A Farewell to Apps

Recently I deleted the Facebook app from my smart phone. There were many reasons for this but the chief amongst them was that I had taken to checking the app immediately on waking up and constantly throughout the day, regardless of whether I had notifications or not. Mostly I knew I didn’t have notifications, but checked anyway. It’s easy to convince yourself after once or twice of it happening that the background updates aren’t happening and you’ll have missed something important. Invariably, you haven’t.

I’d like to say that this concern that I was checking the app so regularly was because it was hindering my productivity. And in a sense it was. There’s always the temptation to endlessly scroll when you should be doing more important things like plotting, editing, or actually writing. But more than anything it was because I was focusing a lot on Facebook and spending my time in the contextual comparison of other people’s lives with my own. That way madness lies and going mad I probably was.

When I got rid of Facebook from my phone, I also got rid of Twitter and Instagram. Not quite for the same reasons. For Instagram it was simply the case of pruning an unused branch of my life. I looked at things people posted and I was never really that interested in what I saw there. I followed some awesome folk on Instagram, people I genuinely care about, but I wasn’t getting much out of the experience.

Twitter was a bit different. I think I could use it more effectively and not as a tool of endless scrolling, but it had become, in essence, a silent conversation. A lot of people shouting at me, mostly unheeded. I’d check to see if I had notifications, check those if there were any, and then just click the top bar on the app to scroll to the top. You know when you’re in a pub and the music’s too loud, there are people at all the tables around you and you’re trying to listen to the people you’re with? It was a bit like that. I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to hear because there was too much to listen to. I need to fix that before I go back, but it’s not near the top of my priorities list.

Facebook, on the other hand? I don’t know if I’ll go back. To be fair, I’ve still got Messenger, because I’ve found that actually useful for people to get in contact and it isn’t so easy to get lost in checking and reading posts people have shared. It’s just like having a second form of text messaging, but more for the folk who I don’t have numbers for. And my author page remains intact, for the time being at least, since some people do rely on that for my updates (and more of those this year than last – promise!).

I’ve spent time cultivating Facebook – muting some people, unfriending others, and blocking a few people here and there. I’ve put in time to choose the pages I want updates from and the ones I don’t. But none of that has rewarded me with a better experience. And now having deleted it I find that even if I do check it on a computer or through my phone’s browser I want out almost as soon as I’ve logged in. There are lots of happy things on Facebook, of course, but the act of scrolling it, the endless updates and the top stories and all that stuff – it’s a gallery of misery, a totem to the futility of the human condition. I can do without that.

Has it made me more productive? I don’t know. I’ve certainly written more, but correlation isn’t causation and 2015 has seen me begin to work on some of the things that I’ve wanted to for a long time. I’m exercising regularly, I’m putting time into my writing on a daily basis, even if it’s small progress when I’m very busy, and I’m trying not to let the work I have to do to keep myself alive get me down as much. Changing jobs has helped in that regard. I wouldn’t be so blind as to put all those changes down to not having such ready access to Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, but it has had an effect on how I spend my time.

Not last weekend, but the one before, I wrote an entire first draft of a new one act play. I’m a little way into my first draft of a second one act play. I’ve sent a newly refurbished Tornmile off to its first beta reader. Even if it’s only part of a package of changes I’m making this year, it’s been a good one. I may go back to using Facebook more directly, if there comes a time where it doesn’t make me feel so bored, so lost, and so depressed, but on the strength of the evidence so far, it’ll be a long wait.

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