Way back in 2012, sometime around the constant hubbub of electric Olympic excitement and the realisation that my boyfriend may actually really genuinely like me, I deleted my Facebook account.
I know a lot of people who claim to have deleted their Facebook account, but usually they’ve just ‘deactivated’. The difference in terminology matters, because when you deactivate rather than delete you do in fact have the option of coming back at any time. Your pictures and status updates still exist somewhere in the ether, they’ve just gone dark. Nobody can search for you, friends can’t see your stuff. You’ve essentially gone, but with the click of a button you can come back.
When I deleted my Facebook account, I really did it. And it was a big decision. After all, there was a LOT of history on those blue and white pages. That sounds hideously melodramatic millennial of me to say, but I’d joined Facebook in the summer of 2005 (back in the heady days of needing a university email address to be allowed to register) and I’d lived out great big chunks of my coming of age on the platform. The pokes, the friend requests, the excruciatingly public displays of affection on walls (does he like me? DOES HE THOUGH?) and of course the pictures.
Ahhh the pictures.
It was the albums upon albums of pictures that really put me off deleting my account. Back then entire albums would be dedicated to one shitty night out at Wetherspoons. You’d decide who was responsible for taking the digital camera that evening (“but mine’s too big for my clutch, can’t you borrow your dad’s?”) and whoever had the dubious honour of being camerawoman would wake up the next day to a mouth tasting of WKD blue and a barrage of texts begging for the pics to be uploaded to Facebook IMMEDIATELY. If you didn’t know where the camera lead was, you better damn well find it.
But I realised there was a way I could download a zip file of my entire Facebook history before hitting the delete button. I could keep all those photos. Sure, the LOLtastic comments would disappear but I’d have those treasured pictorial memories of being propped up by Wayne the bouncer (God bless Guildford’s very own eighth wonder of the world) and caravan holidays where a wristband system proved if you were over 18 or not.
So that’s what I did. And with the photos safely on my hard drive, I deleted my Facebook profile.
I’d forgotten about them all together to be honest until writing a piece last week which prompted me to hunt for some pics of my hair when it was red. I didn’t find the pictures I was looking for, but I did end up in a three hour black hole of despair as I pored over images of a body I couldn’t believe I once inhabited.
Those legs! Those boobs! THAT WAIST!
How were they ever a part of *me*? Why did nobody tell me about them at the time?! IF I LOOKED LIKE THAT NOW I WOULD NEVER WEAR CLOTHES EVER AGAIN! I WOULD ROAM THE STREETS NUDE AND STRANGERS WOULD REVEL IN MY CURVACEOUS WONDERMENT! Etc etc. Repeat to fade.
It was a cruel and pointless afternoon which, somewhat typically, ended with a bar of Galaxy Salted Caramel and a pledge to do an exercise DVD “tomorrow”.
For too many women it’s an all too familiar feeling: to see an old picture and think you look great only to remember you thought you looked hideous at the time.
Looking back, the time I was at my absolute slimmest was probably when I thought I was the fattest. Perhaps it was because I was slim enough to see a size 8 as an achievable goal, whereas now that’s so far away that I am genuinely thrilled when I can zip up a size 14 in M&S.
A few months ago I set myself a pledge that I wanted to be the weight I was when I was in my early 20s when I turn 30 next March. The fact it wasn’t a completely out of the air target and something I had been before made it seem realistic, despite it being a good couple of stone away. “If you did it then, you can damn well do it now!”. And so on and so forth.
But the more I thought about it as I flicked through those photos of house parties in Shoreditch and club nights in Brighton (side note: who remembers smoking INSIDE?!), I realised that I often wasn’t happy when I was the size I was in those pictures. I’m happy now.
I was ill in most of the pics, not to mention broke and in some extremely questionable relationships. I used to walk six miles each day so that the money I’d save on the bus to work could be spent on having a skimmed milk frappuccino for dinner. I knew how many calories were in my packed lunch salad to the spoonful. My mind was a constant fuzz of subtracting and adding nutritional info, overdrafts and minutes til I could text some idiot bloke back without looking needy.
And of course we don’t keep the pics where we look shit, do we? The pics that accentuated my thighs rather than my ribs were never candidates for that all important Profile Pic. I only have flattering photos to look back on. Not dissimilar to how if you opened up my phone now I look nice in all the pics I have. The bad ones can’t hang around and take up precious space when there are podcasts to listen to and apps to download.
I find it fairly easy to diet if I’m motivated by anger, revenge or self-hatred. Now I claim to find diets “hard” when actually it’s probably down to the fact I’m not really that fussed. It’s like my happiness gets in the way because I know it doesn’t actually matter if I see every zip, seam and button detail still imprinted on my nakedness when I take off my jeans.
I have to motivate myself by thinking of the bigger picture of my health now and whilst that’s definitely doable, it’s a slower process than when you’re trying to transform your body solely because you despise yourself. It’s a whole lot better for your brain, though.
We might get fatter than we are today, we might get thinner than we are today. We may get happier, we may get sadder. But we’ll never get today again and we’ll never be as young as we are right now.
Would you want older you to come down and shake you screaming “DON’T YOU REALISE HOW BRILLIANT YOU ARE?!” or would you like to say “I know love, I’ve got this”?
Old pictures of our old selves can be brilliant motivators but we have to be realistic, if the legs were great way back when but the mind was an addled mess, you need to remember the context.
I’m going for a run tomorrow, but I’m going for a curry with the man I adore straight after.
And I think that’s probably fine.