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15 days away from Facebook

I am very active on Facebook. And why not? A community only less than China in population size must be a great place to be. Over 40 million people (about 25 % of the country’s population) are on Facebook. The fact that these 40 million Nigerians are definitely educated (to be able to access, navigate and participate in Facebook) and mostly youths (Facebook is more of a lifestyle, youth-centric app) makes it a compellingly attractive place to be.

A lot happens on Facebook and this piece is not intended to recount what goes on there. One thing is so important it has to be mentioned and that is the fact that Facebook is addictive. It is so narcotizing that employers have a Social Media Policy (call it Facebook Policy and you will not be wrong!). For those who are not employed or self-employed or even employers, they have to figure out how to avoid the magnetic pull of Facebook. It is not easy, especially if you are popular or have popular friends whose activities attract you to the platform.

As I said earlier, I am very active on Facebook. I spend considerable amount of time on the platform doing different things.  I honestly cannot explain how I manage my presence and my day job, but somehow I get by. This is for those who constantly want to know how I do it. I, myself, I don't know. thank you very much! Yeah, I share a lot of real life experiences with the single-minded intention to inspire, to motivate my friends and followers, especially the younger ones. So, I liberally tell my story.  I play a bit of politics, may be more than a bit. I was actively involved in the online campaign to ensure the removal of President Goodluck Jonathan and the enthronement of PMB, a campaign I am very proud of and have absolutely no regrets about-no matter what the birds are currently singing. I do a bit of Social Interventions, which I use to call attention to and seek support for causes or projects or situations. I also preach the word as a Cardinal Emeritus hitherto an Archbishop of the illusionary MoFeTo Miracle Church.

Perhaps, my activities at MoFeTo, which seemed to have blossomed of late has won me more friends, admirers and followers.  My personal effort to parody some of the things that happen in society using the church as a pedestal attracted a lot of attention and led to a rash of appointments and demotions and removals and in-fighting (all imaginary) akin to what happens in real life.

I also look after Ethelberts Clothing, my clothesline, which I have nurtured for one year using the instrumentality of my core competencies-skills, experiences and knowledge-and the versatility of Facebook. With minimal spend, I have managed to build a solid brand for Ethelberts, now a synonym for the two-piece smart menswear, which has its roots in the South East of Nigeria (not Biafra!). Happy customers have bought our bespoke outfits and went ahead unsolicited to post testimonials on Facebook further driving up awareness and boosting the integrity and authenticity of our brand-and consequently spiking custom. 

Notwithstanding all of these, I have made a point of deactivating my Facebook account once a year in search of sanity and pursuit of reality. The first time I did it was in 2015 in the thick of the presidential election campaigns. I got too emotionally involved I felt I was going to meltdown. I could hardly sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night to make a post, comment on a post or respond to a comment on my post. There are times I made over 10 posts in a day-and night! It was absolutely crazy! My “landlady” started suspecting me in many regards, but she later understood what it was even if she was against my support for PMB! Thankfully, she wasn’t (and is still NOT) on Facebook so our political differences didn’t become public.  The best part of it was that we were doing quite all right in the day time-and also at night, if you get my drift. Unfortunately, it was not same for me and some of my friends-real friends and Facebook friends alike. I lost quite a few.

So, when the pressure reached boiling point, shortly after Buhari’s election in April 2015, I called it quits albeit temporarily. Hell was let loose. Because it was unannounced and unceremonious, many, especially, those who were at odds with my political views and support for Buhari thought I had blocked them (as if that was not well within my rights). Anyways, many friends, real friends, who were concerned about my sudden disappearance from Facebook called to find out why. Some called to check up on me, because they were so sure there was no way I could have left on my own accord. Some felt my employers might have sanctioned me. Many did express such fears once in a while. I must have been away for two months before returning. It also gave me time to focus on my newly born twins, Tito and Muna, who came to bless my wife and me, 15 years after we got married. So, it was just as well I went away.

I learnt some lessons from that exit. First, I learnt how to deactivate a Facebook account. I hadn’t done it before. So, I learnt something new. Then, it dawned on me that Facebook is NOT the real world. It is make-believe. Not many who comment or like your posts or photos give a damn about you. For the period I was away, there were some people who didn’t give half a hoot about me, whether I passed away or had any issues. When I came back, they carried on like normal. That was a lesson.  Of course, there were many who welcomed me back enthusiastically and told me how much they missed me, even if they did not look for me. They were a lot better than the one I mentioned earlier. At least they made me feel good upon my return unlike the others who didn’t bother. Some people did contact me but only to find out why I blocked them. Yet some people blocked me while I was away; so I didn’t see them again upon my return.

In view of all of these, I decided last year, when I took a similar break, to let my “friends” know. Many were openly pained I was going away. Some told me in unmistakable terms to fuck off (pardon my French). Others said they would be waiting. Several wished me well and yet others said it was my choice and so I could do whatever pleased me. They were all correct in their own way. So I went away and came back and life continued. This year, it was time again and I informed my friends of my impending “vacation”. I must admit it was a hard call to make considering that Ethelbert Clothing was going to be affected and our growing MoFeTo Community which includes the church too. But I had to take a break, anyways, and I did.

It’s been 15 days and I’m loving it. As I said before leaving home, nay Facebook, I am living in a real world and spending more time with my family and other loved ones. I am doing more reading and writing (including this ramble) and I am proud of the amount of work I have put in my books so far. I have slept more and played more with my twins, now two years and four months. And believe me, Madam no longer hisses in the middle of the night when she finds me hugging my iPad instead of holding her or getting some sleep! My phone bill, by the way, has gone up because I have spoken to more people these past two weeks than I did the whole year. Rather than the quirky chats upon finding friends online, I now deliberately search my phone contacts and call some friends I hadn’t spoken to in ages.

Ethelberts is feeling my absence because I am the sole administrator of the page but that will change soon. Even the market has been affected too. The traffic which came through Facebook has been lost. We meet customers and potential customers from across the world on Facebook. Look, that market is huge! MoFeTo, a community I nurtured with some crazy friends is missing me. I was told that a Resume or Resign Campaign has been launched by no less a person than the legendary Richard Akinnola, the Human Rights Activist and Lawyer, who happens to be a Cardinal Emeritus like me in our imaginary Church. The campaign, I gather, is gaining traction, but it will surely fail. Becaue I won’t cut short my holiday from Facebook. I won’t.

Why am I bothering you with my stuff? It’s just to say I do miss Facebook. Like a regular drunk, I used to reach out and grab my iPad and check for latest news, fake news, lies, gossip, memes, photos, and jokes, but all that’s gone. I now make a conscious effort not to log back on. When I hear of breaking news, there is a temptation to return to Facebook or at least take a peek and get back out. But hey, I have to be a man! I have to man up, ladies and gentlemen. I ain’t going back until end of August. This will certainly not be like cognac, which I took a break from on January 8 and never went back. I will be back. Trust me, I will.

Oparah writes from Lagos

15 days away from Facebook 15 days away from Facebook Reviewed by Emeka Oparah on Friday, August 18, 2017 Rating: 5

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