The Week I Tried to Unfriend Facebook; *That's the Buzzword for Dumping Friends on Social Networks. but Could You Go the Whole Hog and Log off Your Entire Online Life?

Article excerpt

Byline: by Flic Everett

OH NO, not another one ... that's the fourth in a week,' sighed a friend recently, studying her Facebook page. Her mates, it appeared, were doing what would have been unthinkable just a few months ago -- and saying farewell to Facebook and ta-ra to Twitter.

Perhaps they were inspired by Lily Allen, who recently quit Tweeting to spend more time with her boyfriend. Or Stephen Fry, who threatened to.

Or perhaps they were alarmed by a survey which revealed that social networking sites are costing companies billions in lost working hours.

Or maybe the novelty of following other people's pedestrian updates has simply begun to pall.

As a freelance writer, who spends most days home alone, I, too, am a Facebook addict. Recently, my craving reached the point where I could barely log off for fear that I'd accidentally miss some new update or trivial comment.

Even Saturday nights became a Facebook frenzy as my 30-plus friends debated the merits of Jamie Afro versus Danyl Johnson on The X Factor. And if I couldn't get to the laptop (because my husband or son had swiped it to do their own social networking), there was always the ping of the BlackBerry announcing a new email or MSN message.

Basically, I couldn't imagine living without the power to connect instantly with the world -- even if it's only to tell them that I'm watching Flash Forward and eating a curry. As for emails, I'm so terrified of missing work commissions that I check them as often as I check my watch.

So the idea of living without a laptop, Facebook and BlackBerry for a week felt as unnerving as being sent into space.

Would things change? Would I have any friends left when I returned? And, most terrifyingly, what would I be missing? In a bid to break my growing addiction, I gritted my teeth, sent a final goodbye message, and logged off ...

DAY ONE I'M WORKING at home all day and, after about 20 minutes of typing, I feel a growing urge to see what's happening on Facebook. Have I had any responses to my goodbye message? I'm desperate to know what other people think.

I'm also slightly worried that my friend, who's having a birthday party next week, will change the details and I'll end up in the wrong place, like an off-grid Billy-No -Mates.

As for emails, I've left an out-ofoffice message telling people to ring me on the home phone or, for urgent work, the ancient, clunky mobile I've fished out of the kitchen drawer.

I feel like those people who move to the mountains and live in tepees. The difference is that they do it willingly.

The home phone rings and I have to brush dust off the receiver to answer it. It's my mum, asking how the experiment is going. I'm desperate for human contact and arrange to meet her for coffee in town. Normally, we'd have a quick chat on Facebook and I'd get straight back to work.

I can't stop thinking about my little, shiny Blackberry, full of inaccessible new information. I'm starting to suspect I'm much more addicted than I thought.

DAY TWO I'M STRUGGLING with a tricky bit of work, and not being able to give myself a quick boost with an online chat or a nosy through other people's photos is agony.

Of course, I could just call a friend. But while it's easy to log on to Facebook or Twitter at work sneakily (and 57 per cent of users do so every day), it's not so simple for them to engage in a long, trivial gossip in the middle of the office.

I make do with sending a couple of texts on the old mobile, which reminds me of how ridiculously long-winded texting used to be before the BlackBerry and the iPhone provided full keyboards. I end up telling my best friend that I'm having a 'remfly hrd tiiimm' and have to ask my son for help.

By evening, I feel as though I'm in solitary confinement.

DAY THREE NOBODY'S needed me urgently enough to call. …