Sarah Todd: Why my New Year resolution is to give up Facebook

Sarah Todd.
Sarah Todd.
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FORGET the usual New Year resolutions such as giving up alcohol and saying no to second helpings of sticky toffee pudding. Make 2016 the year you give up Facebook.

I am a relative newcomer to this world of social media – the teenage daughter did the signing up this time last year – because we were always arriving at things that had been cancelled, with organisers saying: “Well, we did post it on Facebook…”

Turning up at some ice-skating that had been called off was the final straw and yours truly allowed herself to be part of the online phenomenon.

At first it was fun. It was a delight to view a friend’s wedding photographs, to read announcements of new-born babies and be reunited with the odd old schoolfriend (a little lad from the school bus has turned out rather handsome).

But hang on. What was that other feeling that some of the posts gave me? Yes, insecurity. In common with the majority of similarly small people, self-esteem isn’t something that this correspondent regularly wrestles with.

But these last few weeks, bombarded with images of perfectly colour-coordinated Christmas trees, perfectly elf-costumed children (who obviously had nothing to do with decorating those trees) and perfectly cooked mince pies, it’s true to say other people’s posts have dragged me down.

If it’s made me feel flat, no wonder teens or others feeling vulnerable can get dragged down by the incessant seeming wonderfulness of everybody else’s lives, looks and loves.

We aren’t organised for Christmas – we never are – and the (is it a word?) perfectness of other people’s preparations left a funny feeling.

Not to mention the perfect pre-Christmas drinks and – yes – perfect “last-minute” shopping expeditions (when we haven’t even started) and that was before the hullabaloo of New Year’s Eve.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since signing off, but it’s no exaggeration to say no longer checking the site’s news feed has made me feel happier.

In fact, this weight off the shoulders feeling is official.

Researchers from the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen – yes, there is such a place – have found that giving up Facebook boosted happiness and reduced anger and loneliness.

Life satisfaction rose significantly in the space of a week when participants were unable to read the updates of their friends.

The think tank said that it was surprised by the change it found in such a short time, adding that it hoped to raise awareness of the influence of social media on feelings of fulfilment.

To sum up, the experts said these sites are “a constant flow of edited lives which distort our view of reality”.

It’s easier said than done to erase Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates’ invention from our lives.

Even here in the countryside, old-fashioned institutions like the local Young Farmers’ 
Club and the Pony Club no longer issue printed programme cards of forthcoming events.

It’s all done online. If you want to know what’s on you no longer look at the folded card with useful telephone numbers; you’ve to check Facebook.

It has to be said, a lot of good is done by Facebook. Missing people, pets and fundraising appeals all have been helped beyond belief.

Knocking on the door with a sponsorship form is a thing of the past – appeals get put on Facebook and the giving gets serious.

Disaster funds, both worldwide and those nearer to home like the recent flooding, have been bolstered by the click-of-a-button simplicity of Facebook.

Even The Husband has joined in. He grew a moustache in aid of the men’s cancer fundraiser Movember and was able to post weekly pictures of the small ferret’s rather slow progress across his top lip.

When we got a guinea pig, all it took was one line on Facebook and within 24 hours somebody had seen the post and Jeff was in situ in a lovely (free to a good home) cage.

A much-loved pony went to a new home on the Isle of Man and it’s been so easy, through photo updates on Facebook, to keep tabs on her.

But there again, seeing the odd glimpse online doesn’t hold a candle to the hand-written letter and Christmas card that came last year.

And seeing news of newborn babies doesn’t come close to an announcement in an esteemed publication like The Yorkshire Post. Something to cut out and stick into a scrapbook for future generations.

It would be stupid to suggest that the world can turn its back on Facebook. But if you aren’t running a company, haven’t lost your dog and aren’t fundraising for charity then have a break from it.

Pick up the ‘phone and call – yes, actually speak to – a friend. Take the dog for a walk and pop an old-fashioned letter or two in the post because you’ll have time to write short missives that show you care.

Whatever you do, please don’t make it perfect.

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.