“Facebook is down and everyone is freaking out about it on Twitter,” said Hubs the other day. I smiled and shrugged. I had no idea. You see, I hadn’t been on Facebook in weeks. Any news I got about the world–the GOP debates, the Pope, the fires out West, Joaquin–had come from, well, the news.
It wasn’t my first Facebreak. A few years ago, I abstained for an entire weekend and patted myself on the back as though I’d finished a marathon. But any feelings of moral superiority were short-lived as I dove back into the time-sucking abyss of food pics, political rants and cat memes. Sure, Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with faraway friends and long-ago pals. And I’ve been able to entertain people with pics of the Beast. But FB has something to annoy everyone. Don’t believe me? Then I have a bridge in Farmville I can sell you.
This time, it wasn’t so much a lark as a necessity. I’m not saying I was an addict, but my borderline-obsessive Facebook scrolling had left me a resentful mess. I was spent from the absent-minded checking and rechecking of notifications. I was numb to the jumble of posts–ranging from joy to rage–that clogged my newsfeed. I was aching for connections that went beyond clicking “like.” I wanted something real. And it’s not just me. A 2013 study from the University of Michigan found that “rather than enhance well-being . . . Facebook use predicts the opposite result–it undermines it.”
The Facebreak Plan
My Man’s motto is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It wasn’t enough to just drop a bad (Facebook) habit cold turkey. I needed a to pick up a good habit to replace it, lest I get itchy and say “Well, just this one time” before finding myself posting my opinion on kale (IMO, it’s like Fenway Park: I like it, but I can’t stand the fans). I decided I would call a friend any time I got the itch*. To my amusement, a few friends were a little thrown when my number showed up on their caller I.D.
[*For you young folks, that’s using your smartphone to actually voice-speak to another person, preferably someone you like who is not trying to sell you a time-share.]
The second plan was to have a Facebreak buddy. My plans for logging off were met with countless responses of “I need to do that!” but only my BFF in Cali decided she would join me, which helped immensely. We checked in with each other most every day–like normal–to keep the “itch” at bay. “I’m having sweet tea and ribs and you’re the only one who knows! LOL,” I texted her. “At the beach and nobody but you is aware of that!” she’d reply.
Lastly, I made sure to tell people I was going away for a little bit. It may seem a little presumptuous on my part, but I didn’t want my FB friends to worry that something bad had happened to the Beast. Let’s face it, the majority of them enjoy pictures of him the most. I’m completely fine with that.
The Digital Detox
The first week, I had a major case of “Facebrain”–the neurological impulse to condense my life into pithy phrases, like “If you rearrange the letters in ‘Post Office,’ it spells ‘Hellmouth’,” or “Can we stop pretending that quinoa tastes good?” Still, though, I called a different friend everyday and began to find the connection I was looking for. The second week marked an uptick in my Instagram use–making the excuse is that it unleashed my “creative” side (yeah, right!). Then by week three, I was suddenly overcome with feelings of disconnection. My phone wasn’t ringing and the only emails I got were bikini wax Groupons. Thankfully, a text from a friend inviting me to lunch pre-empted a pity party. “How about tomorrow?” I responded, a little too eagerly, but grateful. As week four began, I noticed that my hunger to be in-the-know, validated, or “liked” had subsided considerably. Plus, I found I had all this free non-scrolling time to:
- Start putting together a jigsaw puzzle
- Paint a room
- Repaint the room after realizing I didn’t like the color
- Read Paolo Coehlo’s “The Alchemist”
- Enjoy music on the lawn at Tanglewood
- Browse a bona fied bookstore
- Abandon the uncompleted jigsaw puzzle
- Finish Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly.”
- Play dress-up with the dog
- Clear out overgrown weeds from the backyard
- Unpack boxes from last year’s move
- Go to museums and look at art
- Rearrange the guestroom
- Do absolutely nothing
- Try meditating
- Try meditating again
- Write in my journal nearly every day
- Read all the “too long:didn’t read” articles I never seemed to have time for
- Get my DVR down to 58% from 90%
- Join a community clean-up
- Watch the sun set into the bay
It’s Not FB, It’s Me
It’s been five weeks and I’m seriously debating whether or not it’s a good idea for me to go back. (Obviously, I think about Facebook way more than Facebook thinks of me–though, it thinks about me a little: I received a lot of “while you were away” emails and the FB Communications Manager followed me on Twitter.) If I do log on, things will have to change. Mostly, my expectations. I can’t get lazy again with my friendships, thinking FB will do all the legwork. Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, go do it. Pick up a phone and call a friend. Freak them out. And notice how good you feel when you hang up. And, remember, that any bridge to any real connection others with others doesn’t involve a password.
What are your thoughts on Facebook? What are your thoughts on connection in today’s digital world?