[OPINION] In praise of a 'Face break'

Five weeks and a lot of withdrawal ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.

This has been the most powerful action I have taken in 2018. It has been a close and busy 11-year relationship. The separation was painful and torturous. I had about 1,200 contacts, most of whom I know, I am related to many and I have met others through mutual friends on the Facebook network.

Mostly my Facebook account had benefits. Sharing my life and experiences helped others to reach out privately or on Facebook and commiserate, congratulate or celebrate with me. I have managed to access many helpful contacts and circles of people with the same interests as me, and we have built nutritious bonds. I have had very few hairy experiences. I enjoyed many fruitful discussions with people I have only met on Facebook and when we meet in person, we know so much about one another that it is just an extra to see each other.

The biggest drawback was I found myself consumed by various interest groups, campaigns, debates and life events that I really have little to no control over. I felt I was missing out on my actual life and all the interesting things happening right here, around me. It took months for me to believe that.

One night I sat and taught myself how to deactivate my account. I haven’t deleted it because I want to keep that memory bank. My photos, stories and videos are still valued by me, so now they can be kept in my deactivated account for safety. I have 42,000 photos on my mobile phone (I know it is crazy...) because I found myself capturing everything I loved, to serve me to my eternity. To remind me of great days and events, to hold the smiling loving faces of my nearest and dearest.

I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with people in and out of my home and country, whenever it was convenient via Facebook. The world became a village, I could meet up with a cousin from London and we would pick up conversations about what was happening during our weeks as if we saw each other last month.

If I hadn’t heard from someone for a while or I had a thought about them, I could pop onto their page and make sure they were okay, happy, in a new home, on a holiday, battling an illness, grieving or celebrating and it gave me a space to have a meaningful conversation with them in the private message box or to like all their wonderful pictures. We shared opinions and ideas freely and I loved that interaction.

I really resent my cell phone as I don’t like being available twenty-four hours of the day and night. I also don’t like conversations that start with "I called you and you never replied", that gets my knuckles crackly. As a result of Facebook, I saw my phone more as a camera than a phone.

With Facebook my replies and contributions were considered and interactive without me balancing a phone between my ear and shoulder or dropping a call, or talking through a bad line. Facebook was there like a captive audience with anything I wanted to say, vent, humour, share, complain or ask advice. It is amazing how generous people are with advice, referrals, willingness to get involved in activities, donate clothing, sponsor events and generally find what is a common favourite and enjoy that together in teams or handfuls of like minds.

Since being off Facebook, I am so conscious of all the times I would have quickly posted an update. We went on holiday for two weeks and it was so relaxing not having to capture all the moments so I could share them with my friends and relatives. The freedom has become something I value. I find myself present in my life. Alive to my children’s performances at concerts, sports events and family functions.

Being a natural busybody, I do miss knowing exactly what is happening everywhere. I am very pleased to have had so many Facebook friends who know and understand me. But I realised that I am not missing much as all the news bites I now get on WhatsApp or a quick phone call from my friends. It has turned out to be liberating and fun being in my own life personally, not just virtually. Absolutely fabulous to going back to other normal means of communicating.

The best part is that my children and I can now talk without the interruption of the little blue icon with 15 awaiting messages, it used to catch my eye from anywhere in the room. Deactivating my account is a gift I gave myself and my family. I highly recommend a break-up with Facebook.

Lisa Joshua Sonn is a social activist. Follow her on Twitter: @annalisasonn