I Took a Break from Social Media
Two weeks ago, I was presented with an interesting challenge. In a world-wide conference for the women in our church, we were encouraged to take a 10-day break from social media. We might also include other media that brings negative feelings or worldly perspectives. We should carefully choose what to remove from our lives during the break and record our experience. What would we notice? Would our priorities change? Would we have a new focus?
I have to admit that I was hesitant at first to accept this invitation. I think it’s obvious to anyone who knows me that I like to spend time on Facebook. I’ve lived all over the country and have found this to be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. It has also been an invaluable tool for conducting local business, like advertising for tutoring students and selling my unwanted items. And since I have been trying to get two blogs and an Etsy shop going, I use social media for advertising and promoting my work.
But I ultimately decided to give it a try. My husband planned to do it with me, and I was eager to see what would happen. Maybe I would notice a change in my life for the better. Or maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that social media was no big deal and wasn’t having much affect on me at all. We deleted the apps from our phones and officially started our break.
The first day, I honestly didn’t notice much difference. I was busy all day taking care of business and running errands, and I didn’t have time for much else. But by day three, I was keenly noticing that blue square with the white “F” missing from my phone screen. After the first week, I no longer missed it, and by the end of the ten days, I reflected on some pretty significant changes I’d seen in myself. Here’s what I learned:
Hello, I’m Julie, and I’m a Facebookaholic
I’ve joked for years about having a Facebook addiction, but I became very aware of its reality during this break. There were several tell-tale signs. The first was withdrawals starting on the third day. I was glad I had deleted the app from my phone. I’d catch myself flipping over to click on it after answering a text or email, only to find it not there. It was as if it was an automatic action and I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. I’d suddenly remember it was gone and feel a sense of confusion. I didn’t know what to do with myself without my Facebook.
I actually had a conversation with myself one day. I could open up my computer and log on, and no one would know the difference. My husband wasn’t home. He wouldn’t see me using it. And a good number of my friends were also doing the challenge. They wouldn’t see me on there, either. What was I doing?! This was just like an alcoholic, hiding his liquor bottles!
Fortunately, I got through a couple rough days without cheating, and by the end of the week I wasn’t missing it much anymore. In fact, I actually ended up doing a 12-day break, because I wasn’t in any hurry to download the app again!
It’s All for Show
There were several times during this break that something was going on, and I found myself composing a Facebook status in my head. Then I’d remember I wouldn’t be able to post it. It really made me think about how much focus we put on our public persona on social media. I realized I spend an awful lot of time thinking about how something will sound in a Facebook post or taking pictures of it, rather than just enjoying it. Are we ever really living anymore, or do we just go through the motions so we can have something clever to post online?
I also took time to reflect on times I have posted something that I later regretted. It’s so easy to hide behind our screens and put something out there, not thinking about who is going to read it and what it will mean to them. I’ve probably offended many people over the years by doing this. Even though I’ve made an effort to get better…to post only positive and uplifting things, sometimes as a human I still let myself down. I believe I will chose more carefully the things I post in the future.
Isolated, Yet Reconnected
As I said before, I love the connection I feel through social media to my friends and family who are far away. Some of my incredibly close friends were once only acquaintances before we found a bond on Facebook. It was sad at first that my social media break would also mean a break from some of these relationships. Living in a rural area, I found myself feeling quite isolated from the world. I began to truly miss some people, and it was a good way to discover those that were most important to me. It was also an excuse to reach out to more people locally, and I plan to put more effort into doing that.
As the week progressed, I spent more time actually talking TO people, rather than just “putting it out there”. I participated more in the group text with my kids; my daughter and I had a long phone conversation; I spent more time with my husband. And it felt so much more genuine and rewarding to deepen those relationships.
Be Still, My Soul
Probably the greatest thing I gained from this experience was peace. It was so refreshing to not have my life constantly bombarded with bad news, politics, and ads. I was blissfully ignorant of the animosity that seems to be taking over the world. I didn’t feel obligated to watch stupid videos that would waste another 30 seconds of my life. I could spend more time reading things that were meaningful and listening to things that uplifted me. I felt like I was free of distractions and could truly hear my inner voice again. I didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t feel pressured. I didn’t feel anxious.
I feel calm.
Will I go back to using social media? Well, today I downloaded Facebook onto my phone and spent a little time scrolling. I did enjoy seeing what everyone was up to, but overall, it was nauseating. It seemed so frivolous and trivial. And there was, of course, all the negative stuff. I really didn’t enjoy it that much. I don’t see it being nearly as important in my life as before. I’ll definitely still use it for business and sharing my blog posts, but I suspect I’ll be spending much less time “socially” on social media. And I might make this break an annual tradition, just to make sure it doesn’t start taking over my life again.