Facebook makes me feel unhappy and it's about time I did something about it

This will be a fairly lengthy post so I’ve broken it into sections:

The trouble with Facebook

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Bryon Lippincott/FlickR

I never considered myself an unhappy person. I get a bit lonely sometimes and now and then I lay awake at night wondering why I never had an idea that made me rich or why I don’t play sports as much as I used to, but that seems pretty normal. What’s neither normal nor healthy is looking into the lives of friends, half-friends, acquaintances and randoms through a lens that reveals only the parts they want the rest of the world to see. That’s not even real. It’s snapshots of people’s days that, for the most part, best demonstrate the aspects of their lives that they want the world to see.

It’s a really nice meal that I didn’t eat, a movie I didn’t see, a party I wasn’t invited to, a job I don’t have, a gathering I wasn’t at, a gig I’m not gonna go to or a house that’s more expensive than mine. Then there’s the constant pressure to stay in touch with people, to interact on this platform that deceptively and paradoxically makes you privy to what’s happening in people’s lives without actual participation.

All of this is there, glaring at me on a daily basis each and every time I log into Facebook. It makes me unhappy and I’ve narrowed this negativity down to three situations that I feel are significant and unhealthy enough to warrant some kind of closer examination.

Negative situations on Facebook

Missing out

This is a common one. I log on and see pictures of things happening that I’m not part of. Why am I not included in these events? I usually ask myself. The answers vary, but when I see people having fun without me, I naturally feel left out

It’s all right if it’s someone I don’t really know, but when it’s friends, or friends of friends, it makes me wonder why I wasn’t part of the proceedings. It can be anything from a wedding to a dinner to a party to a drink in the pub to a gig, and the feeling is usually at it’s strongest if it’s something that, in my mind, I think I could or should have been invited to.

To see something like this and not be there starts a trail of thought that usually ends with me analysing my friendships and agonising over the potential differences between my perceptions of the friendships I have with other people and the realities of those relationships, never sure which of the two is real. This hints at some of the deception I mentioned in the first section, where seeing so much of a person’s life on social media can make you feel like you are “in touch” when really you’re not. It becomes an endless, whirling cacophony of self-doubt and leads neatly to my next negative situation.

Growing apart

I often think about friends I had when I was younger – friends from primary school, secondary school, uni, Thailand, Timor-Leste, uni again. I still think about a lot of them, even ones I haven’t seen for a very long time, and wonder if they remember me and, more specifically, if they sometimes think about me in the same way.

It bothers me because I can remember very specific things about those friendships. In my head, I still think I’m friends with these people, even though they may not have given me a second thought for years. It’s this confusion over whether a friendship even exists that I think relates to how I perceive a lot of the friends I have today, and where else do you get a daily reminder of who your friends are than on Facebook?

So it’s on Facebook that I have a thorough and well-organised list of people I’m supposed to be friends with. I can see them all, as well as various details about their lives. Some I haven’t spoken to for a while or have maybe lost touch with a little bit. When I see those people and the snapshots of their lives, I start to ask myself the same questions I do about friends from my past: Are these friendships real?

It didn’t help that I lived overseas for most of the last 11 years. When I moved back to the UK a little less than two years back, I was a distressed to see how much things had changed within my circles of friends. A lot happened while I was away that I wasn’t a part of and so there were shifts; some people within the circles became closer, others lost contact altogether. Some who I may have been friends with in certain places suddenly weren’t friends at all while even those friendships that I had previously considered as strong were in doubt. These feelings are accentuated by spending time on Facebook and they lead to a pit of self-doubt.

Comparable lives

I’ve always thought that it’s natural to compare my life to the lives of my friends. There are a many areas of overlap and quantifiable points of comparison. We all basically live the same lives as our friends. There are obviously glaring differences, but the fundamentals are all there.

There are a few common “big” questions: How does my job compare? Are they having kids yet? What’s their house like? Do they have an awesome car? Where do they go on holiday? What was their wedding like?

I don’t think any of this really bothered me until Facebook came along and allowed me to see even the most mundane, minute elements of other people’s lives. So now I’m not just occasionally comparing the big things, but constantly looking at the little ones, like: What does this person do on a Friday night? What’s that person having for dinner? Where’s that couple going on Sunday afternoon? It’s an overload of information and points of comparison.

This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy with my life, but the kind of content people share on Facebook is often intended to show off only the best aspects of their lives, a kind of self-branding, if you like. I know this because I’ve done it myself. I’ve posted content on Facebook because I wanted to say, essentially, “I did this and you didn’t.”

Facebook check-ins are probably the best example of this. Really, who wants to see that you’re at the pub or attending a concert or, worse still, at an airport? Taking it a step farther, who would be interested in seeing photos of a social gathering they weren’t part of? Some people would, yes, but the vast majority don’t need that little bit of information. This is getting close to the “missing out” section above now.

Taking action

So that’s a lot of interlinked negativity and none of it is doing my state of mind any good. My single New Year’s resolution this year, pretty much the only one I’ve ever made, was to do something about it.

There are two obvious solutions:

  1. Delete my Facebook; or
  2. Just stop using it.

I thought about deleting Facebook altogether, but I didn’t feel like that would get to the root of the problem. I wanted to fundamentally change my habits. To stop using Facebook is the preferable of the two options. However, Facebook does have its benefits. When I want to communicate with friends, Facebook is where I normally go first. That side of it is something I don’t want to lose.

What I do want to lose is most of everything else. So I decided to stop posting on Facebook. I’ve only gone a couple of weeks, but it’s one less thing to worry about. I also decided to stop reading other people’s posts. I just needed to stop following updates from every single one of my friends. Now all I see on my timeline are posts from news sites and music artists. That’s just fine.

All I do on Facebook now is send and reply to messages, as well as see instances where I’ve been mentioned in someone else’s post. Eliminating the timeline browsing has meant that I go on Facebook far less frequently. There’s not really any need to, especially now that I have the Facebook Messenger app on my desktop, as well as my phone. I’ve also removed the Facebook app from the homescreens on my phone.

It’s difficult to assess the impact of any of this, but I do feel like it’s making a difference by not having to repeatedly go through the negative situations and emotions explored above. It’s certainly a lot less pressure. In short: I think I’m happier without so much Facebook in my life. Though of course this is all a work-in-progress.

I do, however, still have a need to share, so let’s talk about that for a moment.

The need to share

I’m not immune to the desire to share. I like to have outlets where I can post my thoughts and opinions. I just want to be able to do it without the craving for instant gratification. This blog is a good place for it, but I have also enjoyed using lesser-known social sites, like This and Ello. There’s something to be said for a social network where you don’t know anybody.

Twitter is still my primary social network of choice. If I have a burning desire to comment on something, I’ll usually do it on Twitter. Whether anyone responds or not is far less pressing than on Facebook. Twitter is also the main place where I share links and get my news from. It’s become more like a trumped up RSS reader than anything else.

The best thing about Twitter, though, is that there is an emotional disconnect. I don’t know most of the people I’m following there. We’re not connected because of a friendship, but because we’re likely to share content that is mutually interesting. That’s generally as far as it goes.

I will say, however, that when I lived in Bangkok most recently, a lot more of my social life came to revolve around Twitter and tweetups and social gatherings that would inevitably be broadcast and talked about. That actually became quite stressful for me and evoked many of the negative emotions that I’ve discussed in this post.

It’s important for me now to balance that need to share with the need to disconnect.

Final thoughts

This is something that I’ve never really spoken about with anyone else so it’s hard to gauge if other people have been through similar situations. From what I’ve read, a lot of people will be able to relate to at least a small part of what I’ve talked about here. I’m really interested to find out to what extent it’s had an impact on their emotional wellbeing. Is there a type of personality that this has a greater effect on?

I don’t think that social media is inherently bad. What I do believe, however, is that it can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing when you become too emotionally involved in the networks you choose to post on.

The comments are open on this thread and you can always catch me on Twitter. Would be great to hear from other people in some shape or form.

Stop saying your social media accounts got "hacked"

Readers beware: there is an elite group of mischievous hackers forcing their way into the social media accounts of unsuspecting victims and posting dumb shit on their behalf in order to whip the media into a frenzy and do lasting reputational damage. These hackers must be stopped.

One of them recently got into the Twitter account of The Dignity Project, a Scottish charity working in Africa with orphans and vulnerable children. The dastardly devil managed to cross-post an extremely rude tweet from a Facebook status update about beloved author of wizard books, JK Rowling.

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

Oh the horror! This prompted an outcry from the public and a very serious investigation was launched by very serious charity regulators. The good folks at The Dignity Project quickly put out a curiously worded statement to clear the air and explain to the world what had gone on.

The Dignity Project has had it's Twitter account hacked
We are not responsible for any tweets that have been sent.
As a charity we  do not take any political stance and our opinion is people are free to donate to whoever they choose.
To the people who hacked our account if helping African children to thrive and survive including single mums is bad thing that is their problem. 

Think of the single mums! Astonishingly, the bastard hacker has managed to keep the tweet up for TWO FULL DAYS at the time of writing. Yup, it's still there. Why oh why has this happened to good people saving orphans?!

OK let's get real for a minute. Nobody hacked The Dignity Project's severely neglected Twitter account. It was, until just a day or so ago, linked directly to the Facebook account of William McDonald-Wood, one of the founders of The Dignity Project. If you clicked on the links on the Twitter feed, they'd take you straight to the corresponding posts on his Facebook page. Once the world had gone mad jumping to the defence of lovely JK, that Facebook account was deleted. Notice the FB link in the bitch tweet. Despite going AWOL from Facebook, the said chap does, however, still have his own personal neglected Twitter feed up, although it's not much to look at.

Here's what happened: William set up the Dignity Project Twitter account back in 2009 and he didn't really know what to do with it, so he just followed a few people, linked it to his Facebook account and then forgot about it/lost access to it. Everything went up there, including the books he and his wife were trying to flog on eBay.

Months and then years passed without anything earth-shattering happening. He did call David Cameron an asshole, but there was surprisingly no fallout from that tweet.

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

Oh, and he also had a problem with Maria Miller…

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

…the Lib Dems…

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

…David Cameron again…

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

…and the list goes on. They've also been "hacked" before!

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

There are a few things we can all learn from this debacle:

  • Linked FB/Twitter accounts are the work of the devil
  • If you're not going to do social media well, don't do it all
  • Don't set up social media accounts if you aren't going to use them effectively
  • Have a purpose to your social media; don't just do it for the sake of it
  • Have a crisis comms plan in place in case things do go wrong
  • Don't blame "hackers" when you stuff up
  • Be honest about your mistakes and don't make things worse by lying

Dignity Project Tweet scandal

Cambodian troops nearly bring down Bangkok Airways passenger jet — or do they?

This is a truly bizarre story. The details are a little sketchy and with only AFP covering this so far, I'm wondering what more there is to this story than has been reported. I shudder to think what the consequences would have been if they'd hit the plane. Can it really be that they simply opened fire with a machine gun because they weren't sure what kind of plane it was? The stupidity of such an action is beyond belief.

Cambodian troops fired shots at a passenger aircraft flying near the country's disputed border with Thailand, believing it to be a spy plane, the Thai army said Thursday.

"The Cambodian military fired because there was a Thai passenger plane — Bangkok Airways — which could not land at Siem Reap airport because of bad weather," said deputy army spokesman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong.

"It was misunderstood by Cambodia to be spy plane," he said, adding that no one was hurt in the incident near the northern Cambodian tourist destination of Siem Reap.

Cambodian military at the border — the site of deadly territorial clashes between the neighbouring countries last year — confirmed troops had opened fire at an aircraft.

"It was dark so we could not see what type of plane it was. But it was circling many times and then our soldiers fired 18 shots from a machine gun, but it missed the plane because it was flying very high," Commander Seng Phearin told AFP.

Update: Nation is reporting that the incident might not have happened at all, which would make the quotes in the AFP story above look rather odd:

A Thai commercial aircraft came under warning shots while flying over Sa Kaew near the Thai-Cambodian border, according to an unconfirmed report yesterday evening, with the Foreign Ministry saying it was checking the unaccredited claim.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul told reporters in Phnom Penh that there was no such shooting by Cambodia at the commercial flight.

Having made thorough checks of several agencies and the airline, as well as the Cambodian commander and Thai military attache in Phnom Penh, Surapong had received no confirmation of such an incident, he said.

Likely members of Timor-Leste's next parliament

CNRT (30)
1. KAY RALA XANANA GUSMAO
2. DEONISIO DA COSTA BABO SOARES
3. MARIA FERNANDA LAY
4. VICENTE DA SILVA GUTERRES
5. EDUARDO DE DEUS BARRETO
6. VIRGINIA ANA BELO
7. ARAO NOE DE JESUS DA COSTA AMARAL
8. DUARTE NUNES
9. BRIGIDA ANTONIA CORREIA
10. ADERITO HUGO DA COSTA
11. NATALINO DOS SANTOS NASCIMENTO
12. MARIA ROSA DA CAMARA “BI SOI”
13. IZILDA MANUELA DA LUZ PEREIRA SOARES
14. PEDRO DOS MARTIRES DA COSTA
15. VIRGILIO MARIA DIAS MARCAL
16. MATEUS DE JESUS
17. JOSE DA SILVA PANAO
18. CARMELITA CAETANO MONIZ
19. DOMINGAS ALVES DA SILVA “BILOU-MALI”
20. JACOB DE ARAUJO
21. CESAR VALENTE DE JESUS
22. ANSELMO DA CONCEICAO
23. JACINTO VIEGAS VICENTE
24. ANGELA M.CORVELO DE A.SARMENTO
25. ALBINA MARCAL FREITAS
26. ANTONIO XIMENES
26. FRANCISCO DA COSTA
27. DOMINGOS CARVALHO DE ARAUJO
28. AGOSTINHO LAY
29. BENDITA MONIZ MAGNO
30. MANUEL G. DA COSTA GUTERRES

PD (8)
1.FERNANDO LA SAMA DE ARAUJO
2.MARIANO ASSANAMI SABINO
3.MARIA DE LURDES MARTINS DE SOUSA BESSA
4.ANTONIO DA CONCEICAO
5.JACOB XAVIER
6.ANGELINA MACHADO DE JESUS
7.ADRIANO DO NASCIMENTO
8.ADRIANO JOAO

Frente Modanca (2)
1. JOSÉ LUIS GUTERRES
2. JORGE DA CONCEIÇÃO TEME

FRETILIN (25)
1.FRANCISCO GUTERRES “LÚ-OLO”
2.MARI BIM AMUDE ALKATIRI
3.JOSEFA ÁLVARES PEREIRA SOARES
4.FRANCISCO MIRANDA BRANO
5.ESTANISLAU DA C. ALEIXO MARIA DA SILVA
6.ILDA MARIA DA CONCEIÇÃO
7.JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS
8.DAVID DIAS XIMENES
9.AURORA XIMENES
10.ANTONINHO BIANCO
11.ANICETO LONGUINHOS GUTERRES LOPES
12.FLORENTINA DA CONCEIÇÃO PEREIRA MARTINS SMITH
13.OSÓRIO FLORINDO DA CONCEIÇÃO COSTA
14.ELÁDIO ANTÓNIO FACULTO DE JESUS
15.MARIA ANGÊLICA RANGEL DA CRUZ DOS REIS
16.INÁCIO FREITAS MOREIRA
17.MANUEL DE CASTRO PEREIRA
18.ANA DA CONCEIÇÃO RIBEIRO
19.AURÉLIO FREITAS RIBEIRO
20.MANUEL GASPAR SOARES DA SILVA
21.ANGÊLICA DA COSTA
22.ANTÓNIO DOS SANTOS “55”
23.FELISBERTO MONTEIRO GUTERRES
24.ANASTÁCIA DA COSTA S. AMARAL
25.LEONEL MARÇAL

Source: CIJTL

Timor-Leste parliamentary election provisional results

This post follows on from yesterday's post covering the election results as they broke. Note that these figures are not final. There are what appear to be more-up-to-date figures on the L'ao Hamutuk website, but the outcome is still the same in terms of seats/threshold.

UDT: 5,314 (1.12%)
PR: 4,229 (0.89%)
PDN: 9,356 (1.98%)
AD: 2,601 (0.55%)
PUN: 3,156 (0.67%)
PD: 48,581 (10.26%)
PTD: 2,539 (0.54%)
PSD: 10,158 (2.15%)
Frente Modanca: 14,648 (3.09%)
Khunto: 13,998 (2.96%)
CNRT: 172,831 (36.52%)
FRETILIN: 140,786 (29.74%)
PDP: 1,992 (0.42%)
Bloku Proklamador: 3,125 (0.66%)
ASDT: 8,487 (1.79%)
PST: 11,379 (2.4%)
PDC: 887 (0.19%)
PDL: 2,222 (0.47)
APMT: 5,968 (1.26%)
UNDERTIM: 7,042 (1.49%)
PLPA – PDRT: 4,012 (0.85%)
Source: STAE

Notes:

  • Four parties made it past the 3% threshold to be eligible for seats compared to seven in 2007. They are CNRT, FRETILIN, PD and Frente Modanca. Khunto narrowly missed out after being poised to get there (although this could change depending on the final results).
  • Fernanda Borges will no longer be a member of parliament after her National Union Party bombed getting 0.67% compared to 4.55% in 2007 (lost support from the church?).
  • It looks like it will be about 30 seats for CNRT, 25 for FRETILIN, eight for PD and two for Frente Modanca.
  • CNRT will now likely form another coalition government (as it stands, they'd win 30 seats, three shy of enough to govern alone).
  • The CNRT-PD(-Frente) coalition won't be a huge step away from the past five years, except for the ASDT-PSD not being a part of it this time.
  • Remember that Frente Modanca is a breakaway from FRETILIN, but the people who formed it backed Gusmao at the last election and their leader, José Luís Guterres, went on to be deputy prime minister. Until last year they had not officially broken from FRETILIN and formed their own party.
  • Voter turnout was about 75% (74.78% to be exact based on above figures).
  • FRETILIN's popularity is about the same as in 2007 when they got 29.02% of the vote. CNRT has improved more than 10 percentage points to win this time round.
  • The parties Ramos-Horta campaigned for (PD and ASDT) did worse in this election than the last one.
  • We're going to have five more years of a Gusmao-led coalition government, which means five years of big spending on infrastructure projects and suchlike.
  • Reports out of Dili suggest the coalition could be ready to roll very soon.
  • As Cillian Nolan from ICG notes: Looks like 20% of the Timor vote went to parties that won't get seats in parliament bc they failed to beat 3% threshold.