Adrian Gray turns off his notifications and finds he has more time for mundane tasks like talking to his parents
Facebook is run by a horde of Silicon Valley techno-pricks who’d happily collect data about your farts if Glade expressed some sort of commercial interest. It’s amazing that anyone trusts Mark Zuckerberg with photos of their family: he looks like a supervillain who’s undergone pioneering stem cell therapy to undo his puberty.
Last year, with this in mind, I decided to quit social media. It wasn’t easy. Initially I had dreams about notifications; I woke up shaking and in cold sweats; sometimes I’d imagine my phone was vibrating and grab at my pockets in a feral panic, like a military general who’d suddenly realised he’d misplaced the nuclear codes. But, eventually, I broke free. And what I discovered was a life worth living.
Suddenly, my attention span was huge. I was finishing books, podcasts, conversations. I could spend entire train journeys just looking out the window at the view – and most of those were on the tube. Time was no longer something to be killed, but enjoyed. Mundane tasks like cleaning or cooking or talking to my parents became opportunities to learn and grow.
Over time I re-discovered daytime TV, which is, of course, brilliant. There is nothing more satisfying, or British, than watching members of the public fail to win quizzes in front of millions of people. It’s especially fun when they get to some sort of final round with a large amount of hypothetical money in the bank, only to lose it all when the professional quizzer finally decides to try. Facebook could never offer that kind of schadenfreude. Even a picture of an ex with a look of regret in their eye would pale in comparison to watching Trevor from Essex being unable to locate the Grand Canyon.
My days feel longer now, and I’m trying to reignite old hobbies. I learnt piano up until I was seventeen; I was bad, but never really tried hard to improve. I have now tried hard to improve and it turns out I am just naturally bad at piano. My excuse is I’ve got small hands, but to be fair, Beethoven was deaf, and I feel like that was probably more of a disadvantage. At least I know I’m talentless on the keys. If I’d kept social media I might have had a mid-life crisis and quit my job to join a band, only to discover my utter lack of talent when it was too late.
If anything, quitting social media has given me an excuse to act like the sub-standard human being that I am, which is really rather liberating
Of course, there have been downsides to going social media-free. I now miss out on invitations to parties, which among my generation tend to be organised exclusively via Facebook. My attitude, initially, was that any true friends hosting events would find another way to invite me, probably in person or over the phone. Either this assumption was wrong, or I don’t have any true friends; simply put, I’ve spent a lot of Friday nights at home recently.
Additionally, I’ve missed out on many of my friends’ key life events. Pregnancies, marriages and break-ups have all passed me by, and this has occasionally proved problematic. Singing the praises of a friend’s ex, without realising they are indeed an ex, makes you seem like a bit of a prick. But then, I am a bit of a prick, and this is quite possibly something I would do even if I knew they were an ex. So, if anything, quitting social media has given me an excuse to act like the sub-standard human being that I am, which is really rather liberating.
Indeed, the best bit about quitting social media has been the sense of superiority – something that, as a bit of a prick, I find hard to come by. Now that I’m Facebook-free, I feel like I’m in some way better than my friends. More ethical. It must be what vegans feel like. I’ve always wondered how they can stomach putting soya milk on their cereal when it tastes like paint, but now I know: they’re buoyed by a life-affirming sense of smugness. These days if I see someone scrolling through their phone, I can loudly tut without feeling like a hypocrite. And if I’m honest, it’s a real kick.
So, if you are considering deleting your Facebook, give it a shot. You might find your true calling in life. I’ve certainly found mine. And it’s turning my nose up at perfectly good people.
Adrian Gray is a comedian and writer. Watch his videos here.