse on Twitter.

My notifications on Twitter are packed full of users — men, mainly — who post snotty and condescending ripostes to my writing. Oh, to have that much time and so little things to get worried or indignant about. Still, I don’t have it nearly half as bad as the writers who weather death threats, rape threats, comments on their looks, trolling and generally hateful bile on a metronomic basis.

So when it comes to the behemoths of social media, these appear to be our two main choices: the wild, unpredictable jungle of Twitter or the anaesthetised, but gentler, Facebook.

While neither seem all that appealing for now, it may take a while to undo the deeply ingrained habit of reaching for a smartphone or clicking on a website in an idle moment.

But, for the sake of a quieter mind and a hell of a lot less eye-rolling in 2016, I’m certainly willing to try.


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