Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Sitting down to write, I’m hardly more than a couple of lines down the page before I feel my focus start to drift. A nagging urge and a few habitual swipes of the phone later my mind elects to completely neglect my work. In its place, my No. 1 digital fixation, social crutch and bad habit: Facebook. It’s a platform I yearn to cut myself off from, but am too deeply invested in to bear going without.
Aside from being a massive black hole into which much of my free time is sucked, Facebook is also mentally draining. The site has a penchant for condensing the worst of world news and people into one infinitely-scrolling timeline. My news feed is where I see an old friend sharing dubiously-sourced conspiracy theories or learn someone I went to school with landed in jail.
Comment sections are especially bad for the same reason. Under any news article there is always someone with something controversial to say and legions of users ready to descend into a fight beneath. As someone who loves a good debate, Facebook arguments are both seductive and immediately regrettable. Nuanced discussion is a rarity, and finding common ground rarer still. There are no winners among the participants; the only real victors are those who can avoid them entirely.
It probably sounds like I think Facebook has no redeemable qualities other than being a way to kill time, but that’s not true. While very few of my close friends use Facebook as their primary social network, they aren’t the people I use the site to keep in touch with. Therein lies the problem.
Facebook is where I go to keep up with old acquaintances and to discuss niche interests none of my close friends share. The groups I’m a part of are some of the few places I can geek-out with like-minded people, and a significant portion of my friends list is people who I never would have had the chance to meet offline. Some I hardly know, others I consider close friends, but I share something in common with all of them.
Leaving is a concrete solution to dealing with Facebook’s flaws, but comes with self-inflicted ostracization from scores of people, many of whom I only communicate with through the site. For some of my Facebook friends, adding them on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat would be good enough. However, when most of the enjoyment I get from Facebook comes from being involved in groups dedicated to specific interests, there just isn’t a viable alternative.
Most of the time, though, Facebook is too mentally taxing to justify the disproportionate amount of time I spend on it. As soon as I can finally find a to cut it out of my life without sacrificing the connections I’ve made along the way, my account will be gone. And I won’t look back.