Thoughts from my FB Holiday

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?

12 Comments

  1. I have missed seeing you on fb and have been impatient for you to come back. Although I can see the benefit to less mindless phone swiping.

    But…how did you find out about Prince, without fb? It’s my main source of news these days.

    1. Interesting question because I usually hear about these things on FB too, but I actually heard the news on the radio the moment it was made public. I was actually annoyed by all of the “sharing” of links about the news because, “do these people really think people haven’t heard by now?”. I do get annoyed by my feed getting clogged up on days like yesterday with news I have obvioudly already heard.

    2. That’s a really good question actually. It was my main source of news too. I found out yesterday because a friend mentioned it on a group text. But I guess, if I hadn’t heard yesterday, would that be such a bad thing? Eventually someone will mention it and I’ll know, but I don’t need to know right when it happens. I mean, I loved Prince and was sad to hear of his passing, but it’s not something I need to know about to have a fulfilling life.

      Maybe I should add a news outlet like Gawker to my reader, if I really care about what is going on in the world.

  2. Like Deborah, I’ve missed you and the kids in FB. 😊

    FB is the same for me as it is for you – my boredom cure, or rather, boredom delayer. Ha! Reading blogs used to cure my boredom but no one is writing anymore (myself included), so my FB usage has gone to exponentially. I don’t play games on my phone either. Maybe I should?! 😉

    My family feels the same way about my kids on FB and I feel that way about my sisters’ kids. We all live so far apart but I know what’s going on with the kids all the time. It makes our phone conversations more fun because I can ask for updates on a situation rather than my sister having to t-up the conversation.

    I am self-admitted FB junkie!

    1. Not keeping in touch with people I love who are far away is definitely one of the down sides. My best friend just had a baby and our other friend will mention cute pictures she saw on FB and I feel shitty asking her to text them to me so I can see them too. So that is a big downside. I just don’t know how to participate in that aspect without also being exposed to all the dumb shit that I don’t want to have in my life. I forgot to mention in my post how amazing it’s been to be away during campaign season. I was getting so tired of all the shit about the primaries, from both sides!

  3. I tried to look at your page the other day and then remembered :/ I like Facebook anyway for keeping in touch and keeping up with news but the interesting thing for me and one of the biggest reasons I wouldn’t give it up now are the transracial adoption groups I participate in. I don’t know where else I could find a group of adult adoptees, people of color, birth and adoptive parents that chat about adoption and race all day together. It can get ugly sometimes, but what a resource!

  4. I haven’t completely signed out of Facebook but I removed the app from my phone so I have to actually log in in a computer to get on. And I get on MUCH less often, maybe couple of times a week vs multiple times a day. My far away family also asks for more kid pictures. I dump a few on every now and then but was never one to share daily/ weekly pictures ( I don’t take many pictures these days, honestly).
    Could you just have a group of family and select friends and unfollow everyone else so you don’t see their posts? And log on every couple of weeks to share a photo dump of recent happenings and catch up on those of your family?
    I honestly don’t notice of one or other friend is less active/absent on Facebook for weeks/months/years…I don’t find Facebook very satisfying as a mode of socialization. It’s really a distraction/boredom thing for me. I really think we need to get better at being bored for a little while without immediately reaching for something to take it away. I think it’s probably good for mental health, focus, creativity, and who knows what else. How can I not just wait in line for 5 minutes without automatically picking up my phone?
    News…I get a daily update but don’t NEED to know everything right away. I agree with you completely—not necessary for a fulfilling life. I also prefer to receive the news without everyone’s reactions and bias. I don’t need my “friends” to tell me how to feel about things!

  5. I’ve missed you on FB and seeing pics of the kids. I’ve found lately I spend way more time in the groups I participate in rather than my main newsfeed, which is constantly clogged with random, useless stuff. I should put the Groups app back on my phone so I don’t even have to open FB.

  6. Disappeared off Facebook for 2 years (after a few false starts but then 2 years!). Then on again, fresh… Wore out after a year and made the call and left in October.. And still off 7 months and counting.
    Best decision ever.
    Everyone totally gets defensive- I don’t mention unless people ask to add me, then it’s always “oh you’re not? Well. I mean, I hardly use it myself or it’s great for family that are far away etc etc”. 😉

  7. I only have a moment to write…I read your blog still <3 Since you're off FB, I thought I'd tell you that we removed B's tube!!!! I know you'd like to know that.

  8. I’ve been having my own struggles with FB lately as well as blogging and Twitter. I’m realizing now that I’m on too many groups, adoption and otherwise that have valuable information for me to quit completely. I do miss seeing your pics- they’re always so cute!

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