I have (sort of) left Facebook – Bye Bye Newsfeed!

I first started using Facebook back in 2006 or 2007. It was the “cooler version” of Orkut (remember this?! and also the way we used to bug each other to write “testimonials” *shudders*). I remember convincing my friends to join Facebook, being an early adopter and what not.

Back then there was no Newsfeed. There was no like button.

Remember back when we used to write on each other’s wall and wait for the other person to write back on ours? (sidenotewhy didn’t we just continue emailing? perhaps the public angle of it was thrilling in some way (eww)). There was still some element of connection present.

Soon enough, it turned mostly into a place where one had to dodge being tagged in dodgy photos, and the era of the restricted profile. Also, at around this point, the Like button made its debut.

Initially, we “liked” only the stuff that we truly liked. Quite quickly, there became a bit of a social expectation to like & comment on your friends’ posts. As a matter of duty. And I’m not even complaining about this. It’s quite nice to see that your friends are seeing your posts and are talking to you online. All rosy.

Soon enough there were enough non-personal items making it to Facebook – like news items, political views, and comments on said items. You couldn’t log in to Facebook and not see some kind of comment war happening on your Newsfeed. Very impersonal. Though, I’m not denouncing it. I have been part of many such comment feuds, and I don’t grudge people who like to engage – sure, it could be entertaining for some.

However, soon enough my personal Newsfeed was basically a mish mash of articles from news portals, comment wars between some “friends” and other people, and life gloats. And that was it. Seriously.

The only personal posts that I ever saw / see are those of either major milestone moments or random brags by people that I haven’t spoken to in years, YEARS (like 5+ years), attention seeking status messages, political appeals.

Now, let me be clear. I have done all of these things on Facebook.

One thing that I feel I sincerely got back from my Facebook postings were that people in my network were generally clued into my work (especially when I shared a ton of photography and was working as a photographer), and my travel posts also led to some fun heart to heart conversations with people who were planning trips to places I had already been to and wanted some advice or inputs.

Apart from that, scrolling through my Newsfeed really felt like a massive drain of energy, but one that is highly addictive for no logical reason. It’s not like I particularly engaged with people’s content. At best, I would leave behind a polite like/love or a small comment. That’s about it. The engagement seemed very, VERY superficial.

I even went back to my older Facebook posts, and re-read them. They were more like full fledged conversations. Not polite little comments. I suppose once Whatsapp and other forms of instant messaging came up, people stopped posting such things on each other’s walls and instead just IM – that is obviously a very natural and sensible thing to do.

But that leaves the question – what is Facebook useful for me in my life today?

I certainly feel like laughing when I see that I have 534984293 friends on Facebook. The illusion of a false sense of friendship has certainly been broken. However, it’s of course not untrue that your Facebook “friends” are indicative of a good network.

Today I mainly use Facebook to keep up with a coupe of Groups that I’m a part of. I do Physique57 online, and we have a lovely supportive group of fellow Physiquers from all over the world. I login every once in a while to check out what’s happening out there. I also use it to keep tabs on local events. It seems here in India people would much rather post events on Facebook than on other sites like Eventbrite, Meetup etc. So that is another useful feature. Since Facebook is no longer a part of my work social media marketing, I luckily don’t have to manage any Page there (quite a relief).

I felt that leaving Facebook completely is not a sane choice for me right now. BUT, scrolling through the Newsfeed is also not sane. Especially when the Newsfeed really doesn’t have much personal content any more (and that’s what I loved about Facebook in the early days).

Hence, I installed a nifty little plugin as a Chrome Extension, which basically switches off my Newsfeed. So I can peacefully login, check my groups, check specific profiles if I’m interested, and LOG OUT. Logging out is so important, considering Facebook tracks all your web activity if you do them while still logged in.

Do I wish people birthday on Facebook? Nope. Nah.

Something really hilarious, but sad happened a few years back. My mum was on the verge of robotically wishing someone happy birthday on being urged by Facebook (like we ALL do / have done), but right before she hit post, she noticed that some other person who had, with every good intention, wished a happy birthday, had been informed that the birthday person is dead. Oops. Talk about a faux pax.

Since then I resolved to not robotically wish anybody. I’ve gone rather old school – jotting down birthdays in my planner and wishing people by calling them up or at least texting them. And of course, it’s limited only to the closest of close people who also remember to wish me on my birthday (duh).

Needless to mention (but I will still mention) I have deleted my own birthday on Facebook, so I no longer receive robotic (or ANY!!!) wishes on Facebook – it was quite the reality check, and I got to see who really bothered to remember my birthday (spoiler alert: just family and friends I talk to very often, which is not that many). It’s October 11th, just saying 🙂

Any way, ever since I’ve done this Newsfeed eradication, my Facebook life has been much more simple. Sure, I do login once in a while with the plugin switched off, and chuckle at some witty memes, but thats really it.

I don’t miss the Newsfeed at all. And I quite enjoy a little weekly or fortnightly stroll of the Newsfeed without getting sucked into it. I highly recommend it.

The difference between blogging and social media posts

I have been a blogger since 2005*. Social media “happened” majorly somewhat during 2007 and onwards. My own personal blog started showing signs of being unloved (by it’s own author) in about 2008 or so – which seemed to coincide with the rise of Facebook.

To put it in very briefly – I think my blogging capacity decreased as I spent more energy chronicling life on Facebook.

Blogging was and is a way of chronicling, finding the humour in every day situations, and ultimately an emotional & artistic release for me. I have so many, many, MANY thoughts at any given point of time, and I often struggle to put them across verbally (aside from the thought of “who would even listen to all of that“). But give me a laptop (I am a millennial after all – though I still write a lot using pen and paper #journalling #planneraddict) and some free time, and I find myself making sense of my own thoughts through my writing.

A little side effect of the rise of Facebook, and reduction in personal blogging (talking completely about my own self and life, but this is not untrue in a general sense either), was a reduced sense of expression.

The thing with social media posting is this:

The Newsfeed.

The Newsfeed is the bane of authentic, in the moment, completely genuine and undistressed expression.

The thing with the Newsfeed is this. Every time I want to say something, I KNOW that it will be slapped across on several people’s newsfeeds against their will, really. It feels a little like taking a microphone and announcing something out to the world. Unsolicited. Which is why I find myself trying to filter my expression, thinking eleventy billion times about whether it will be “accepted”, whether it will make sense to anybody else.

It feels a little like walking across the road, shouting about my thoughts and feelings. Sure, some might find it amusing, many might throw some signs of approval/ relatability my way in the form of likes and comments, some may shut their windows (scroll past), but it does feel like its directed at people in general/specific.

Whereas, blogging is the opposite.

It is just a pure outpour of one’s own thoughts and feelings (or whatever else), without really any expectation or even knowledge of who is consuming it. If someone seeks out my writing, they will find it (i.e. come specifically to read my blog or see my post on their feed reader – do those still exist by the way? I miss Google Reader….)

Blogging is not directed at any body. It is purely for my own sense of expression. Surprisingly though, over the years I have made new friends through my various blogs – but I have not made a single new friend through Facebook. This might not be true for many people who do in fact find friendships and meet like minded people through social networks.

May be because I deeply care about the inner workings of people, and not so much about their outward daily activities that blogging is a better channel for me (for expression and also to share space with minded souls). For example, I don’t care about what people do as their job. I don’t think doing the same job as me makes someone more of a kindred spirit. I do think that having similar views on relationships, life philosophies how to deal with situations, is far more of a connecting factor for me. Blogging gives a deeper opportunity to be more meaningful and to express oneself without word limits, or the fear of being judged by your peers #NewsfeedShame I get to see (and express) more of the inner side of things through blogging.

Social media is great for chronicling outer things (I like this little categorisation of “inner things vs. outer things”) like social gatherings, travel, work stuff, memes, brief views & opinions on culture, sports and politics (which, if my Newsfeed is to be representative of an average newsfeed, is about 95% of things).

Blogging is great for chronicling inner things like relationships with others and the self, extended views and thoughts which go into the “whys” and give more insight on the inner workings of a person, inspirations, aspirations, chronicles of the mundane and little moments which may not gather too many likes, but may comprise 95% of one’s life, worthy of being relived (reread) after years. Also, because there is no scope of #NewsfeedShame, words tend to tumble out effortlessly (wait, is this why it’s called Tumblr????) and authentically, feelings expressed more unabashedly and without fear of judgment.

I absolutely love going back and reading what my teenage self wrote more than a decade ago. I had been doing a lot of soul searching, identity searching kind of work last year (for example, that right there is a sentence that would never make it to any of my social media posts because it is way.too.bare.for.the.newsfeed.) and my old blog was an absolute goldmine. I even found myself being counselled by the wise words of my teenage and uncensored self.

That’s why I find personal blogging so very different in form and spirit. It is nothing more than a digital diary left open for anyone to come and read at their own free will.

*with a little break during my “lawyer years”, and resumed in 2015 with my photography website blog (granted, not the same as a personal blog, but not nothing either)

Net Addiction Circa 2006 versus Today

I found this old GEM of a post about addiction to the Internet from my old blog, which I wrote many, many years ago.

Oh little did teenage BlogOwner know about what’s going to ensue in the next decade and how she’d be looking back at her teenage self thinking “she was so damn tame“.

Without further ado, here are my perceptions of Net Addiction from 2006:

7.30 am……

Net-addict(NA) has just woken up. She had a glass of juice while charting out a mental schedule for herself (an extremely ambitious one that too). After having juice, she is supposed to do her homework, but she feels this inexplicable, incredibly strong urge to rush to the pc, switch it on and surf away to glory. What if there is a new mail? A new comment? A new something? This urge surpasses her already weak will-power(which is known to have betrayed her to such an extent that she ate up full boxes of belgian chocolate(yumm…) at a go on many occasions till date) and she is on her way to the pc. She may spend only 10 mins online, but she simply has to do it.

2 pm…….

NA has had her lunch. She should be preparing for her classes in the evening. Yet, strangely enough, she finds herself drawn to the pc the way iron filings are drawn to a magnet. She tries to resist. She takes her books to the other room. Somehow, she starts feeling so thirsty that she absolutely must get up and go to the pc room, the room where her bottles are also present. However, in a bizarre(?) turn of events she takes a detour to the pc even before she has reached the bottles. PC switched on. Net working. NA has given in. Again. SMS from friend arrives.

“Hey, what r u doin?”

“Er… Iam online. Sorrryyyy 🙁

A surge of guilt takes over. NA promises to blog about this in the hope of alleviating her angst and guilt for being unable to control her whims.

9.15pm…….

NA has returned from her classes. This is normally the time when she can do all her fun-things without feeling guilty since 9-10pm is her destress time. She blogs about her addiction. Her inability to work untill she has a shot of mail-checking, blog-reading, and other net-related things.

She thinks, probably no one has even got an idea that behind that ‘normal’ exterior, there lies a hidden, dangerous, compulsive, wicked net-addict. A net-addict who wants to be normal. “

To this, I, modern day REAL net-addict say: Girl, cut yourself some slack, and chill the eff out.

This little jog down memory lane makes me shudder rather vigorously to what might be considered as “REAL” net-addiction 10 years hence. Will how much time we take off from our virtual glasses? Will be able to be “online” while we sleep? *throws hands up in the air emoji*