I stopped using Facebook about eight months ago. It was all getting too much. I couldn’t find time to update my status or post anything on my profile page and felt like I was in the constant grip of a minor essay crisis.
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It also made me look like I had an exceedingly empty and boring existence. Now, this is entirely true – there are Carmelite nuns out there who would pity and spurn my life – and I’m far too lazy to do anything to disguise that fact, but still, I draw the line at effectively advertising it.
Plus Facebook had already given rise to one school reunion – a Hammer horror of an evening filled with the ghosts of cliques and the presence of bullies past. I stood in the middle listening to everyone swap funny stories about secondary school, a place whose walls I remember running with tears and the floors awash with blood from the verbal slicing and dicing that even the most astute teachers cannot keep from becoming the main pastime in any all-girls’ school. Better to log off quietly than risk going through all that again.
It seems that, for once in my aforementioned sad and sorry life, I was slightly ahead of the game. “Facebook fatigue” is, according to various surveys and pollsters, setting in across the globe. Last year, the site lost six million users in the US, 1.5m in Canada, 100,000 in Russia and Norway and another 100,000 from the 30m users within our very own shores. More recently, a poll has estimated that a quarter of UK users are spending less time on the site than they were and are unfriending each other in increasing quantities. They are also actively managing their accounts – deleting comments made by others on their profile pages, tearing the name tags off photos of themselves in other people’s albums and so on – far more.
Enough with amassing online trophy friends. Time to unfriend the ones who have remained strangers.
Partly, of course, this is to do with Facebook’s apparently ongoing mission to remove any vestige of privacy when you agree to join the site and press every atom of your soul into its commercial service, but it strikes me that it is also simply a sign that social networking is coming of age. In terms of experience, users are like individuals in the real world staring down the barrel of their 30s and realising that they don’t really have time for this shit any more.
It is in your early 30s, after all, when the demands of both your professional life (you have to fight harder for promotions, start chiselling away at the glass ceiling, or laying the groundwork for maternity leave that won’t let the scheming office politicker step slyly into your shoes while you’re gone) and your private life (have you met The One? Do you want to meet The One? Have you accidentally got a mortgage with one who is not The One? Do you want to make a mini-One or is it just your idiot ovaries talking?) begin really to impede one’s previously happyish progress through life. It is now that most of us – consciously or unconsciously – start to slough off friendships that aren’t reallyworking for us any more.
Perhaps Facebook users are collectively coming to this conclusion. Enough with amassing online trophy friends. Time to start unfriending the ones who really were and have remained strangers. And after that, the further refinement of abandoning those pixellated presences completely and concentrating our increasingly depleted time and emotional resources on those for whom we really care.
At around the same time as I gave up Facebook I experienced the surpassingly odd sensation of making a new friend. A genuine friend, a good friend. It really was, and remains, a bizarre feeling. I never expected it to happen again at my age. I brighten every time I get a text from her and can’t wait to meet up with her every week to put the world to rights. It is like the beginning of a love affair but without the sickening doubts or sexual anxieties. It’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t know if my uncoupling from Facebook was a matter of cause or effect but either way, I’m grateful that this forgotten pleasure has been restored to me. And now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to tell Twitter all about it.
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