The grind of the 21st century throws up obstacles at every turn. Nikolaus Oliver is on hand with advice to guide you through. This week: going i-turkey, or giving up Facebook.For about 200 million of us, Facebook, which came into existence six years ago this month, is an integral part of daily life. I'm the exception. I do have a Facebook page, but when I look - about once every three months - I'm dismayed if anyone has left a comment or sent me a message. "What's wrong with them?" I always think. "Couldn't they have e-mailed or picked up the telephone or even spoken to me in person?"
But that's by the bye. The fact is that while many people enjoy such harmless nonsense, a minority become addicted to it. They fall victim to a modern paradox: social networking is leaving them isolated, friendless and alone. Or worse, they discover that their spouse has been having the wrong sort of fun online, conducting a virtual affair in Second Life or some such. (Did you know one in five divorce petitions cited Facebook as contributing to the marital breakdown?)
Among those preserving their marriages by bailing out is Bill Gates, who says he can't be bothered keeping up with the 10,000 people who want to be his friend. Yes, all right, Bill. So you're popular. There's no need to rub it in. For him, it's all "just way too much trouble".How can you tell if you're a Facebook junkie? There are five clues: you stay up late with it; you give it more than an hour per day; you develop an unhealthy interest in old boyfriends or girlfriends; you Facebook rather than work; you start sweating if someone suggests you give it a break. Phew. I think I'm all right.
But if that's you, here's some advice: switch off and get out into the real world. Your wife, your children, even your houseplants are more interesting. As for going i-turkey, it's nothing. The whole Muslim world embraces Ramadan. Millions of Christians sacrifice something for Lent. Giving up Facebook is a walk in the park. Think of it as a cocktail party. You've been stuck in a corner for hours talking to a bore (Facebook) and the other guests are starting to think you're pretty dull, too. Make an excuse, dump this tedious oaf and cross the room to where the fun is.