My Facebook Fast
Fall is in the air and it’s been an extra beautiful season in Portland this year! As the leaves prepare to fall and say, they are done for the year, I realized November would be a great opportunity to get away from Facebook for the month before my Annual Declutter kicked off on December 1st.
Why would I want to take a break from Facebook? For me it’s the time lost running down rabbit holes not intended, the addictive patterns of signing on multiple times a day and the subtle (but real) comparison of my own real life to what other’s share online.
Truth be told I noticed I was on Facebook for one to two hours a day. In a month, that adds up to forty hours! That’s a lot of time running down rabbit holes and then perhaps not doing other things I want to do. With anything that can be addictive, such as alcohol, coffee, sugar, and now Facebook, I like to take a break to see how life is without it. It’s my way to get to understand its influence in my life.
Here’s what I did to prepare:
- Loaded the Moment app onto my phone to track usage.
- Removed the Facebook app off my phone. I took it off a year ago, but then had loaded it back on for my Camino and just never took it back off.
- Downloaded messenger desktop app onto my computer, so I didn’t lose the means of connecting with friends and family.
- Changed my lock screen on my phone and desktop to remind me of my new intent to be Facebook-free for November.
- Announced to friends and my groups, just so no one was worried I had died.
What I wanted to experience:
- Be present!
- Conscious face to face connections with people.
- Enjoy the pauses in life without needing to fill the space.
- More time for fulfilling things like reading, work around the house, and friends!
On day one I notice how Facebook enlarges my circle of concern in Stephen Covey terms. It felt freeing to wake up and not have it in my space. In the initial few days I identified that “gotta share” twitch or desire to post and share my life. The first time this became clear I was at a Mazama’s talk about Oregon’s High Dessert. My impulse was to take a photo…but it was not really a photo that I’d want to save, it was just a photo to share. On day two I’m at a music event and I notice that same “gotta share twitch” but it is less strong and subsides within a minute.
Social media has us trained to post. It’s our way to say…
I was here.
Here’s what I’m up to
Mornings became a bit more peaceful as there was more just “being” vs reacting.
My initial fear was that I might have a seizure, just going through withdrawal from all the stimulation on Facebook, so imagine my surprise, when a week in I notice I don’t miss it! I adapted pretty seamlessly.
Mid month I notice a few things I miss:
- Being able to post items to donate to neighbors on Buy Nothing.
- Being able to ask who knows a good plumber, then realize I can use Nextdoor as a way to locate one.
- Someone says “they have Northern California in their thoughts” and I realize, Facebook is where I get notified of world events. I have no clue what’s going on in Northern California.
- Facebook is already missing me. They emailed me to say I have 90 messages awaiting my attention and five pokes. At 23 days in they email me again saying “It looks like you’re having trouble logging onto Facebook” and sending me a link to remedy the situation.
Some of the things I learned:
I realized I get hooked by people who ask questions! I think I am a run away problem solver. When someone asks a question, I go out of my way to find resources and answers to help them…in real life and on Facebook. I often do this with total strangers in Facebook groups. I now can notice this tendency in myself and repeat a little mantra to myself “That’s not my problem to solve.”
Waking up to Facebook increases my tendency to compare my life to others posted lives. I say “posted lives” realizing it is merely the view we wish to show others versus the full real deal. I also react more and perhaps might even have a slightly higher pulse. Some events can even disrupt my sleep, such as when someone is rude, has wrong information (in my eyes) or chooses to hijack my group for their own self-promotion and I have to kick them out of that group.
The Moment App didn’t really help me, as it only monitors time spent on your phone. I’m at home a lot, so I’m on my laptop which is not captured in the Moment app. I don’t believe I have a huge problem with overuse of my phone. I have all notifications off (except Airbnb and texts). I keep my phone in my purse when with friends so I can be with those in front of me. It is however an easy thing to pick up in public when I am alone to entertain me versus just taking in what’s around me.
I could find other ways to waste time, such as TV, versus suddenly reaping saved time and applying it towards reading, work around the house, etc. I think being retired and living alone creates it’s own unique challenges with this. When I had housemates this summer I did less TV and social media to “fill the time.”
I am enjoying the life in front of me versus the life on the screen.
The month passed quickly and soon it was time to get back onto to Facebook to host my Annual Declutter. That was like going from zero to seventy miles an hour you might say. I would normally keep Facebook off my phone, but because posting and responding is easier directly from my phone, Facebook is now back on my phone. Perhaps after this Annual Declutter is over, it can come back off?
I will leave you with an informative 12-minute video I found by Graham Hill in which he talks about the challenges of our digital world and social media. Technology is here to stay and with it comes the good and bad. I wish I could end this post with my magic bullet on how I found the balance. What I do know is that experiments, like my November Facebook Fast, help me understand the forces at work and gain more quality in my life. No magic bullet, but the right way to learn more. If this appeals to you, I encourage you to do your own experiment!