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Social Disengagement: How Killing My Facebook Profile Made Me Smarter

I’m often told I have the right idea about things. That I’m smart and somehow more dignified than most people. This all sounds very boastful but it has nothing to do with my personal attributes—as anyone who knows me can attest—and everything to do with me not being on ‘The Facebook’.

Not being on Facebook has unexpectedly become a larger statement than I thought it would be. People swivel their heads to get a closer look at The Girl Who Isn’t On Facebook. And they expect answers too. Only last year, a German magazine ran a story about James Holmes, who murdered 12 people in a cinema in Colorado. Among his psychopathic characteristics was the fact that he wasn’t on Facebook. That’s how far Facebook has come.

Personally, not being on Facebook is a bit of an embarrassment to me. I’d like to say it were because somehow I really am above it all but it comes down to three things.

One. I can’t think of anything worse than everyone I know knowing everything about me and vice versa. From my time on Facebook, I learned a lot about my cousin’s sticky break-up which was played out in clumsily-spelled insults; found out all about the sex life of a girl who at school smelled of beef crisps; and, unfortunately, was party to a string of dirty jokes sent around by my mum’s friends. I’m none the richer for any of it.

Two. My Mum. I love my mum dearly. She is a wonderful woman, she really is, but do I really want to have my mum thumbs aloft with Macca-like eagerness to ‘like’ everything I do? Because she does. A picture of me wearing a blue wig in a photobooth with a man I can’t remember at a Christmas party. Ma Bolger likes. A picture of me drinking a Tom Collins with the caption ‘fuuuuk youuuuuu’ a la Rules of Attraction. Ma Bolger likes. I could tattoo ‘I hate you Mum’ on my head, smash up her car and then take a picture of myself smiling next to it and my mum would be there with her unconditional liking.

Three. I am not a good recipient of attention. I love surprises, as in surprise presents, if they’re given in front of a small manageable audience, but not in the form of surprise Facebook wall messages recalling past misdemeanors or surprise school photos of me looking like Mayim Bialik. I don’t have a good track record with this either. On my ninth birthday, my mum asked for a shout-out at our club’s Easter party. I bawled my eyes out under the table; watched on by a waxy, ginger Cabbage Patch doll and a sprawl of bemused relatives. On my 18th birthday, the news seeped around the restaurant— by which I mean Planet Hollywood, Leicester Square in London (I was a classy teenager)—about my birthday. I had to stand on a table with a sweltering cake and have birthday wishes sung at me by the band O-Town, who were there that day, and a line of bored looking staff. Any form of interaction on Facebook feels that cringey to me.

Which is why over the past six years, I’ve left Facebook three times and only once posted to say thanks to my friends for a lovely birthday. People like me do not thrive around social media. We come from a different age. A lovely grumpy age where you didn’t have to acknowledge photos of your boss straddling a plastic horse on Facebook and didn’t then have to go for a 1:1 with him straight-faced.

Unsurprisingly, the announcement of my recent engagement on Facebook was Not A Smart Idea and when the delighted messages—well-intended though they were—about how I’d wear my hair on the big day and how enormous my ‘rock’ was, I got the hell off Facebook.

There are definite disadvantages to this. Namely, my social life became drier than the Sahara in the first few months after leaving Facebook, but after a year, got heaps better. With only very close friends having my phone number and email address, my diary is clear and my engagements are ones I want to keep. No more school reunions. No more awkward meet ups with hastily-made uni friends. And best of all, proper catch ups with actual news when I do see my friends. Keeley Bolger ‘Likes’ this.

This was originally published in Brooklyn-based zine Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK. The latest issue – featuring Keeley's piece and more brilliant writing about the weirdness of modern life—is available online.

Facebook image from Shutterstock

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