‘Forget the EU, being in or out of Facebook is the real issue of our time’

Are you in or out of Facebook? Photo: PA

Are you in or out of Facebook? Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Apathy and ambivalence is the plague of the EU innies and outies' fervent campaigning.

But in homes, pubs and offices, furious stay-or-go debates rage daily that don't give a euro about free trade, immigration, or inward investment.

You need to travel a dozen country miles to find more than a scintilla of enthusiasm for or understanding of the nub of the referendum issues.

But offer a vote on whether to be in or out of Facebook and that would really get the nation going.

Facebook. To leave or stay in? That's the real dilemma.

It's an argument I have with myself at least three times a day. Dithering in the middle ground one minute, determined to throw in the towel the next to giving it another day when the cutest photo of a golden retriever pops on to my feed.

I pretend I rue the day I ever ventured in, enticed by the richest of pickings for a nosey journalist more interested in other people's lives than her own, snared by the voyeurism and 'keeping up' (read: snooping) with 'friends' I've not seen for years and cross the road if I did.

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It's been a decade of self-inflicted green eye, masochism, crushing feelings of inadequacy, soaring blood pressure and hours of navel-gazing about where and how it could have all gone so wrong while peers and contemporaries seem to have been sprinkled with the magic success-at-everything dust.

But, like the addict, I return, telling myself that tomorrow will be a Facebook dry day. It never happens.

Visiting friends in London at the weekend, we discussed this true issue of our time. How anyone can feel 1. Self confident. 2. Content with their lot. 3. Remotely adequate if they indulge in any social media, particularly Facebook. Why are we putting ourselves through this? We're over 50 and should know better.

One friend deleted her Facebook account when she was going through a messy divorce. She suffered more trauma watching other people's happiness, good fortune and social lives on Facebook than from the bitter exchanges and acerbic solicitors' letters.

When I showed my mother what Facebook was all about and how she could keep up with her grandchildren's lives, she said: 'Everyone looks so happy. Are people really this happy all the time?' Only on Facebook to make everyone else believe it.

My Facebook feed is full of happy people in glamorous locations.

They seem far more capable, organised and focused. Their weekends are full of drinks and dinner, days out, fun with friends while the rest of us are de-gunking our drains, pairing socks and de-fleaing the dog.

They fly off on luxurious holidays, are blissfully happy with their partners with super children who never put a foot wrong. Christmas is the worst. I can't even go there.

Since when did we become such masochists, addicted to feelings of inadequacy?

A single Facebook browse can provoke a gamut of emotion – yelling at the braggy show-offs, admiring (red: crippling pangs of envy) new kitchens/bathrooms/cars/holidays, fuming objection to some fool, then, aaah, up pops another golden retriever and I'm back in the fold.

Psychiatric research proves that the more people look at social media, the more depressed they are likely to be.

We spend hours looking at others' lives and neglecting our own.

Its invention was a wonder of the world at the time. The lives of old school friends, colleagues, university friends not thought about for 15 years– their wedding photos, children's photos, holiday snaps – were laid out for one giant reunion.

Re-connecting was wonderful for some, catastrophic for others. Marriages were broken. The sinister side of Facebook is mind-curdling and dangerous. The stalking, the simmering resentment, the horrible jealousy.

And the addiction is just as mad among the middle-aged as the young. Highly-functioning rational professionals snooping through others' lives and feeling rubbish about their own lot, achievements and also-ran lives.

They compete and point score, seethe at others' success in the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.

The fun and warmth is being sucked out of it – and that's even without the bullying and scary element. For the lonely and isolated, Facebook could be the last straw.

But we don't seem to believe we have a choice – in or out. Lives, relationships and families would be happier without it, for sure.

But can we break the addiction? Work still in progress on that.

•The views above are those of Rachel Moore. Read more from our columnists each day in the EDP.