I do not know exactly why I decided to quit. Maybe I was tired of mindless scrolling, attention seeking selfies, political memes and photos of what people were consuming for lunch? Or perhaps I had grown bored with rant posts, poor grammar, terrible spelling and reading personal information that really should have been kept personal? Whatever it was, two months ago I did the unthinkable – I logged out of Facebook and have not logged on since.
According to the Statista, Facebook is the largest worldwide social network, with more than 1.59 billion active users and 1.44 billion active mobile users. Another statistic website, Social Pilot, reports that every minute there are 150,000 messages sent and 350 million photos uploaded every day. Consider these statistics and consider something else as well. Facebook users produce these statistics. Data is collected from every like, post, share, comment and message. Facebook can recognize our facial features, knows what online shops we like to visit, where we live, where we work, who our friends and family are, who we vote for, etc. The list goes on and on and applies to all aspects of the internet – not just Facebook.
When it comes to the internet, particularly social media, I am reminded of Big Brother from George Orwell’s novel, “1984.” As citizens, we pay for and carry our personal surveillance systems in our pockets and purses everywhere we go and log on to our larger models like laptops, tablets and desktops when we get home. Oh yes, Big Brother is surely watching our online activities and eagerly providing our preferences to hungry advertisers waiting to sell us more, more, more. We gladly give up our privacy and personal information on a daily basis in exchange for photo likes, and shares and comments on our posts.
On average, a person spends about 20 minutes on Facebook every day. That totals to a little more than two and a half hours a week. I am certainly no mathematician but according to my rudimentary calculations, that adds up to more than 18 and a half hours during the last two months that I have not been on social media. What in the world have I managed to do with all of that time not spent on social media? Well, let’s see….
Prior to two months ago, most weekends my “family time” would have been spent with a phone in hand, posting photos and comments of my weekend, while at the same time seeing how successful my weekend has been when compared with the Facebook communities’ collective weekends. Without one single comment, share or like I have: talked and laughed around the orange glow and crackling flames of an outdoor fire pit; watched my son reel in more fish than I can count and enjoyed wonderful meals with others, savoring the good flavors and good company instead of likes and comments.
One afternoon, I sat quietly in a damp swimsuit on my parent’s breezeway watching a pop-up summer storm that had chased us out of the pool. I crossed my fingers and whispered a prayer from the back of an ATV, following close behind as my son took his first trip out of the yard on his own ATV. Surprisingly, all these wonderful memories will be just as cherished without plastering them online.
Do not think that I am passing judgement of those that still remain fans of Facebook and other social media. Facebook is a wonderful way to stay connected to friends and family. Social media allows instant communication and information – no return phone calls or waiting on an email reply. My mother and son both use Facebook to contact me on Messenger, despite the fact that I have sworn off social media and grudgingly, I send back a reply. Old habits die hard. One day, if I am able to recall the account password, I may make a triumphant return to social media and post pictures, memes, and rants with glee. Until then, I am enjoying the serenity of life (mostly) without social media.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)