In 2014 my anxiety about life became enough for me to go to the doctors and be booked on to a course of CBT. One of the things I learnt about myself is that I tend to sabotage myself using “All or Nothing Thinking”. For example, “I can’t show restraint so I’m going to eat nothing.” Or in this case, “I find some parts of Facebook problematic and difficult so I’m going to delete my account.”
When asked about not being on Facebook I’ve been telling people that it has been bad for my social life but good for my mental health. For most of the last ten months I have been super happy with this trade off, but in the last few weeks not being on Facebook has started to frustrate me. I’ve wanted to group message friends, take part in discussions that happen in a Facebook group, or stay in touch with someone that’s moving away. Of course, there are other ways of doing these things. But Facebook is the easiest. And it’s got to the point that the only reason I am not on Facebook is because I made a big show about deleting my account and I’m embarrassed about telling people that I’ve changed my mind.
But you know, it’s alright to change your mind. I’ve even written a god damn blog post about this! I preach it all the time. I tell people that the world would be a better place if people weren’t so stubborn about sticking to their original decisions and ignoring new evidence.
New evidence: I’m feeling in a much better place mental health wise and I think I can handle Facebook. Being away has also given me a chance to reflect on how I wasn’t using it very well.
I was scared of the permanence of the timeline. I was carefully crafting an image. I would delete a post if it didn’t get enough likes or if, with hindsight, I didn’t think it was that witty. I was hugely self conscious about it all, worried about annoying people if I appeared too much in their news feed, and worried about being judged for my opinions. So I didn’t really share my opinions: I hid who I really was. I was displaying the same habits and behaviours that led to my mini-breakdown in the offline world.
Facebook is an amazing tool for connection, but I wasn’t using it for connection. I was using it to curate an online gallery of my ego. But really, who gives a shit what my timeline looks like? I bet I was the only one looking at it anyway. This time around I’m going to use Facebook as it was intended: sharing what I want and not caring if I post too much. I’m here to share my thoughts, my blog and my life updates with my friends – and it’s their prerogative to unfollow me if it gets too much, not for me to self-censor.
I crave real connections and real conversations. I’m hoping Facebook can be a tool to build closer relationships with people without becoming a drain on my time or energy. I miss seeing what my friends and family are up to – having that cue to start a conversation. And if it all gets too much again? I’ll take another break. But I won’t be foolish enough to announce that I’m deleting my account forever.
Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll feel about anything next week. The other day I told Guy I didn’t like cake. I think what I meant was “I don’t feel like eating cake right now.” What kind of sociopath doesn’t like cake? If I never admit to changing my mind, then I’ll be facing a bleak future devoid of Victoria Sponge and Black Forest Gateau.
It’s my life and I’m going to come and go as I please, picking up and dropping communications tools as I want. In the same way as I get to pick whether I want dessert or not.
The other reason I was reluctant to use Facebook again is because not being on Facebook had become part of my identity. I used to think that being a neurotic person was part of my identity too. Until I had one panic attack to many and realised how stupid it was to be clinging onto that. We complain when other people put us into boxes, but I find that it’s also something we do to ourselves. In reality, we are less rational and more contradictory than we like to think. And the more we are upfront and honest about this, the more freedom we will feel.
So, since I am a free-thinking, cake-eating, over-sharer, I’m back on Facebook. Maybe not forever, but for now. Send me a friend request, if we aren’t connected already.