A Year of Change: Part 2: Coming Off Facebook – Sort of

This is the second in a series of posts about changes that have affected my life in recent times, and how I feel about those changes.

The last year or so has been a year of change for me. A massive amount of change, in fact, perhaps the most change in a one year period that I can remember, and as I have said before, change isn’t always welcome, but more than often necessary.

Part of my general life philosophy is to keep going. There was a time in my younger years when I very much took things to heart and became incredibly sad and emotional about negative factors in my life.

As we age, most of us tend to develop a thicker skin and learn to shrug things off. You can still be mad or sad about things, but I prefer to move on and move away rather than prolong the suffering.

So Facebook.
Facebook came into my life in 2007, being an early adopter of many forms of technology due to the work I had heard about Facebook but had resisted joining because I was already a member of two similar sites, Friends Reunited and MySpace. My partner had joined Facebook and was telling me of how good it was to link up with old friends and share news and funnies with current pals and family too. I resisted further saying it was a trend or a fad, and it would most likely never catch on, ha! How wrong could I have been?

Myspace and Friends reunited bit the dust pretty quickly as everyone caught the Facebook Bug. Eventually, I succumbed to it and was very impressed initially. The sheer amount of features that were built into the platform made sharing content really easy, it was almost like blogging but on steroids, you could easily share whole albums of photos and really easy to share links and videos. Perfect, particularly for someone like myself who worked in tech and was always looking for new ways to get ideas across to new and wider audiences. If I’m honest these are still great features that I like about Facebook to this day.

My Facebook Early Wins

Everyone loves sharing
I was one of the early people to buy a decent digital camera and start sharing images on en masse. Back in the early days of the internet, most people had little cameras or used the crappy cameras on mobile phones, I love taking photos and started setting up albums to share with friends. I got plenty of positive feedback on my photos and artwork and that really was fun.

Also, I’m a bit of a rambling raconteur. You know this, that’s why you’re reading. Anyway, I had the opportunity to share written pieces and poems with people too. I mostly used Facebook Pages, and Facebook Groups for sharing written articles keeping my feed for personal stuff, believing that pages and groups were the best places to share stuff with people who actually care about “issue A” or “issue B”.

In the early days of Facebook, everyone was just learning the etiquette of it and sometimes people would share inappropriate posts by writing it or posting it directly on your wall. I quickly blocked that. Working in Education, as I was at the time, I didn’t need anyone I worked with seeing anything that was less than professional.

Life on Facebook was good, it was fun. Posting pics articles and links, chats with pals, what’s not to like?

As I say to my daughter though, nothing stays the same.

Facebook Changes upset users

Over time, Facebook began to change, constant feed changes, layout changes and algorithm changes altered both the look and feel of Facebook. It began to be fewer mates and more contentious stuff, a lot more video too. Let me point out that I fully understand why Facebook did this, I also appreciate that Facebook is Free, so we as users have no say really in such matters.

Facebook was moving toward monetising its content and so its algorithm was learning what we all liked and talked about so that it could serve ads and content that would match our interests. That’s how it makes money and stays in business.

As a political person, my feed became dominated with political material, this for me was the start of a very slippery slope. Never being one to hold back, I’d engage in deep, and often long-winded tirades about political topics, such as terrorism, racism, pollution,vegaism and just and just anything political in general.

As a child, I remember countless adults advising me with regard to conversation skills “steer away from Politics and Religion”. How right they were, why don’t we listen?

In fact, I remember a time when nobody really knew which way anyone else voted because it was considered a private matter. The only people who really knew how a person voted was themselves and the paperboy/girl who delivered the newspaper. From my paper round, I had a good Idea who was voting Labour and who voted Tory.

The internet changed all that because it gave everyone a platform.

Let’s Debate

Platforms can be good and platforms can be bad. One platform I created on Facebook was the group called Let’s debate.
I created some basic rules, I thought they were reasonable enough, have a look…

RULES
****************

  • Any topic is cool…….So long as it’s general, ie not personal to yourself or Specific to a local area.
  • Please do not post regional (Hyper-local) topics, please!
  • Be respectful please, it doesn’t need to get personal
  • anyone attacking other members needlessly will be WARNED BY ANY of the ADMINS
  • Incidents will be reported to Admins. If the behaviour persists the offender WILL be banned.
  • Admin decision is final, this is the one thing NOT up for Debate on this board.
  • No Racism, Sexism or Homophobia, please.
    (Gender, Race, and Sexuality are, however, valid topics within common decency)
  • You must be 16 years old to join this group.
  • Each member should try to invite AT LEAST ONE other person.
  • You can edit your notification settings by clicking the settings button on the top right of the group. This will prevent your inbox filling up with unwanted notifications.

I invited lots of friends who had an interest in politics and it began, lighthearted at first, then it developed factions. The who board because chaotic, with people making outrageous statements and other people feeling attacked and offended. None of which was my intention, So I added admins or moderators, again though things go out of hand when certain members created more factions and schisms.

I had to be the overall authority on this, not a position I relished. We honestly had some great debates on there but in the end it became complicated, people spent more time phoning each other to talk about other members of the board than was healthy. Something was happening on the board that I’d not bargained for, actual human relationships were developing, almost mirroring real life, imagine a sort of virtual schoolyard if you will.

Many of my friends tend to have left-wing views, I’ve never discriminated and have always had plenty of pals with right-wing views too, because nobody is correct about everything all the time, and your politics doesn’t make you a good or a bad person, I think it just reflects your life experience.

Sadly the left and the right did not get on…and those with more right-wing views were regularly subjected to intense scrutiny and rebuttal of their argument, Sometimes to a point where it because toxic, quite a few people left the group, and they weren’t always those with more conservative views. I hated this and considered shutting the group down numerous times, but never did. At one point I relinquished admin duties for a long while only to return again at a later date because politics is addictive and hard to stay away from.

Over the years though, the group largely fell out of use and became very one-sided, no one posts on there now because we all pretty much agree….and I never wanted to create an echo chamber. Conservative-leaning people won’t join as they see it as a lynch mob, which is a real shame. I have to take the blame for not running it correctly. I honestly wanted to create a place where we could all debate and learn.

Moving it into plain sight
I started having conversations with a couple of the group’s members who were shall we say ‘very vocal’, they both contended that they prefered to debate politics on their main feed rather than in the group. I argued against this saying that it alienated all those who didn’t want to see it and those who were “on the fence”, against my better judgement though I soon followed suit and began making more political statements on my own wall. This is now a decision that I bitterly regret.

By changing the nature of my wall, from trivial friendly ‘generic’ human interest posts to those of a more political nature, I widened the audience tenfold but also revealed my politics to people who either didn’t want to know it or didn’t care…some people got sucked in.

Losing friends over stupid shit

During this time of creating a political maelstrom for no other good reason than I was a bit bored and wanted to create a bigger debate, I lost friends. I upset people by talking about some of my strongly held beliefs. such as:

  • – Brexit is/was a terrible mistake
  • – Trump is not fit to be the President of America
  • – One man’s Terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter
  • – Meat is murder
  • – ISIS was created by the West
  • – Racism is not dead, it’s alive an well
  • – Nationality is a made up, nonsensical concept
  • – Criticising Halal and not Kosher is hypocrisy
  • – Saying you love animals whilst still eating meat is hypocrisy
  • Sky TV, The SUN the TIMES etc all Brainwashing tools And other incendiary statements. many of which I’d alluded to in here in this post from 2011 None of which I’m willing to debate here and now.

    In fact, I’d like to TALK not ARGUE with anyone about these things, but only privately, I cannot take any more public shit storms!

I fell out with one chap about Brexit, Another about being a vegetarian, another about the definition of terrorism, another about the merits of Veganism, and girl about her comments on Halal. Let me be clear here. I’m not blaming those people, they are just as entitled to their view, as I am to mine. It’s just that Facebook facilitated the conflict. It’s not Facebook’s fault either, it’s mine, all mine.

I have within me the ability to ignore such comments and opinions, I can turn the other cheek or look away. Except, I do not. I have long refused to let what I believe to be bigoted opinions to go unchallenged. I cannot help myself but wade in, and I argue so forcefully and so relentlessly and so mercilessly, that I lost people.

Maybe, really it’s for the best? Perhaps I don’t need people who hold such opposing views in my life? However, I cannot help thinking though that without debate between opposing positions there can be no understanding or mutual respect and ultimately no compromise.

So, I decided that I was going to delete my Facebook Profile. That was March 2018.

Within a couple of hours, I realised that wasn’t actually possible or practical.

I manage quite a few Facebook pages for other people, in addition, I get some key updates about Fell running etc from Facebook that I cant get elsewhere.

In the end, I simply stopped posting on my wall and removed my profile picture. I make no secret that I muted all the people whose content was repeatedly irritating me. I’m sure I reside on many muted lists.

Now I just read Facebook occasionally, and only post on one or 2 tech related threads, Tidza pages and the running club. I have resolved never to return, but one should never say never.

Many friends implored me not to leave, saying I was one of the few passionate voices, but I had to resist their call because I need my sanity back.

Replying to everything I don’t agree with online, was and is toxic. Getting upset and angry about vile comments, toxic, sending out strong responses, toxic, pointless, time wasting and toxic. I wasn’t enjoying life because I was angry.
In all honesty, I’m still fucking angry, angry that people stomp off instead of being mature and agreeing to disagree.

One adversary once said to me, “you think you’re better than us”.  No, I just want better for me. If I don’t like something I’ll try to change it, if I can’t change it I’ll walk in the opposite direction. Anyone who actually knows me knows that i’ve never given a damn about what other people think of me. I’ve always tried really hard to do the right thing, occasionally I mess up, i’m human. You have to take me as you find me.

Since I stopped posting on Facebook I feel better, much better, and Twitter is next for a good clear out. My plan of keeping my twitter account non-political failed slightly by a recent uptick in Brexit related posts, and anti-Islam related posts …to which I had begun rebuffing. I will be stopping that very shortly.

In conclusion friends, I urge you to remove toxicity from your lives. I’ve been happier and more focused on things that actually matter since coming off Facebook. You just cannot convert people who are entrenched in their opinions, whether they be left leaning, right leaning or on the fence, so best to focus on your own journey and wish them well in theirs.

So was I right …or should I have stayed, or perhaps I’m just being a big manbaby?   Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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