I know what you’re thinking, but this really isn’t a ‘click bait’ headline. They really did send me 749 emails in the last twelve months.
The reason? Simple really; I didn’t go on Facebook.
That’s right, from 9th December last year until today I haven’t visited my personal profile on Facebook.
I had grown increasingly tired of advertisements offering me mature singles and the opportunity to open a betting account when I’m a happily married man who doesn’t gamble. And when they weren’t offering me those delights it was pushing SEO courses, mostly from people who would have to pay me to teach them what SEO really is.
So what did I miss and what did I learn from this absence?
Well, I learned a few things, some of which came as quite a surprise.
I’m awful with birthdays
It’s true; I can’t even remember my brothers and sisters birthdays so I have no chance of remembering friends I went to school with over 40 years ago. That’s one thing that Facebook does well and apart from anything else it means that you at least have the opportunity to say something nice when someone has a birthday.
What I also realised though is that if I don’t post anything, it really doesn’t matter.
Sure I’ve missed the opportunity to be nice but I’m certain that there isn’t a single person who is friends with me on Facebook who is sitting there right now harbouring some niggle about me because I didn’t post on their timeline during the last year. I didn’t even post on my wife’s birthday and she’s OK with it so I expect everyone else is as well.
Facebook’s emails are relentless
At an average of just over two emails a day Facebook has hounded me during the past year. Every day I don’t go on it sends more emails. The problem is that they are unlike every other email sent by any other firm.
Everyone else who sends an email makes sure it contains a message; some sort of compelling reason to read it and then perhaps take action on the contents.
Facebook’s emails are different though. They send me a headline and nothing else.
Facebook click bait headlines
It’s the ultimate click bait email and frankly bloody annoying, not least of which because some of the stuff that has been posted over the past year looked like it might be interesting. Had I receive more than just a click bait headline I might have been tempted to go on and take a deeper look but I hate being played.
And because of my irrational hatred of these emails I missed something…..
I missed my friend’s breakdown live on Facebook, and their subsequent rescue
I only found out a week after the event that one of my friends had melted down on Facebook. Their life had taken a turn in the wrong direction and the subsequent outpourings were a clear cry for help. Fortunately for them they have a lot of Facebook friends and more importantly, some real life friends, some of whom were kind enough to ensure that a timely intervention prevented them from doing something stupid.
Had I known I would have picked the phone up as they live a long way away from me. But in many respects this is no different to life thirty years ago when if one of your friends a long way away had a problem you only found out about it long after the event. It doesn’t mean that you don’t feel for them, or that you don’t want to help, far from it.
The upshot is that Facebook extends the net of people for whom you can have an interest and it allows you to maintain more relationships than you would have done thirty years ago. But with this comes enormous pressure and that becomes a facet of modern life which we can all do without.
I visited friends
Yes, as strange as it sounds I actually visited friends I hadn’t seen for years. Instead of relying on Facebook to keep a long distance and vicarious watch on their progress I picked the phone up, talked to them and then got in the car and went to see them.
One thing I can tell you is that it’s far better to meet someone face to face than it is to correspond endlessly on Facebook. Actually making the effort to see someone says more than liking their posts or saying hi on their birthdays. You should try it if you haven’t done it recently.
I got more done
I walked into a room the other day where three people were all sat, the TV blaring, and not one of them watching it. All of them were on their ‘devices’ on Facebook.
Facebook is an endless wash of trivia and distracts people more than they would care to admit. How many of you out there reading this have Facebook withdrawal symptoms if you don’t check your timeline every couple of hours?
Trust me; it’s much better if you don’t have to check it at all.
Without the endless distractions I managed to complete a number of key presentations that I had to do, I became Vice Chairman of a local society (yes, actually getting out into the real world and talking to people) and put together an award winning display.
In fact I have probably been my most productive over the past year and achieved more in my personal and business life than I had in the preceding years.
Without the endless need to check in, photograph my food and comment on comments or like people who’ve liked my post I found that I could achieve so much more with the time I got back. Facebook is great for so much but it is a thief of time.
I had no ideas about crazes, fads and soap stars
My brain is awash with trivia. People who know me know that I can generally recall odd snippets of rubbish about a diverse range of subjects but over the past year this has diminished somewhat. I no longer recognise soap stars unless they were in the soap twenty years ago. I can’t tell you who is seeing who or which celebrity misbehaved at some awards ceremony. The wash of daily trivia is genuinely lost on me. But I don’t think this is a bad thing.
I missed the ice bucket challenge but I still gave to charity. I missed the outpourings of grief and rage around disasters and atrocities that happened around the world but I still felt the same emotions as many of you. I didn’t see any cute pets doing crazy things but I’ve still retained my humanity, sense of humour and compassion.
It seems that choosing to not be on Facebook didn’t actually make me a bad person, nor I hope a worse one. It just gave me more time to deal with things in ways I chose, privately, and not in the public spotlight.
I read more
Yes, that old fashioned thing. I read books, I read newspapers, and I read magazines. In fact I read a lot of stuff that wasn’t on a screen and found it both relaxing and therapeutic.
I found myself in railway carriages surrounded by people engrossed in their devices. I sat in meetings where people were forever checking their phones like they had a nervous tic.
And through this I read. Or took time out to think or plan. I even took to writing a monthly column for all of our customers telling them what they needed to know about changes which were happening in the digital landscape.
All of this was better than continually checking my timeline.
My wife thought I’d unfriended her
This was probably the most grief from my decision not to go on Facebook; I was accused of unfriending my wife. The irony of course is that we see each other every day and this was a face to face conversation which seems unlikely if you aren’t friends with someone. We were actually sat next to each other but I think the irony was lost in that particular conversation….
I had been tagged into something recently but when she checked not only was the tag missing but she couldn’t see my profile. The assumption was naturally that I had blocked her but this rather missed the point. The point was that I hadn’t been on Facebook at all so how on earth was I supposed to block her?
As I still haven’t been on I have no idea what happened here, nor what changed but I do know that the following day everything was back to normal. Whether it was a ‘ghost in the machine’ or something else I can’t tell, but what I do know is that I was astonished to be defending myself in a conversation for something I didn’t do.
I spent more time on Twitter
Oddly enough I did find myself turning to Twitter and became much more of a convert than I had been before.
More than anything I found that where Facebook takes some time for a story to get up a head of steam, on Twitter you can verify it within seconds.
Twitter became the medium of choice for my business and we have used this extensively over the past couple of months to drive awareness and business. It is far more effective in getting a message across and doesn’t suffer from being choked at source unless you pay, which is where Facebook has gone.
Like Facebook however it does have annoying adverts in your stream but at least they are clearly marked as such and you can whizz past them if they are not of any use. When I was last on Facebook I found that I was trying to be tricked into clicking on stuff which was actually thinly disguised advertising.
As a Marketing man I love great marketing and despite my rants I don’t mind good relevant advertising appearing in my threads and timelines. I understand it is what makes these platforms free at the point of use. What I would hope is that advertisers take notice of the words ‘good’ and ‘relevant’ in that sentence.
Funnily enough Twitter hasn’t offered me any mature singles or SEO courses but it does want me to start gambling…
So what did I miss?
Despite all the above I can say that there are some things that I missed about Facebook.
The main thing I missed about it is the one thing it was set up to do in the first place; to help me keep in touch with friends. I missed its convenience and the simple way that I can keep up with events in their lives with a relatively short investment of my time.
I missed the humour. I missed the posts from my friends whom I know will always make me laugh. I missed their witty comments, the cheeky banter and the ability to use it to bond with a group.
I missed the photos from where I grew up and places I love to go. I missed the photos from my friends as they enjoyed their lives. I missed their celebrations, triumphs and achievements. I expect I’m all the poorer for this but richer for getting a chunk of my life back. It’s a trade off in the end.
Despite my downer on Facebook it seems that there is a lot of good in the platform and it deserves a place in my daily life. What we need to ensure though is that me and Facebook come to an arrangement what suits both of us. I’m happy to invest my time in it as long as it promises not to overtake my life.
So I’m going back on and will, I’m sure, engage with a lot of people whom I’ve not corresponded with over the past twelve months. I will be taking baby steps at first and I will be controlling how much time it tries to suck from my life so if you are friends with me on Facebook please bear with me.
Oh, and I will be changing my email settings. In some countries 749 emails in a year could be considered harassment…..