I’m only three weeks into my break from FB, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s like to be away.
I will admit, the first week I suffered a little withdrawal. Months ago I had relegated my FB app to the second screen of a random folder on the third screen of my phone, in the hopes that I’d use it less if it were harder to get to. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t stop me from going on FB, it just made it more annoying to get there.) I spent the first week navigating to that spot, only to find it empty. The first day I came face to face with that empty spot at least a dozen times. The next day maybe five. By the end of the week, I had stopped mindlessly swiping my way to FB.
The problem was, I quickly discovered, I had no where else to swipe to. By 10am I had usually read all the posts in Feedly, and without FB I wasn’t adding new articles to Instapaper. If I didn’t have a good Kindle book on loan from the library I had nothing to read. And without reading material, and without FB, I had absolutely nothing to do on my phone (I don’t play any games on my phone–I know I’m a weirdo).
The obvious result of this was that I was bored a lot. I would absentmindedly turn on my phone, swipe back and forth between screens, realize there was nothing to distract me and turn it off. Eventually a subtle positive revealed itself–I turned on my phone less and was more present in moment.
After a week I signed up for Lum.osity, an app with brain training games that are supposed to strengthen memory, attention, flexible thinking and problem solving. Every day the app provides a workout of five games and I have a lot of fun seeing if I can beat my previous best scores. I’ve actually learned a lot about myself and the way I think; it’s been surprisingly eye opening.
The thing with Lum.osity though, is that you have to really concentrate to play the games. It’s not something you can do mindlessly to pass a spare minute. This means that I’m still not on my phone as much as I used to be; I only turn it on when I know I have a couple of minutes when I can focus enough to play a game or read a blog post (if there are any in my reader).
Of course FB is not just about my relationship with my phone (though it played a bigger part in that relationship than I realized). FB is ultimately about connecting with other people, by sharing my life and having access to what others share about their lives. I will admit that it has been weird to not post things on FB, and a bit unsettling not to see what others are posting. I’m definitely missing out on things, and every once in a while I’ll participate in a conversation that underscores how much I’m missing.
But you know what? I don’t really care. When I find out about something I missed on FB, I realize there isn’t a hole in my life where that information should have been. Knowing these things about people isn’t a necessity. In fact, I wonder if knowing so much about so many people was actually having a negative effect on my life. I’m still not sure.
One thing’s for sure, it’s way more fun to actually talk to people now, because I don’t already know everything of note that has happened in their lives. Recently I was chatting with a colleague at work and she mentioned a new relationship that she’s really excited about. When I looked happily surprised she seemed confused, hadn’t I seen the photos on FB? No, I hadn’t, but that meant we had something interesting to talk about for ten minutes and she actually got to share a little bit about her life that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. What a novel concept!
Of course my aunts and uncles in St. Louis were sad to hear there wouldn’t be any pictures of my kids for a while. They seemed truly disappointed. I think that was the first time I realized how positive of an experience it can be for some people: even though I only see many of my aunts and uncles every other year, they feel close to my family through the photos and moments and I share on FB. That is a powerful connection for very little effort on my part.
One interesting result of telling people I’ve deactivated my account? The initial reaction. People want to know why I would do such a thing, but they aren’t really interested in hearing the answer. It’s one thing to never create a FB account, but to participate and then choose to opt out…people see it as a verdict being passed on the whole system, and anyone who participates. It’s interesting the responses I get: people are curious, suspicious, defensive, judgmental, sometimes all at the same time. FB has become a pretty big deal, and by choosing not to be on it, I seem to be making a statement. I’m just not sure what that statement is.
How do you feel about FB? How do you feel when people stop using it?