Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Freedom From Facebook

I know, the title is a little dramatic, but I love alliteration and I really didn't want to spend a whole lot of time thinking of a great title for this post.

Most people don't realize I have been off Facebook now for quite a while. Since February 5, actually. Let me tell you how I got here and what I have found since beginning this journey.

On February 4, I was browsing on Facebook like I always do. The kids were entertaining themselves, and I was really just kind of killing time on the computer. Probably procrastinating school work or house work. One of my friends posted a link to Time's website, with the title of the post saying, "How Much Time Have You Wasted on Facebook?"

I cringed, because I could only imagine!

Her number was well over 300 days and my eyes really widened. I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link. The problem with this "test" is that you enter your information, so of course it can be a little skewed. The question is, "On average, how much time do you spend on Facebook?" This is how many minutes per day, or per week, or per year. So technically you could put 5 minutes a day or 20 hours a day. You may not even actually realize how much time you are actually spending on there. I took a stab at it, saying 30 minutes a day. I would say there are several days I spent 5 minutes on Facebook, but there are days I might have spent 2 hours. I'm not really sure, but I do know that I am a really great procrastinator, and Facebook offers lots of different ways to procrastinate. I can click on links that my friends are recommending, watch videos they share, and there are tons of groups I belong to that are online garage sales. Those can be incredible time wasters, even when I know I don't need anything and don't have the money to buy something!

Now, I wasn't using all my Facebook time being wasteful. I have sold a lot of stuff on those garage sale pages. I've hooked up with other local moms for playdates through groups on Facebook. I've made a lot of connections for Fed By Faith. I've read great articles and seen awesome videos. I've shared a lot of my thoughts on my faith to people who may not usually think about that kind of stuff. I see pictures of my family who doesn't live around town, and I get to show off my family to the world!

So, don't get me wrong. I like Facebook and I love the idea behind it. But I would get on there sometimes just knowing that I could be doing something more productive with my time.

So, I entered 30 minutes per day on this test, and it calculated how much time I had spent on Facebook since the day I joined, which was December 6, 2004. Yeah, ten years ago! Can you believe it! I was on Facebook when it was just a baby! And only college students were allowed on there! This is the picture that popped up at the end of the calculations:

You see that? 69 days?? Now, I'm sure this isn't the worst news ever. I probably have friends who WAY exceed that. But I just had this feeling in the pit of my stomach - wondering what in the world I had accomplished on Facebook with all that time spent on there.

It took several minutes to run this test since it was adding up ten years of stuff, and as it was adding up the days I began to wonder... could I stay off Facebook for the equivalent of whatever this number turned out to be?

Back in December, our church participated in a church-wide time of prayer and fasting. You could do the Daniel food fast or you could choose something else to fast from. I had a few girlfriends who chose to abstain from Facebook for the 21 days. I remember shaking my head and thinking, "There is no way I could do that!" Although, in my defense, that was right in the middle of our Angel Tree event at church, and there's no way I could have completed that without the aid of Facebook. But I also couldn't see myself giving up Facebook for that long. I've known others who gave it up for Lent and I kind of always wondered how they did it. It was my go-to for boredom and procrastination.

So I decided to see how long I could go without it. I wasn't planning on forcing myself to go 69 days cold turkey, but I wanted to see for myself how attached I really was.

Day 1 and day 2 went off pretty easily. I don't know what web browser you use, but mine saves all of my "favorite" places to go on the internet, based on how often I visit them. It looks like this:

Websites like my email, CNN, a couple of websites for school, my blog, websites I use for making money online, online Bible, my bank, and a homeschooling resource. But on February 5, Facebook was my number two link. I was used to checking it simply by clicking on it. It was SUPER easy to get to and would be brought up within seconds anytime I wanted it or was bored. So I knew there were times I would click on that two or three times in an hour, just because it was so easy to access and I was in the habit of doing that - have I mentioned I did it a lot when I wanted to procrastinate my school work!? Some things never change (I did that back in college, too!) So my first step was deleting Facebook off my list of links. This meant if I wanted to go to Facebook I was actually going to have to type it in. A little more effort, and it would give me a little time to remind myself I wasn't supposed to be doing it. I bet in those first two days, I checked my link list between 6-10 times before I remembered Facebook wasn't in there anymore. Once I remembered I was trying to stay off, it wasn't very tempting to go there, so I did great.

On day three my sister-in-law posted a video and tagged me in it. I got the email notification and sat there wondering what to do. Could I go to Facebook and just watch the video? Or would I be tempted to answer messages, check notifications, and start scrolling aimlessly through my newsfeed? I started getting email notifications of comments like, "So cute!" and "Love it!" so I assumed it was a video of my kids. I texted my husband, asking if he had watched it. He couldn't get it to load on his computer. I texted my sister-in-law to see if she could upload it to YouTube instead. Her phone didn't have that capability.

So, as I vacuumed my bedroom, I had to consider a couple of things. I had only been off Facebook a couple of days at this point. It seemed silly to ignore the video simply because I was trying to prove something to myself. But I was worried that I would get on there, see all my notifications, and get sucked in. I decided that what I would do was start a stopwatch, and time how long I was on Facebook. That would allow me to watch the video, but give me incentive to get off quickly after watching the video.

It turned out not to be an issue. I watched the 2-minute long video and immediately closed out the window. Test complete, so to speak! I didn't go back on until the 11th, when I spent 2 minutes just answering messages that I had missed in the past week. I was missing Facebook less and less, and I didn't have that urge to just click on stuff to relieve my boredom.

I know - some of you who are close to me are saying, "How could you be bored!?" But when I talk about being bored, it all stems from procrastination of work!! I am really bored with a paper in the beginning stages. What I usually do is create my title page, type "Introduction" and then starting browsing the web. After 30 minutes or so, I'll force myself back to the task at hand. Taking away Facebook meant I either was going to check the news or my email, and neither one of those is nearly as time-consuming.

So what am I learning?

First of all, I learned that I was actually feeding off of Facebook to raise my self-worth - for lack of a better phrase. I would post pictures, hoping to get a response from people. I would share my blog, getting really excited when I had someone praise me for something I accomplished. I wouldn't share a link of mine at certain times of the day, because I felt like people wouldn't see them at those certain times. Now that sounds really silly and I almost don't even want to make those feelings public. But there's almost this freedom that I feel now.

See, I have TONS of social media websites that I use. And they are almost all linked up to Facebook. This includes Twitter, Bible.com, GoodReads, Pinterest, all three of my blogs, and some of my money-saving apps on my phone as well. So a lot of people (including my husband) didn't even realize I ever went off Facebook. Because I was still using social media, things were still being posted on my Facebook. But because I wasn't actually on the Facebook website, I had no idea if anyone was seeing what I was sharing. So the thing that changed through this process was why I was using social media. I went from using it and caring how many people saw it, how many people interacted with it, how many people it affected, how many comments or "likes" I got to using it just because I enjoy it

Something else I have learned is that I feel really disconnected. As you know, almost everyone has Facebook. I have no clue what is going on in anyone's life right now, outside of my own family circle here in town. My husband mentioned the other night that his family was in Florida visiting his sister and her family. I said, "Oh, that's nice! I didn't know that!" and he teasingly said, "If you were on Facebook, you'd know that!" It was kind of funny. He also told me about a Saturday church choir practice that I had no clue about, because it was announced on Facebook. Oops.

I miss seeing serious updates. The husband of a friend of mine passed away just before I went off Facebook, and I have realized how much I miss seeing her updates. We live about 45 minutes apart, so it's going to take real effort on my part to stay in touch with her - Facebook was really easy to use to stay in touch. I haven't done my part in these past few weeks I've been on Facebook and I feel a lot of guilt about that. I miss seeing the prayer requests of my friends. I like to pray for people and check up on them for updates. I haven't received any texts or phone calls asking for prayers for any reason, though, so I am left to wonder how many people think I am ignoring them when I really just don't know they have a need.

I don't miss any of the articles or videos, I don't miss the drama (although I only have one or two people I am friends with who invite drama to Facebook), I don't miss what I am sure are overwhelming amounts of status updates in regards to the Olympics or the recent snowstorm that overtook our town.

I have stayed on my other social media websites for a few reasons. Twitter is something I didn't use a lot, and although I use it a lot more now than I did, I don't stay on Twitter. I basically type in a tweet on my phone, hit send, and that's that. I don't read my feed usually, and when I do get on Twitter it's very short-lived. I don't like the layout and there is an overwhelming amount of tweets to read, which means I usually make it through a handful before I get tired of reading them. Goodreads and Bible.com are two others that I don't spend a lot of time on. Goodreads records books I've read, and part of my daily devotional is through Bible.com (YouVersion), but I spend probably 10-15 minutes a month on these actual websites (I do spend more time than that on my Bible app, but not the website itself). Pinterest is another favorite website of mine, but I don't get sucked into it like I was getting sucked into Facebook. Also, if I ever do get sucked into Pinterest, I am accomplishing something either by sharing my blogs on there (and gaining new readers) or I'm finding awesome new recipes, crafts, homeschool support, and things to aid me in my Sunday School class. I've never sat on Pinterest until my eyes itched, but I've done that before on Facebook.

So, overall... I haven't had any major life changes in the last few weeks. I haven't, you know, remodeled a house because of the time I've saved. I haven't realized I was ignoring my kids to play on Facebook. There's nothing critical that has happened here. But my brain feels different. Is that possible? It's almost like a relief not to be overwhelmed with the thoughts of 800+ "friends" that I have somehow acquired. Maybe I need to whittle that list down...

Update: Now it's March 11 and it's been about five weeks since I've been on Facebook. It's amazing how I rarely even think about it anymore. I am still on this small rollercoaster of emotions though, about my feelings toward Facebook.

As I said, most everyone uses Facebook. My husband says because I never announced that I was getting off Facebook, people were still commenting on my stuff and sharing links on my page. I feel bad about that, because I don't get a lot of those notifications. I don't want people to feel like I'm ignoring them. But on the other hand, it's kind of nice to be oblivious.

I have spent more time in person with my friends than I was, or on the phone with them. I'm realizing how I was starting to lean on Facebook for my communication with people. It's nice for some people, like friends who don't live very close to me, but for those who live right in town, I want to be more focused on communicating with them in a more personal way. I made it a point to hang out with a different friend once a week every week so far since I got off Facebook and it's been awesome. And today I'm having coffee with a friend I haven't talked to in months - and we go to the same church! I think I'm becoming more intentional with my relationships with people.

Do I think everyone needs to get off Facebook and get a life? Absolutely not! I don't even think I was an extreme example of someone on Facebook. This just felt like something I needed to do. I'm glad I did, because I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to being the time-wasting Facebook user I was. I think I realize now how to balance any time spent on there. And I'm planning on going through my friends list at some point and making it a more personal list of friends.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you think you spend way too much time on Facebook? Could you use a break? Maybe you've never had any of these issues I spoke about. I hope some of you relate so I'm not the only one feeling like this! But if you can't relate, more power to you. You're lucky!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nicely written Amanda. I have noticed the very same things that you pointed out...like basing my self-worth on whether or not I had anything "cool" going on compared with the pictures I would see on FB. I am sure I have wasted lots of time on this website, but I haven't found anything to match the connection it has given me to individuals of my past and present. It is refreshing to see comments from people I've known, such as yourself, standing up for Jesus Christ...it's saddening and eye opening to see updates on life events from such people as Jennifer, who recently lost her husband...I couldn't begin to imagine...and it's interesting to see what people are talking about and interested in (like the weather or different national issues, etc.) But, it's also true that after spending hours on FB, I'm feeling weary and tired, and I could have spent this time with my family in some way...I think I'm in need of some FB intervention too :)Thank you for sharing your thoughts...I can definitely relate. Stephanie Taylor