I made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), in the summer of 2007. Soon after, an old friend, Sue (not her real name), who had been in Israel a bit longer than me, asked me how I was feeling. “Like I’ve fallen off the planet!” was my reply. Sue told me about a great new website she was using to stay in touch with friends in the US, in particular, our mutual close friend, Kaye (also not her name). The website was Facebook and I was delighted to get on it and start communicating with friends near and far, especially my ole girl posse, Sue and Kaye, yeehaw!
Within a couple of years of Facebook fun, Sue and Kaye were no longer my friends.
Sue and I disagreed over politics and unfriending followed. While Kaye and I had one of those notorious Facebook blow-outs: words were written, tone was absent, offence was taken, and without picking up a phone or talking human to human, a friendship of over 10 years was over in one simple “unfriend” and “block”. I never spoke to her again.
I wish I could say they were my only casualties of Facebook, but it happened numerous times. I wrote more about it in this post.
Facebook became like a traumatic accident I couldn’t turn away from. Not only that, it became a time-sucking traumatic accident I couldn’t turn away from!
Understanding that I needed to take action, I pruned my friend list. I stopped posting anything other than blog posts I wanted to share. I disabled my news feed. I never had the app on my phone – I had to log in to the website to use it so I never had to deal with notifications. I only used Facebook for the groups I was in and those I administered.
And yet, I still somehow managed to be spending a ton of seriously unproductive time on it! I also simultaneously managed to pick up two new internet addictions, Instagram and Snapchat.
I kept telling myself that all of this was “for my business”, but was it really?
During my 10-week to Summer online group program, I led participants through an exercise on defining our top five values in life and then designing lives where we spend the corresponding amount of time and effort on the things we value most. I had done this exercise before, but somehow, this time, it totally changed my life and perspective. Among other things, it caused me to take a hard look on how much time I was spending on social media and evaluate whether it was worth it or not.
- Yes, I got clients from Facebook, but did the hours I was spending there justify the few people who found me via that platform?
- Did the stress caused by reading drama and nasty comments bleed over into my mental well-being?
- Sure, I made great connections on Instagram and Snapchat, but was anything actually coming from those connections?
- Were all the damaged relationships worth it?? (Regrets, I’ve had a few…)
- Was scrolling through pictures of other people’s meals, lives, workouts, becoming more important than living my own? More important than paying closer attention to my nearest and dearest?
The final straw came when a little boy fell into a gorilla enclosure during a visit to the zoo, and the Facebook Judgement Squad went on a vicious blame-the-mother-crusade, without knowing the mother, or the circumstances, or what actually happened on that tragic day. People were writing that the child should have been “left in the enclosure to die, as befits evolution!” and that anyone defending the mother should be “euthanized themselves”! Instead of reacting in horror over words like that, others were circling like sharks smelling blood. That mother was going to be torn to shreds by this angry mob of non bystanders! (Read, The Death of Harambe and the Rise of the Internet Mob for more).
Straw, meet Back.
For the first time in NINE YEARS, I logged completely out of my Facebook account.
I knew I was finally done there. I deleted all social media apps from my phone immediately. It turned out to be a lot more difficult to disengage from Facebook. Facebook has it’s tentacles in you deeper than you think! Every permission you have allowed to connect with FB; every connection between Facebook and your website; it all has to be dismantled one at a time. All the while, FB does everything it can to keep you there! It was actually alarming in a VERY Big Brother sort of way!
I wanted to try to keep my business page, which you cannot do without a personal account. I finally managed to delete my personal account and set up a new one, (with no friends), to be the administrator of my business page. I’m still not sure it’s going to work.
I declared to all that it would be a 30-day experiment for the month of June, but I am on day 5, and honestly, I could have never have predicted how happy being off of social media would make me.
- I eat food that is maybe messy and imperfect looking, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to post a photo of it to Instagram.
- I walk the dog in the morning, and just enjoy the beauty of the dawn. (I used to use that time to scroll and catch up on social).
- I am writing again. ( I didn’t have the time or interest before because I was too busy trying to think of something good to share on social).
- My kids have my full attention when they are speaking. I am not even tempted to sneak a peak at my phone because there is nothing on it to look at.
- My kids AND my husband have expressed great delight to not be competing with the strangers who lived in my phone. (omg)
- I have read three books in 5 days.
- I am so freed from the compulsion to not photograph and share everything!
- I am so freed from the compulsion to watch the lives of other people!
- I am now the one who chooses what I want to think about, not an algorithm, and not because the drama is impossible to look away from.
Now, if you are not this addicted and Facebook’s foibles don’t bother you in the least, then scroll on, dear reader! But then again, I didn’t realize just how caught up I was until I got off of it. So if thinking about taking 30 days off, makes you squirm a bit, maybe you want to look at that a little more closely.
And for those of you who will say “Hypocrite! You are sharing this very article on Facebook!” I will say, you are right. Maybe it is hypocrisy? I’m not sure. Or maybe it is me using Facebook, rather than allowing Facebook to use me? I still after all, would like you to find and read my work and Facebook has managed to grab millions of eye-balls.
This is an experiment and an eye-opener for me. I am not sure where it will end. I do not intend to judge those of you who use social media. I was very much one of you until just 5 days ago! I am only sharing my own experience.
And maybe, just maybe, I will inspire someone else to take an honest look at how they are spending their own precious time and decide to make some changes.