x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Time to say farewell to Facebook

Putting something online and receiving a barrage of "Likes" is all part of the human need for reassurance. For that same reason, getting rid of Facebook has become a little social network in itself.

Before I go any further, I want to be quite clear that this is not going to be another "Why I'm quitting Facebook" diatribe.

I'm not going to beat my chest and tell you that I've suddenly discovered aeons of extra time that would otherwise be used for trawling through the malaise of acquaintances' lives. Nor is this a tally of shutdown figures or about the loss of privacy and human interaction that the world's biggest social network usually provokes from its naysayers.

It is none of those things because, as I've found since knocking my Facebook account firmly on the head last month, there are already thousands of bloggers, journos and Twitterers tapping away on exactly that topic.

Gleefully wiping your hands clean of Facebook has become a small industry in itself. A quick Google search along the lines of "Leaving Facebook" will yield tens of thousands of articles and op-eds on the subject, and reams of virtual high-fives from commenters yeehawing on the prescience of the writer's decision.

It's quite incredible. I don't think MySpace or any of those other precursors to "the" social network ever provoked such explanations. Perhaps there's room for a banal new genre of memoirs to appear on bookshelves in the future, sporting emotive titles such as "Why I Quit Facebook: A Life In Pictures".

But this trend speaks volumes about the role of the 21st-century's greatest time-vacuum. Underlying a number of these self-revelations, of which some of the blog posts are written in remarkably heartfelt language, is a fear of being left out or left behind.

When I made my own fateful clicks to online oblivion, there was a concern about what I'd be missing out on - not so much the self-shot, "me-in-a-nightclub" brand of updates, but more the feeling that the faces of friends and family could whisk into my daily life at any moment.

I will say this: quitting Facebook leaves a little hole - a void once occupied by wandering clicks in a moment of distraction.

But it's a hole that would never have existed had I not set up an account in the first place. With jobs that are increasingly solo and freelance-esque affairs, and involve more time squirrelling through the annals of the internet, Facebook is the internet answering back in a familiar tone. That, in part, is the caution that I think underpins some of those post-FB blogs. Many read as justifications that a switch-off doesn't have to equate to isolation.

Whether in real life or life lived on the internet, we all need a bit of reassurance. Putting something online and receiving a barrage of "Likes" is all part of that. For that same reason, getting rid of Facebook has become a little social network in itself.

The new-found void is a pleasant, proactive one that, after this, I won't be using to read or write about what used to fill it. Logging off doesn't mean being left behind, provided you don't stare into the dust for too long.

clord@thenational.ae