Six reasons I quit Facebook

Not enough attention being given to her snowboarding gibbon was just one reason Christine Robertson decided to close her Facebook account. There were others…

Gladiator photo: DreamWorks/Universal Pictures.

Gladiator photo: DreamWorks/Universal Pictures.

My name is Christine and it’s been one year and 10 months since my last Facebook post. It wasn’t even a post actually; it was a handful of DMs to friends I had no other contact details for, asking for their email addresses so I could stay in touch after I quietly closed my account.

Two years is a long time in tech, of course, so many of my reasons for leaving might no longer be relevant. For all I know, DMs have been replaced with Retina Alerts and status updates are now called Mood Spews. But I suspect a lot of the following is still relevant (mainly because I checked and people said yes).

1. DM Timestamp Paranoia

No one in the history of time has ever agreed that email read receipts are helpful. If you’re petty enough to request one, I am petty enough to refuse it. So when Facebook introduced their version of a compulsory read receipt – a DM timestamp telling me exactly when someone had read my message – a whole new level of paranoia came with it.

Seen at 14:32. It’s now 17:58. Are they ignoring me? Let me re-read my message in case the way I wrote ‘lol’ about that snowboarding gibbon video was inadvertently offensive. 20:41. That’s it. They hate me. NO. No Christine, they don’t hate you. They will get back to you in their own time. Just like you would. Get on with your life.

2. Friends?

It’s a common scenario. You meet a friend of a friend at a thing, you have a larf and become Facebook friends the next day. Let’s call this new friend Liam. Before long, abortion rights make the headlines. Oh, Liam’s anti-choice. The election rolls round. Yikes, Liam’s a bit racist. U2 give their new album away for free. FFS, Liam *loves* U2.

“It was like stumbling across my stalker’s lair. How long had this map been here? When did I consent to this? How do I opt out of it? When the fuck was I in Rugby?”

Can I unfriend Liam? Will he notice? Will that rock the boat with our mutual friend? I could mute him but that’d be like locking him in my basement. I’d know he was there, still talking shit. I found ‘unfriending’ much harder to do on Facebook – where friendship is a mutual agreement – than ‘unfollowing’ on Twitter, where connections come with fewer/no strings attached. I am much happier on Twitter, incidentally.

3. The Map I Never Asked For

I never ‘checked in’ anywhere and I rarely looked at my own profile page, so I was surprised one day to find this stonking great map of the UK at the top of it with a ton of virtual pins in it. Pins – presumably – from places I’d accessed Facebook.

It was like stumbling across my stalker’s lair. How long had this map been here? When did I consent to this? How do I opt out of it? When the fuck was I in Rugby? Oh yeah, I was waiting for a connecting train that time. Thank god this map exists to remind me of all the times I was bored out of my skull enough to check Facebook.

4. Photo Spam

I know I can be a sarcastic twat but sincerely, hand on heart: your holiday looks great. Your kids are cute. Your night out looks fun. Your food looks tasty. Your selfies are… tolerable. BUT uploading 20 slightly different versions of the same pic is a waste of your data usage and my time.

Uploading more than 50 pics to an album is only acceptable if each photo contains hidden clues leading to a cash prize of £1000. ‘Jane uploaded 582 photos to the album [LITERALLY ANYTHING]’ is unacceptable. Imagine Ross Geller screaming, “PIVOT!” but instead it’s me scrolling through your photo album screaming, “EDIT!”

“I had lied about my date of birth when I joined Facebook; I estimated I’d have a Timeline of approximately 107 years to populate with life events.”

5. The Sidebar of Snoop

Wayne liked a total stranger’s status. Chloe commented on a total stranger’s pic. Esther and a total stranger are now friends. Mark just shat himself in a place you’ve never heard of.

This rolling ticker of what my friends are doing elsewhere on Facebook is just a live feed of activity that’s none of my business. Even worse, it reminds me that Chloe’s still not replied to my DM that she read at 14:32, yet here she is commenting “lol” on someone else’s snowboarding gibbon video that’s not even as funny as the one I sent her.

6. The 107-Year Timeline

I sat through a presentation by a Facebook employee once, around the time they were due to launch the Timeline onto user profile pages. She was so excited about the prospect that users could soon log key life events on their Timeline, from birth to feeling blessed about last night’s spag bol – and it took all my energy not to blurt out, “But why?!” during her presentation.

I had lied about my date of birth when I joined Facebook; I estimated I’d have a Timeline of approximately 107 years to populate with life events. Soon, I couldn’t log in without Facebook demanding: WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL? WAS IT ANY OF THESE PLACES? or WHERE HAVE YOU WORKED? WAS IT ANY OF THESE PLACES? Endless questions that would boil my blood before I’d even got to my home page. Any joy Facebook brought was now woefully disproportionate to the misery it generated.

This constant fishing for every last detail of my life was the crux of my decision to leave. The suspicion that I would one day sign in and see Christine Just Got Her Period under my ‘Life Events’ and that it would already have five likes.

Obviously, I still see the many ways in which it’s a great social network – and it’s free! (YES BUT AT WHAT COST ETC.) And if you’re reading this via the Standard Issue Facebook page, that’s awesome. This wonderful mag is reason enough to stay on Facebook.

But I don’t miss it. I’ve been tempted back a few times, but only ever in a professional context (writers’ groups etc). It’s more than enough for me to stay in touch with friends by text, email, Twitter and old skool, face-to-face, look-you-in-the-eye, hug-you-goodbye hook-ups over a drink. Nothing beats that.


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Written by Christine Robertson

Christine is an award-winning comedy writer who thinks Winona Ryder picked the wrong guy in Reality Bites.