Since I joined it, my Facebook landscape has grown from a small village of family members, friends, and old workmates to a huge bustling metropolis. It became THE place to meet people, discuss politics, plan social events, but it was also where I began conduct an essential part of my business, the promotion and marketing of my books. On a personal level it’s been a huge source of support for me, and a place where I’ve been able to support others. It was a lot of things; maybe too many.
It’s very easy to spend hours on Facebook: hanging out, chatting, seeing what people are up to. If I was my boss (which of course I am) I’d be horrified at the ease with which I wander out of the office, into the pub, the marketplace and the back alleys of the virtual world. I’ve just looked back at my history for one day last week, and I visited Facebook on five separate occasions, three of which were over half an hour long. That’s more than two hours in that one day. I can write 1000 words in an hour, so that day alone I lost a potential 2000 words of my work in progress to Facebook. Multiply that by 40, and in 40 days I lost the first draft of a novel.
I had both a personal profile and a public one https://www.facebook.com/helencadburyauthor/ Simple, I thought, I’ll keep the personal one for people I would recognise if they walked into the room, and then steer readers and bloggers, and others I ‘meet’ professionally, onto the public page. Except it didn’t work like that. I joined some wonderful Facebook bookgroups and began to meet new readers. I joined as myself, because my public page couldn’t. I made some amazing friends, many of whom I have now met in the real world. But I still had all the other friends, the old school friends, my cousins, my nieces and nephews, other friends of friends who sent requests, which I felt I had to accept. I hate to say no, it seems rude, so I hardly ever did. I tried to group people, and for a while that seemed to help, but then it all went wrong.
Two days after the referendum my Facebook world was in a fury, the majority of voices in my timeline had opposed Brexit, but I knew that in there, were people who’d voted to leave, people who’d become my friends because they wanted to talk about books, not politics. I wanted to appeal for calm, which fanned the anger of everyone. Deep down, I also wanted to go back to how it used to be, where – if I got into a row on Facebook – I knew who I was talking to. I had heard their voice, and seen their face, so I had a better sense of the nuance of what they were saying.
Then I made a fatal mistake. I tried to put the clock back. I posted to say that I was going to be talking about books on my Author Page, and so I wouldn’t be accepting new friends on my personal profile, and if people found they had been unfriended (horrible word) then it was because I’d love to carry on interacting with them over there at HelenCadbury/Author. It was a Saturday evening, I was very tired from a nine hour shift at my day job, and I started clicking the unfriend box next to the names of people I didn’t know, and with whom I’d had no, or little, interaction. It was a long process and finally I logged of and went to have something to eat and to watch the Musketeers.
Just before I went to bed, I checked Twitter. I had a direct message from someone I’d clearly unfriended, but someone I realised immediately I hadn’t wanted to lose; someone I’d had several excellent conversations with and was hoping to meet in a couple of weeks time. I didn’t see her first message, so she must have thought I was blanking her. Her second message was to say she was very hurt, and then she unfollowed me on Twitter. Exactly what I feared about the brutality of the word ‘unfriend’ had come to pass. At three in the morning I came downstairs, opened my laptop and de-activated my Facebook account. The big noisy city had become too much for me and I needed to retreat to the woods.
I’m not sure how long I’ll stay away, perhaps forever. Yesterday there was no Facebook. I read the papers for a meeting I’m having today, I wrote the synopsis for a new book, I spent time with my sons, I sat in the garden, and I read the newspaper. This morning I woke up and wrote this blog. It saddens me that my decision may have upset people, but at least by coming off altogether, nobody can take it personally. Because it isn’t you, it’s me.