What One Week Away From Facebook Taught Me

Sitting on the dock of the bay, spending time with my family.
Sitting on the dock of the bay, spending time with my family.

Last week, we went on vacation. Although it was shortened due to the unfortunate path of Hurricane Arthur, prior to leaving, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to see what it felt like to be disconnected from that form of social media. I stayed on Instagram just to post pictures from vacation, but other than that, I let it all go.

It’s not a bad thing to do. Disconnecting a little is healthy; it allows you to focus on the things that are truly important, such as your family and friends. I had become way too involved on Facebook, feeling the need to post constantly. I don’t feel the same way about it now that I shut down for a bit, examined my own actions, and evaluated my overall social media behavior. The result: I’m going to approach it differently from here on out.

Having read articles from Mashable (8 Reasons to Deactivate Your Facebook Account) and other social media experts regarding reasons to leave certain forms of social media, I decided to be my own test subject. As one who has now done it, I found I had so much more time in my days to do things I love, like read, write, exercise, be with my kids, and connect with other folks in person, not through a computer.

However, as a communication professor, and one who teaches public relations and who employs social media marketing as an indie author, I am somewhat obligated to “stay connected”—to “communicate”—though honestly, at times, I want to curl up with a good book or watch “24” and not communicate. It can be exhausting, at least it was for me, because I was using it not only as a touchstone with friends, colleagues, current & former students, and family, but also as a marketing tool as an independent author. The hours I spent crafting messages and writing dopey posts could have been spent elsewhere, and most assuredly, in a more productive way.

It’s true; I didn’t stay away for long. I have a book I’m about to release and promote (in moderation), and more importantly, there are friends I have on Facebook that I love keeping in touch with on a regular basis.

So what did I learn from the temporary disconnection?

I’m going to approach it in a whole new way. I will dabble when I want and when I feel it’s right, and not because I feel compelled to do so. No one really gives a crap whether you’re on vacation, sitting by the pool, or at swim team practice. We are all doing the same types of things during the day. If we can be perfectly blunt, we want to feel special, but the truth is, we’re all doing the same types of things day in and day out, with an occasional trip to some exotic place. We’re all the same, people.

Which brings me to the pleasure I’ve found on Instagram. It’s a less bitchy forum. People “like” pictures you’ve taken and people don’t get snotty or decide not to “like”  or boycott your postings. No one cares there. You just post things that are pretty or interesting or funny. Some people like them, some people don’t, and no one takes offense either way. I don’t think I can say the same for the way people behave on Facebook.

If it sounds like I’ve soured a little with regard to Facebook, perhaps I have. In speaking with other folks who have quit Facebook all together, it’s interesting to hear the resounding benefits they declare in having done so, with all of them reporting that it was “one of the best decisions they have made” for numerous reasons from leaving behind jealous friends to spending more quality time with people they care about to just not wanting to play the social media game anymore.

For now, the jury’s out for me. I have way too many people that I care about and want to stay connected with on Facebook who are not on Instagram, and it’s the real reason I decided to come back. Mashable also wrote an article about why millenials are leaving Facebook. The dynamics of social media are fascinating, and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to eliminate it for a bit. Now, I can honestly say that it’s my choice to stay connected simply because I don’t want to lose touch with friends that I care about and would miss tremendously should I shut it down for good. I also know my behavior with regard to it will be modified by my own choosing.

* * *

IMG_2631Author’s Notes:

Two quick things: I’m reading a good book, I watched “24” last night, I’ve gotten off my duff and exercised, and I’m spending more time with my family.

 

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6 thoughts on “What One Week Away From Facebook Taught Me

  1. This is a great post! I am so aware of my love/hate relationship with Facebook. I don’t have a lot of the negative snottiness that you speak of, but there was a period of time where there were people I was “connected with” who were too full of drama. I extricated myself. But I do understand how there are many other things that one could be doing instead of spending time on Facebook (and other social media). Like you, there are reasons why I can’t disconnect. I live in Taiwan, and my children are in the US. Facebook is how we stay in touch (Skype is nice occasionally), but I don’t have time for that all the time. I also use Facebook with my students to encourage them to “practice” their English by chatting with me. It’s not too time-consuming because (1) not that many are actually brave enough to do it, and (2) when they do chat, they type slowly enough that I can do my other FB stuff at the same time.

    However, before even seeing your post, I have been thinking of setting some specific “no Facebook zones,” so that I have a couple days a week where I only check in at the end of the day. Of my children, it’s my daughter who communicates the most with me on Facebook, so I’ll just have to let her know the “zones” so that if she wants to contact me during those times, she knows to pop me an email instead of sending an FB message.

    So your post came at a good time. It’s interesting to read about your experience with pulling back from it. In fact, I’m teaching at a language summer camp next week. It might be a good time to start experimenting.

    1. Deborah,

      I am so glad this one spoke to you. I’m sure it speaks to a lot of us who are beginning to feel like we are wasting our time looking at computer screens or at our phone screens. I’m beginning to wonder if life is passing me by. I’ve decided that I’m now reserving the computer for blogging, writing, work, and an occasional “fly-by zone,” (I loved that you termed it that. So great!)

      In an effort to garner more time for myself, my kids, my husband, my parents, my in-laws, and dear friends, I must power down more often and not take the time to check-in to Facebook as I was doing in the past.

      I’m not advocating that we don’t need social media entirely–it has its great points and great advantages, especially for one who must promote her own books. However, I was getting bogged down in nonsense, in petty crap that people get me involved with despite the fact that I have no interest in being involved in it, and there is most definitely immature behavior on Facebook by supposed grown women. They say people mature as they grow older. Some may, others don’t. I just don’t have a desire to be connected to immature, petty, jealous, silly people.

      Thanks for your comment. I really enjoyed reading your viewpoint on it.
      :-)

  2. Steph, this is a great post. I think Facebook in particular has woven it’s greedy little fingers into our society whether we want it to or not. I had a conversation the other day with a friend regarding facebook and how it reminds me of our cell phones 15 years ago. How we cannot live without one and if we go on vacation we usually bring the cell phone. With all the other apps and things on the phone nowadays, can we truly disconnect from technology and reconnect with society? The cell phone became a necessary evil. Facebook has become that way in a lot of ways. Can we call people instead of sending a Facebook message/posting on their wall or can we just share a photo in the privacy of your home instead of with all these “friends” on Facebook. What about going on vacation, do we really need to announce our vacation to everyone BEFORE we go on the trip then take pictures of the pilot, the seat we are in, the taxi driver, the hotel check in, the bed, the view, the cocktail, the meal, the ocean, the sunset, etc…etc? If we posted the pics AFTER we got back from vacation is it any less validating than posting them during the vacation?

    Trying to disconnect from Facebook even affects relationships. Trying to date or manage a marriage is tough enough. Facebook is the arch enemy (of the relationship) out there trying to suck you in and spit you out. I have had ex-girlfriends and potential girlfriends ask about the Facebook thing. Some have compared the relationship I am in with them to other relationships they see on Facebook. My hair stands up just thinking about it. Nobody posts anything bad on Facebook about their current relationship. No pics on the argument they had last night or the fact that someone had to sleep on the couch last night. When do you decide to update your status when dating someone new or worse yet, when you break up with someone, the whole Facebook world knows your business. I have friends and relatives who have become obsessive over Facebook and have struggled with their relationships because of it.

    What you said about Instagram is spot on. That’s why I have been spending more and more time on that social media than Facebook. It’s slightly more artistic with just photos and not a lot of commentary. As you said, you either like the photo or you don’t. Simple. No political rants, No worrying about relationship status updates, no drama kings or queens, not too much craziness where someone posts a pic and you scratch your head and wonder “what the heck?”.

    As a business story, Facebook is one for the ages. For all the social media that follows, Facebook will forever be talked about. It truly defines all that is good and bad with social media. I, for one am one of the worst Facebook people ever. I don’t update too often and I usually just see what my friends have been up to but I am just as guilty for posting things on Facebook that really have no business being on Facebook. I try and remember this when I post things or status updates.

    My sabbatical with Facebook is coming. The only thing about it though, is you won’t know I did it because I am not going to announce it on…… you guessed it Facebook.

    Brian B.

  3. I forgot to mention that I also watched “24” and I am also reading a couple good books. I have been spending most of my time writing a lot of music and listening to new music. Nothing to do with social media thank goodness.

  4. Brian,

    Thank goodness. And “24” has been incredible this season, dammit!

    There’s a great saying I read recently at http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-facebook-friends_b5869

    “Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know.”

    While I wouldn’t go this far (though it is pretty funny!!!), I think people can be pretty ignorant on Facebook, whether it’s intentional or not. I don’t always think people mean to behave badly on it, but when they begin to boycott you or gossip, it’s time to power down. Instagram doesn’t have that same vibe, and I can understand why the millenials are leaving Facebook for that form of social media.

    I’m going to find great peace with this decision to back out and only post when I FEEL LIKE IT as opposed to FEELING COMPELLED TO post. I think this approach will help me strike a balance, and now that I’m nearing the end of my 40s, I’m just starting to not give a rip about the opinions of others, and will continue to care for my family, nurture my strong friendships, and go about my business in my merry old way.

    You take that sabbatical and enjoy it. I did. And I may opt to take another one.

    One never knows.

    xo

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