Imagine a world without status updates, Instagrams, Spotify updates, birthday notifications, etc. That has been my reality for the last seven days, as I just wrapped up a week without Facebook. Did I go through severe withdrawal? No. Did I cheat and take a peek at my News Feed to see what I was missing? Nope, not even once. Did my real life productivity increase dramatically? Not really. Did I miss checking Facebook several times a day? Well, yes and no.
Overall, I found my week without Facebook to be very refreshing. The first couple of days I had trouble adjusting. I kept catching myself glancing over at my laptop (which I keep on the kitchen counter) to see if I had any of those little red notifications that pop up at the top of my News Feed. Of course, Facebook wasn’t even open on my computer, but my automatic reflex made me realize how attached I have become to Facebook. Checking Facebook on my phone while at the park, in my kitchen while I’m cooking dinner, etc. has become second nature. I’ve become so connected to the outside world that I’m sometimes neglectful of the more tangible things around me (kids, house, laundry…).
So, without Facebook there to distract me at every turn, I found myself more relaxed and enjoying moments that I otherwise might miss, such as sitting and chatting with my four year old when he first wakes up, watching him and his brother play at the park, and even reading for two straight hours during the kids’ nap time. Of course, the first couple of days I found myself trying to replace the lack of Facebook with other online sources, including Twitter, various blogs, the LA Times, and IMDb. I quickly cut out Twitter, but allowed myself to check the other sites a couple times a day. Otherwise, I felt completely disconnected from the outside world and was afraid I would miss something important. (As it turns out, the most significant news of the week was the Supreme Court’s passing of the healthcare legislation, the Colorado wildfires, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ split.)
Despite my feelings of isolation and disconnect, it was surprisingly easy to “survive” without Facebook for a week. I was reminded who my closest friends are (whether or not Facebook has suggested them as a Top Friend). They were the ones I texted, emailed, called, or hung out with (in person – imagine that!), and the ones I truly missed reading status updates from. I was also reminded of what life before Facebook was like. For me, it was only four years ago that I joined the world’s largest social network. Before that time, I read a lot more blogs, maintained my own blogs much more consistently, read various entertainment and news websites, etc. I didn’t spend as much time online then as I do now (partly because I didn’t yet own an iPhone), but it wasn’t like I was spending my time writing letters and reading classic thousand page novels either. Facebook wasn’t the start of my time wasting on the Internet, it just replaced many of my former online activities.
However, most of you would probably agree with me that Facebook is the biggest online time waster. I’m not saying that it is a complete waste of time; it’s just easy to spend too much time on it. So, while my week off didn’t make me want to quit Facebook entirely, it did make me reevaluate the amount of time I spend on it. But how do you set boundaries and cut back on something that is constantly enticing you with new information?! My first steps are these: 1) Stop checking Facebook on my phone, and 2) Limit my Facebooking to a few times a day (morning, noon, night) and then close it, rather than always leaving it open on my browser. Sounds simple enough, but I’m sure it will be easy to fall back into old habits of checking it constantly.
What do I hope to accomplish by reducing my Facebook time? A more balanced life, perhaps. Without Facebook always calling my name from my phone and laptop, I can focus more on my family and the never ending list of to-dos. But it will also free up some time for me to pursue other hobbies that have been neglected because of Facebook. Maybe I’ll get back into blogging (as I’m doing right now!). And finally catch up with my ongoing project of printing out digital photos and putting them in albums. And read more books! I was amazed that last week I blew through the second half of a 970 page book – reading nearly 500 pages in a week is normally unheard of for me, but all those extra minutes that I wasn’t on Facebook translated into hundreds more pages read in A Clash of Kings.
So why won’t I quit Facebook all together? Well, I think it is an important part of our society. It is bigger now than just a way to waste time, or an opportunity to find out whatever happened to so and so from high school. Facebook is how we stay connected to many important people in our lives. When we moved from Dallas to California last year, Facebook became an even more important part of my life, because it helps me keep in touch with family and friends who I would otherwise lose contact with, and it helps me not miss them so much! And, as a stay at home mom, Facebook is an important connection to the outside world, even if it’s just to my other mom friends who live around the block. When I’m feeling isolated, it’s nice that I can log in and see what someone else is making for dinner, what vacation they just returned from, what movie they plan to see this weekend, etc. That may sound dull and unimportant to someone who leads a more exciting life than I do, but it means a lot to me!
Do I recommend that everyone do their own Facebook-free experiment? Sure, why not? Whether you take off a day, a week, or a month, taking a break can be very eye opening. It helps you see where your priorities are, how you spend (or don’t spend) your time, and how integral (or disposable) Facebook really is in your daily life. If you do take a break, let me know how it goes, and good luck!