Why I decided to ditch all my Facebook groups

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Perhaps you're thinking this is another story about the bullying, judgements and hostility that you've heard about or witnessed in Facebook groups, particularly those devoted to parenting. Parents at each others' throats about breast vs bottle, sleep training and one-upping each other about their kids' achievements and milestones.

This isn't that story.

My experience of the carefully-chosen parent groups I've participated in over the years contradicts those notions. I've found generous, intelligent and inspiring women. People's lives have been changed for the better - women helping women leave bad or abusive relationships, kind words at critical times, offers of help and much-needed advice from people who have done it all before.

I've seen groups gather to support women involved in court disputes over children, meals delivered to new parents and a pooling of resources for a thoughtful gift. I've even made a few acquaintances I can say hello to in the street.

All of that said, I have recently left every parenting group I've been involved in; not because of the people there and not because of anyone's conduct.

It's most certainly one of those situations where I can genuinely say, "It's not you, it's me."

Here's why I opted out:

The weight of people's stories

Historically, families lived in groups, with an inner circle of immediate family and the wider community circling outside that. I've come to believe that we simply cannot take in, process and adequately respond to the many stories that are told in confidence in Facebook groups. Our brains are wired to handle family and a few friends face-to-face, no matter how much of a digital life we think we can handle.

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There are times when I am simply overloaded and I've let my internet friends down by not being able to be there. Of course they understand, but it creates tension and stress within me, as well as guilt.

Constant noise

Our kids create enough noise, but there's also the noise of Facebook chatter. It creates overwhelm and for those who regularly suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), it can create a never ending stream of mental noise that can affect wellbeing. There is something to be said for the peace of shutting it out and by that I don't mean the people, even though by default that's what needs to happen, I mean the mental load of keeping up.

Time spent online

I don't even want to think about the time I've spent online in the last 14 years. Staring at a screen instead of a book, instead of visiting a friend. How many things have I missed and what could I have learned in this time?

I'm now making the choice to shut the computer and see my real life friends and to spend more time on other things.

Those times when something big went down that took priority over connecting with my family

I'm not under the illusion that every moment spent with my children is sacred, but I remember those times when something big happened in a group of people I'd probably never meet and I let it take over.

And now I question that use of time. The times I said, "Just wait please," "I'm doing something," or "Please just let me concentrate," are phrases I want to reserve for important things.

Expressing my true character was absolutely exhausting

A throw away line that comes across the wrong way. A well-intentioned post that somehow didn't accurately represent me. Cue the regret and embarrassment that I most definitely didn't need.

It's the truth that expressing myself perfectly 100 per cent of the time on Facebook got really exhausting. And all that time going over and over something I was going to post, anxiety-inducing. I'm going to leave it to body language and facial expressions to do all the good work for me that endless typed words on Facebook cannot.

And now?

Simplifying my interactions on social media to centre around my real life networks has brought so much more peace to my life. While those friendships felt real, they rarely translated to real life; not from lack of good intent, just that our lives were full enough already or distance prevented it.

I remain in a few community groups, a group for my kids' school and I now group message my real life friends (whom I can count on one hand) if we can't meet up for a few weeks.

Not everyone will feel the same as me, for for those who do, I highly recommend it.