It was the pizza that did it.
I was sitting in Pizza Express on London’s Southbank chatting with a friend when I spotted a notice on the table. It was one of those flimsy, upright cardboard things with a picture of a pizza and, underneath, a whole row of social media icons: F for Facebook, T for Twitter and the camera symbol for Instagram (I still don’t quite know what that is but I’m sure it’s just as addictive as its predecessors). The notice was encouraging diners to take a photo of their pizza and post it on their chosen site – or all three – for the world to see.
I’m not sure if it was offering a free pizza in return for the best snap. I didn’t read that far. Instead, I groaned inwardly at the thought that people would actually break off from their lovely conversations with real people they probably don’t see very often to go online and post a picture of a pizza.
No, hang on a minute, I groaned inwardly at the thought that I would do that.
Because the scary thing is, I knew I was perfectly capable of taking a picture of my pizza and posting it on Facebook. And of then keeping tabs on my post to see how many ‘likes’ I’d got and to check lots of people had noticed I was out having a good time and not sat on my own at home eating cereal out of a box (à la Bridget Jones) and watching Coronation Street.
After all, only a few weeks earlier, I’d broken off from a lovely dinner with two dear friends to upload a photo of a bowl of guacamole I’d made to Facebook – and a few hours later I’d logged back on to post a picture of the empty bowl.
And then – and this is the sad bit – I’d checked far too many times to see how many people ‘liked’ my guacamole, simultaneously hoping it would get a strong seal of approval and wondering why on earth anyone would take the time to ‘like’ a photo of a bowl of guacamole – don’t you all have better things to do?! Of course, I also hoped the holiday romance guy back in Mexico would spot what a wonderful guacamole-maker I was and realise he needed to put his commitment-phobic ways behind him and come and join me in my kitchen. Don’t worry, that was a very brief delusional phase I went through – I’m over it now. But I know I’m not the first female to post something on Facebook with a guy in mind.
So when I spotted the pizza sign, it all became clear. I’d been trying to work out what to give up for Lent this year and suddenly it was obvious: Facebook.
Don’t get me wrong, Facebook has been a wonderful resource over the years to keep in touch with friends, new and old, in faraway cities and countries, as well as to build a community around this blog. And I’m sure, once I return to it after Lent, it will continue to serve that purpose. I have friends all over the world and I get to see what you’re all up to, where you’re going on holidays, who you’re dating, how you’re feeling, what you’re reading. And all that without even talking to you. Quite amazing, really.
But there are things about Facebook that aren’t good for me. Here are a few of them:
– Spending too long looking at other people’s photos and thinking their lives are wonderful
– Spending too long reading about other people’s achievements and comparing myself with them (compare and despair)
– Spending too long looking at the photographs of other people’s children and partners and wondering if that will ever be me
– Posting my own holiday snaps, blogs and achievements – often because I genuinely want to share them with friends but sometimes because I want everyone to think I’m really happy (when I’m not, all of the time), because I want to be ‘liked’ (in both the Facebook and real life sense of the word), approved of, reassured or found to be attractive/beautiful/thin, or I want a particular man to notice me, believe that my life is totally amazing and think or say that I look cute in the snow, on the sand or in that purple sparkly dress
– Checking Facebook just before bed or first thing in the morning – because I’m bored, lonely or want to distract from what’s really going on inside my head or heart – when I’d be better off reading a good book, doing a bit of meditation or listening to some soothing music.
After all, Facebook, for all its plus points, is a huge distraction. It’s a bit like sitting in front of the TV. I can ‘zone out’ on Facebook. I can use it to procrastinate. I read the links you post or look through your old photos – or I look through mine, reminiscing about this and that. And all this for someone who’s always complaining she never has enough time.
So as daunting as it seems right now, I’m taking some time out from the delights of Facebook. I’ll miss your posts, your jokes, your news updates and your photographs. I’ll miss seeing your new haircuts and your cute kids. And no doubt I’ll miss a number of party invites (you have my email, right?).
But I won’t miss the late night glare of my iPhone screen and I won’t miss all those lost minutes, which I hope instead to dedicate to my creativity – creating rather than consuming, to quote a friend.
And I won’t miss that constant yearning for reassurance that you love me, or at least like me, or at the very least, like the look of my guacamole.
Inevitably, of course, I’ll seek your love and reassurance elsewhere – via comments on my blog or by checking my viewing stats or by seeing if anyone retweets my tweets. The bravest thing to do would be to give it all up. But I’ll start with Facebook and see how I go. I don’t want to commit career suicide or get social media withdrawal symptoms.
But I’m also hoping, during this Lenten period, to give to myself that love, reassurance and approval I far too often seek from others. I’m hoping to ‘like’ myself – to give myself that big Facebook thumbs up.
And that’s what my next post will be about …