Why I’m not using Facebook until it’s all over

I posted this on my Facebook page yesterday:
‘I won't be using Facebook until after the EU Referendum. Even then, it may be a few days before I recover. Although tempted a couple of times I admit, I have tried so hard not to air my very strong views on Facebook, as I really don't want to get into polarized and damaging debates with people who feel strongly for the other side. 
The stuff being posted and in particular the comments (from general readers, not my FB friends) following these articles (for either side) are pure vitriol and make me ashamed to be British. Xenophobia, outright racism, ignorance, naivety, endless ill-informed speculation, foul language, heinous comments about politicians of whichever side they are not on... I'm sick to death of it. It has really brought out the worst in many people and such hatred is toxic and damaging. 
Bye for now...’

But, I’m remaining on Twitter (no pun intended, I am not a Sun ‘journalist’). I’ve always used the 2 platforms differently, with a little overlap admittedly. I keep FB small, am vigilant about tagging permissions, security etc. and share a lot of photos and silliness with friends and family. There’s no-one on there who I have not met in real life. Most of my family are also FB friends, and with friends and family spread all over the country, and on other continents, this is a great way of keeping in touch, arranging events etc….

They say you don’t choose your family, to which I’d add friends you made years ago, with whom you are bound by shared memories, love and affection, but with whom you may now have little in common. The EU Referendum debates have demonstrated this big time. I have been shocked by some of the posts being shared by people I usually have loads of time for. And as I said above, it’s not just the posts themselves but the long threads of comments from people who I can only assume think that being on-line gives them carte blanche to say vile things I’m sure they would not say face to face… I really do wonder if people (my FB friends) have read the whole thread before they choose to post such stuff? Even the most sensible and logical posts (hard to find on FB) are followed by bilious comments from supporters of the other camp – usually Leavers about a Remain article – but there’s bad behaviour on both sides.

So why is Twitter different? Well, I don’t follow people because they are old friends or family for a start. Mostly, I follow people with interesting things to say and of course, people who share their learning generously. Although I have met many people who I follow on Twitter too, these are generally people who are, or have been in a similar line of work to me, so straight away there is a likelihood that our views may overlap more than with friends and family tied together by memories and affection. And as my work has always been about people, developmentally focused and mainly in public services, most of you value diversity innately and you are respectful of difference and different views.

So she’s looking for an echo chamber, you may think? Not at all – I enjoy having my thinking stimulated when challenging or alternative views are shared intelligently. Plenty of you do this and my learning and analysis is the richer for it. Rarely on Twitter do I feel upset or disappointed by the tweets of someone whose views and ideas I value.

I know there’s bile, trolling and all sorts of awfulness on Twitter too. I suppose it is easier to ignore as I feel there’s more choice about what I read or what I scroll through. With some exceptions, it feels less personal, more professional, more transient too. I haven’t felt the need to unfollow anyone yet, and if I did, I doubt they would notice and I’m sure they wouldn’t care. Not sure that would be the case on FB, where I am highly tempted to do some unfriending at the moment. But I won’t. Even though this referendum is possibly the most important one of my life, I’m not going to allow it to influence personal relationships. If I did, I would be allowing the hatred to win. 

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