by Charlotte O
In the build up to Easter, I was trying to build more awareness in myself of how I spent my time. So starting on Palm Sunday, I decided it would be a good idea to go off Facebook until Easter. I knew people who did it for the whole Lent period, so I thought a week shouldn’t be a big deal. I didn’t announce it or anything, just decided to stop checking my Facebook news feed.
People have a lot of different reasons for taking a break from Facebook. Maybe they find themselves in a negative pattern of comparison, or trying to make their lives appear better than they actually are. I was simply wanting to stop wasting so much time. I would always have it open in a browser on my laptop, and the app was the first think I checked in the morning on my phone. I found it easy to kill an hour on the bus using Facebook on my iPad, when I could have been reading or doing any manner of more productive things. So I decided it was time to cut the strings. But I didn’t know how hard it would be:
Sunday night, 10:00pm
I’m probably going to be in bed a whole hour earlier than usual thanks to not wasting time on Facebook. This is great! I’ll get up in the morning, read my Bible, exercise, take a shower before class it’ll be perfect.
Monday morning 6:30am
So tired. Don’t want to get up yet, but shouldn’t go back to sleep either. I’ll just check my newsfeed. Oh yeah. Never mind. Well, I guess I’ll get up then.
Hmm, I guess I’d normally be checking Facebook right now, but it’s ok. Let’s just get to work.
Clicked on a link that automatically opened Facebook in my browser. I closed it right away but not before seeing 16 notifications. It’s now driving me crazy.
Checked Facebook. What did I miss? Two comments and a funny YouTube video. Oh crap, I have to start all over again.
Well, maybe I should just check it once a day to make sure I don’t miss anything important…. (Oh the slippery slope)
Oops, I just spent the last 30 minutes on Buzzfeed. So much for not wasting time.
Conclusion: I have an addictive personality.
In light of these thoughts I allowed myself a quick scroll though Facebook, liking and commenting where appropriate. It wasn’t as satisfying as I’d expected.
The second day went much better until I came across something that I wanted to share with someone, and started thinking about why we would rather share or write something for all to see than send it in a private message.
By the third day, I even stopped trying to rationalize myself back into ‘cheating’ until I talked to a friend who mentioned news from mutual friends. I realized the only way I’d find out about a lot of things is through Facebook. It’s hard to get off because it’s become so ubiquitous. I’ve been getting my news, birth announcements, and travel updates on Facebook. So in that sense, I WAS missing out. I started to wonder if I would be a bad friend for not keeping in touch via Facebook.
At the same time, the urge to be on all the time began to subside. It really was helpful to not have immediate notifications always nagging me that something new is happening right now and I’d better respond, then second guessing myself because would it be weird if I’m the first one to like this post? Oh the tangled web we weave.
In light of these thoughts I allowed myself a quick scroll though Facebook, liking and commenting where appropriate. It wasn’t as satisfying as I’d expected. I realized that it doesn’t feel quite as exciting to see something that happened hours ago rather than the illusion that it’s happening right now. Maybe I’d allowed being connected all the time to be a substitute for really connecting. I don’t know why it was so hard for me to go the whole week, except that it’s really become a habitual part of my life, something I don’t even consciously do anymore.
A good friend who tried a similar (and probably more successful, but let’s not compare) experiment assured me that I wouldn’t even miss it after a while. I often hear people say, “I deleted my Facebook and I’ve never looked back.” But I think for me, for now, a break did suffice, and after evaluating my habits and motivations and I feel like I can adjust how I use it. In general, I think it’s a good practice to regularly give something up or take a break, especially if you feel like it has taken over your time, emotions, or focus. But at the same time, it should be a lesson in self-awareness rather than just vilifying the external, which tends to become a way to absolve yourself of responsibility at the other extreme.
Good thing the purpose of Lent isn’t to be perfect; it’s to shine a light on how little we can do on our own effort.
Social media gets a bad rap because of all the annoying game requests, political rants and useless ads. Most people would admit to spending more time on it than they should. But there are things of real value too. In some ways all the flak it gets for destroying our relationships is funny, because we're the users and it is the tool. We can be the annoying people or the ones that fall into certain categories. As a blogger, I've wondered whether I was/hoped that I won't be THAT person who posts too often/can't get off her soapbox/uses vacation photos to #humblebrag. But even before my Facebook break, I realized there were at least 5 types of Facebook friends I'm actually happy to have. This list is definitely affected by the fact that I don't get to see a lot of my favorite people on a regular basis—except on Facebook.
1. The friend who is hilarious and doesn't mind sharing her embarrassing moments for all to see
2. The discerning friend who actually posts relevant, interesting articles - you know if he posted it, it will be worth reading
3. The photographer friend you don't talk to often but keep stalking his photos because they're just SO good
4. The friend who is actually honest about her struggles and successes
5. Your best friend/sister-in-law/cousin who mostly posts baby photos but you don't care because you love them, and their kids
SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think the best way to start is by doing what I can to make sure this tool is used for connection and not disconnect, for transparency and not filters showing some perfect life, and make sure I do more than just 'like' someone's status if I want to show I care. If I look at the people I talk to most on Facebook, would I talk to them as much in real life?
I think I need to be more mindful both of how I use my time and how being on (or off) Facebook affects my life. Because I live overseas, I rely on Facebook for a lot of my keeping in touch, but am I actually cultivating real relationships? Am I showing off either in my friendships or my posts? Am I showing off right now in this post about post-Facebook enlightenment?
Good thing the purpose of Lent isn’t to be perfect; it’s to shine a light on how little we can do on our own effort. So whatever habit you may be trying to kick, a couple of good questions to ask are: What place does this fill in my life? and Will I be healthier or unhealthier if I stop doing/using this?
Well, those are all my thoughts for now. See you on Facebook. Or maybe not.
CONNECT WITH US
SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL
Privacy: We hate spam as much as you, so we will never share your e-mail address with anyone.
SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOGS RSS FEED
AND GET ARTICLE UPDATES