For the past couple of years, I have begun the fall season by quitting Facebook – cold turkey – for ten days. This year, I liked the results so much that I haven’t gone back yet, except to check notifications for only a minute or so. I swear. So far, I have hardly clicked “like”, and (gasp!) haven’t even read my birthday messages that came in during the dry spell.
But it scares me to go back into the FB world for even a moment – because the addiction might take hold again. And, truth be told, I am so much happier without it.
I find, to my surprise, that the “sacrifice” I chose to mark the start of the Jewish New Year has turned into an enormous blessing.
Listen – if you’re one of those controlled people who only check facebook once a day, for a few minutes, then this article isn’t for you. You can probably also eat two bites of a brownie and throw away the rest. Good for you. But if, like me, you sometimes find the social media world takes over your live-and-in-person real life, then you may find the same big differences I did.
Want to try it? Here’s what can happen:
- You will have much more time on your hands. This, at first, is offputting. Sitting at breakfast with your ipad, or online at the super market, and you’ve already checked messages and e-mails…now what to do if you can’t scroll through the facebook feeds? Answer: you look up from your screen – at people, out the window, at a book – and your brain will thank you. You might pick up a pen and handwrite a letter; you might get that chore started; you might wonder about, and discuss, a fact with someone instead of finding the answer immediately on your device.
- You live your moments instead of rushing to preserve them so you can post them for the world to see. Mindfulness will increase. There are moments meant only for the people that are there in person – not to share online with people who don’t really care that much. The need for human connection will outweigh the need for attention and validation of your activities.
- You stop comparing your imperfect life to everyone else’s seemingly perfect one. Facebook reminds me of receiving those dreaded Christmas update letters from people – or being invited to someone’s house to view pictures of their fabulous vacation – but every single frigging day.. It’s nice. You wanna be happy for them. And maybe you are. But it’s definitely overkill to see a picture of what they ordered for dinner. Especially when you’re dining on leftover popcorn and a Skinny Cow ice cream cone. Why is everyone having a better social life than I am? Humans tend to compare – its human nature. Facebook gives us way too many opportunities to do that. When you quit, you realize it’s okay if you don’t know what those acquaintances are doing every second. Not only okay, but actually freeing. You’ll breathe deeper.
- You feel more balanced about which people you want to stay in touch with- and how. Sure, it’s easy on social media – and I am grateful to have the occasional glimpse at how my college roommate is doing, and a view of my friends’ children and grandchildren. But it can never replace showing up in person, or an actual conversation. I realized I’d gotten complacent about friendships, believing we were still close because I read their facebook feeds. My hiatus reminded me that I know too much about some people I barely recall, and not enough about the people I love, who simply aren’t posting on social media.
- You feel happier. For me, all of this added up to a feeling of balance, perspective, and connection that I hadn’t even realized I’d lost to the ease of clicking into a timeline. I’d also begun to take personally the number of “likes” a post had earned. As I was told very early on in my acting career – “if you believe the good reviews, then you gotta believe the bad reviews”. I think I like it better sometimes when I don’t read the reviews at all.
After two hours without a cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will be close to normal levels again. Your blood circulation will also start to improve. However, you also begin to feel the signs of nicotine withdrawal, including anxiety, tension, or frustration. And, you may find yourself at a loss as to how to fill those moments that are now cigarette-free: lulls in conversation, the need to step outside for a break, gestures with your hands.
My point is, things start to happen right away.
The same is true when you quit Facebook. You’ll start to become aware almost immediately that its hold on your life – and your time – had been much greater than you’d realized. And then, after feeling the loss, the awareness and benefits start becoming clear.
I hope you’ll try it and see if this happens to you too. It’s good to get perspective.
Maybe you’ll go build a sandcastle instead. Or write a letter to a friend. Or just enjoy whatever the moments bring when you disconnect from Facebook and reconnect to whatever it has distracted you from.
Of course I may have to go onto Facebook to share this blogpost. Sigh. Nothing’s perfect.