Why did I give up Facebook? It started out as a 20 day fast. My church was participating in a fast, where you give up something and use that time to focus more on your spiritual growth. Jan 11th, 2018 I had to decide what I wanted to give up. Pretty easily, I recognized that I spend wayyyy too much time scrolling through Facebook feeds. It was the beginning of the year, and I was over it all. I was over the political rants, the constant anxiousness of the next racial event that was happening, and all the digital expectations. So, without too much preparation I turned off off my notifications and left a message that “Facebook and I are on a break.”
That was over 8 months ago.
The first thing you miss when you go from checking Facebook a couple times a day to zero times, is that you have no idea what’s going on. I had to go out of my way to make sure I read or watched the news. I’m sure I missed events; but what I found out was that my close friends would text me to ask if I was going because they didn’t see my reply, and that was a nice way of finding out about events that mattered. When my calendar did free up, I did wonder about things going on, but I used my other resources: google, online newspapers, word of mouth, and the news. I also missed some group chats with friends (gave up Facebook messenger as well), which is a great way to catch up with multiple people at the same time.
I didn’t plan on staying off Facebook for so long. I thought I would do the 20 days and be back to seeing what was going on in the world. When the 20 days were up I thought about signing in, but I had noticed how much free time I had. I was studying for an exam at the time, and I was able to “squeeze” in 2 hours of studying a day, after work. I listened to videos on my commute, and pretty much absorbed myself in this exam preparation. I had noticed I had more focus and less distractions during the 20 days, so decided to continued the Facebook break until I passed my exam. 6 weeks or so later I passed my exam!!!! I was so happy. The first people I told were my family members, then close friends. I thought – hey I could post about this on Facebook – but then I didn’t really want to. It was this private event that I was glad only a few people knew about. So again, I was at the fork in the road, and wavered on if I should log back in or not. At this point in the year, we were in the Christian season of Lent, which ends with the celebration of Easter. I considered logging on Easter, but I was with my family and really didn’t want that distraction for the true purpose of the holiday. So I put it off.
As the days passed I had less and less desire to log back into Facebook. I was reading more. I had more time to explore other hobbies. And my head felt clear. Yes, I did feel like I missed some events and wasn’t as caught up on the news, but events where people really wanted me there – they texted or called me. I hadn’t realized how much of a burden it was to feel OBLIGATED to tell each of my Facebook Friends Happy Birthday. Of course it’s a nice gesture, but we don’t rememebr the birthdays of hundreds of people. I’d much rather get a personalized phone call from 10 friends, than 500 people I hardly speak to write “hbd” on my wall out of obligation.
Anything, in excess, can be bad for you. Social media is no exception. Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends, building new relationships, marketing, finding out about new inventions and causes, and aligning with people that think just like you do. But social media is addictive. The constant requirement of knowing what is going on at this exact moment, leaves us always wondering if we could be doing something more fun, and therefore we are never content with what we are currently doing (read FOMO). It causes you to constantly compare your life to the one-sided positive viewpoints people post. Most people do not air their dirty laundry online, so in comparison your real life will always be less exciting and fun than the perception of someone’s life on social media. The continuous scrolling screen makes you wonder for more, and the endless notifications about someone posting a live video that you could care less about, creates a desire to always know what’s going on.
Social media is amazing – don’t get me wrong. But the danger in it is that it sucks you in. It’s the addiction you don’t even know you have. My all-time favorite movie quote: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” (The Usual Suspects). When we dismiss how much power we give to an app, notifications, posting, liking, streaming, or what have you, we give it more power than it deserves.
Facebook, if used correctly, is a great tool. If life is a stage, Facebook is just the microphone. Things still happen, whether or not you post about them or receive likes. I am glad that I took a break and I do recommend that every now and then we “unplug” in whatever capacity that means. I realized how much time I was wasted scrolling through perceptions of other people’s lives and how much manipulation marketing is doing. From the Ads you see to which friends feeds you are seeing, it is all being orchestrated by an algorithm we are not privy to. We think we are making unique choices, but we are choosing from preselected and filtered information. We all have signed up to let someone control the program that tells us what they think we think is important. I prefer to just live my life and interact with people like back in the olden days.