I spent the entire month of September off Facebook. It was lovely.
For months, years maybe, I’ve considered pulling the plug on it entirely. My feelings about Facebook are up, down, and all around and frequently negative. But it’s addictive! And sometimes it’s fantastic. There are parts that it is difficult to live without nowadays. But it can be destructive, a massive time-waster, and I often left it with a vague anxious feeling.
This summer was one of the most difficult seasons of my life and I could see how facebook was exacerbating my anxiety and loneliness. The format enables connections that would otherwise be impossible, but it keeps friends from real life at arms length. It gives everyone an equal footing to learn about your life and give an opinion, even if said opinion is ignorant, hurtful, or trite.
When I felt a tug in late summer that maybe I should take some time away from it I decided to announce it so I’d have accountability and then move the app to the back screen of my iPhone so I couldn’t see it regularly.
Hours into September 1st I noticed I had 13 notifications and growing. I got a daily email letting me know I was missing out on this and that. My fingers got a little twitchy and more than once I typed in the URL automatically when I sat down at the computer. It got easier each day. I started to notice that I was using my time more efficiently without the constant over/under-connection.
The loveliest thing, and something I don’t want to forget, is how peaceful I felt.
No longer did I feel the tug of notifications popping up, the urge to check for comments, the need to pithily and wittily sum up the moment for a status update, preferably with a well-composed picture of my kids.
I didn’t have to deal with the unsolicited advice (grrr!), misunderstandings, unwanted news updates, pushy partisan political posts, and the annoyance of scrolling through updates letting me know the all important news that my friend liked an image of puppies in sunglasses.
To my shame I found myself thinking narcissistic things like, “I wonder if I should post just one picture of the boys. I bet people are missing them.” After 2 weeks? Seriously, Anna. Get over yourself.
But I missed some things too, or really one main thing – my friends. There are several people who I stay in contact with solely through facebook and I was sorry to miss a whole month of their life.
Within minutes of logging back in on October 1st I was able to pin-point a major reason why it leaves me anxious – it’s too much to read. I am a voracious reader, a hoarder of information, and the never-ending newsfeed is basically purgatory for people like me.
And the inflammatory political posts and alarmist news stories? I still hate them. Just say no, people.
Also, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool reference librarian. When people ask questions, I always want to answer. This sucks so much of my time.
After my break, I feel like I have a better perspective on facebook as a tool and how I can use it well and what I no longer want to do with it.
I don’t want to use it as a passive aggressive tool for letting people know what I really think.
I don’t want to use it to lazily faux-connect, when what I need is to heart-connect with a flesh and blood friend.
I don’t want to use it to passively learn about friends when I should be contacting them directly.
I don’t want to let the minor relationships in my life take more of my time than the important ones.
On the other hand…
I do want to use it to post pictures of my kids for friends and family who don’t see them regularly.
I do want to use it to connect with people who live far away.
I do want to use it as my “support group” for adoptive and special needs issues not well-supported by my real life friends.
I do want to use it to post pithy and witty thoughts about my daily life, because it amuses me.
I do want to use it to share the parts of life that can be shared there and to remember that there is much about life that cannot be shared in that venue, and that’s OK.
I’m working to ignore the pushy political junk, the silly cat memes, the unsolicited advice. I’m working to see the people behind the posts, but to see the people I know in real life even more. I’m working to keep it all in perspective.
And I try to remember to log the heck out and not keep the tab open all the time.