Have you ever imagined your life without Facebook? How about giving it up for just 45 days? Today's guest post talks about what happens when you change your password and vow to take a much needed break from the "TMI" website. Enjoy!
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
I’m done checking my email, so what’s next? Facebook, right? I can check that out before I get to work for the lunch meeting. Hey, cool, six people liked my status update about last night’s Game of Thrones! And two of them wrote funny comments on it. Awesome. Okay, time to do some work. And oh, look, someone posted an article from Thought Catalog I haven’t read yet, better check that out. That cute girl I met at Starbucks last week is on messenger, maybe I should chat her up…aww, she just left. Maybe I can get some work done for that meeting now. Hmmm, I wonder if anyone else has liked my status yet? Let’s refresh the page. Some more neat-looking articles, gonna go read those for sure…no new likes though. Sad. And…whoa, it’s lunchtime? Where did the time go? I’m not ready for the meeting at all, I’m in so much trouble!
Okay, that was a dramatization, but how many of us have (or better yet, how many of us can honestly say they haven’t) had some kind of mental conversation like that one over how much time we’ve lost on Facebook or other social media? Last fall I realized I’d been having them almost every day for years. I didn’t even feel like I had control over my Facebook use—my mouse hand would click on the Facebook link whether I wanted it to or not. This was no longer acceptable. It was time to get drastic. It was time for a Facebook Cleanse.
So I gave my Facebook password to a friend and asked her to change it—and not tell me what the new password was for a month and a half. 45 days, no Facebook.
It was awesome. I suddenly had head space to increase my self-knowledge, time to sit quietly and reflect, and attention to take better care of myself. It took some getting used to, but after the first few days I didn’t feel like I missed Facebook at all. And with the distance from it, I found myself realizing some things about Facebook that had never occurred to me before. Here are a few of them:
- Quitting Facebook puts you through actual withdrawal. For the first few days my mouse hand kept trying to click on the bookmark for Facebook I’d deleted, even though I knew it wasn’t there anymore.
- Facebook is a gateway distraction. When you leave it, you are suddenly at least one more step removed from any site or article you usually link to through Facebook. (For me, these included Thought Catalog, TED talks, Pentatonix videos, and everything John Green.) You can still link to these things, but doing so becomes a much more conscious activity without Facebook there to broker the deal.
- You quickly find out who you are willing to expend extra effort to stay in touch with, and who you only ever talk to on Facebook (and thus don’t mind not talking to for a while).
- Without Facebook to convince you that you can multitask (spoiler: you can’t), your focus sharpens and your productivity rises. When you want to do something, you can *gasp* just do it!
- Without Facebook to keep you tied to your computer long past the time you actually need to be on it, you find yourself much more open to doing things that don’t involve a computer. Facebook closes you off; getting off Facebook opens you up.
- Similarly, leaving Facebook lets you discover huge amounts of free time you didn’t know you had. You may develop entire new hobbies, or reinvest yourself in older ones you haven’t touched for years. A daily journal was my main hobby during my Facebook Cleanse, but I also read a bunch of personal development books, researched appealing travel locations, and did an in-depth year-in-review exercise.
- Unfortunately, distraction abhors a vacuum. After a couple weeks without Facebook, I also found myself filling my newfound free time with other distractions (like replaying Diablo III for the third time).
- Facebook has the same psychological addictive characteristics as playing the lottery, except instead of spending and winning money you spend time and win notifications. Each small “victory,” or witnessing of someone else’s, keeps you coming back in the forlorn hope of hitting it big, until you’re refreshing the page every eight seconds for hours on end to absolutely no avail.
- Giving up Facebook might not be an impactful exercise for everyone. We all have our own default distractions. My Facebook might be your Tumblr or Pinterest or Netflix or OKCupid. It might not even be online at all—men’s coach Mike Hrostoski recently gave up sex and alcohol for two months because he felt he was getting too drawn into them and wanted to reclaim his focus. But whatever your chief distraction is, I bet walking away from it for a month or two would change your life.
- Finally, Facebook isn’t all bad. Like most things, it tends to fall into the Pareto ratio: 80% of its value comes from 20% of its actual use. For me, that 20% takes the form of communicating with people in other states or countries and reading articles my friends post. Everything else, the other 80% of time spent on Facebook, is mere distraction.
And there’s the rub in returning to Facebook after the Cleanse: keeping that ratio clear and not slipping back into my old ways of default distraction. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. But I got so much out of this cleanse that I’m thinking about making it an annual thing. Care to try it with me?
After years of feeling life was holding him for ransom, James decided enough was enough: it was time to hold life for Ranson. A content writer, editor, presentations coach, traveler, all-purpose tenor, avid life experimenter, and professional giver of feedback, James has no idea who or where he’ll be tomorrow and can’t wait to find out. Connect with him @heldforranson and www.heldforranson.com.