I can’t be the only one who is completely sick of talking about Facebook, thinking about what I read on Facebook, or wishing there was an IQ test before people are allowed to post on Facebook.
So yeah, here I am writing about Facebook again, but maybe that’s because I’m logging off Facebook for Lent. No, I don’t usually celebrate “Lent” in the strict sense of the word, but this year I am trying to focus more on relaxing, my relationship with God and simply detoxing my brain. And to do that I have deactivated my Facebook account for an entire – gulp – 40 days. (I do, however, have a business page that is being maintained by a “ghost account” simply for blog posts. I won’t really be checking it because not too many people see the page, however, and I have no “friends” on the ghost account.)
Incidentally, the phrase “detoxing my brain” makes me think of sliding a toilet brush in and out of my ears and after reading the cesspool that is the current state of national news, I think that might be a good analogy. I’ve really been trying to avoid the news as I begin to detox, I really have, but almost every day I find myself peeking through my fingers, hoping something positive has happened, only to see it’s only gotten worse every, single day. It’s completely insane how crazy the national media is and I no longer know what is true or who to believe so I decided not to believe any of them. Part of my detox, therefore, will also be trying not to look at any news sites, which I have actually blocked on my phone.
Note I say “national media. My husband is a member of the small town news media, and I used to be, and that is a whole other “kettle of fish”, so to speak. Smalltown news is pretty tame and less prone to sensationalism, though some people are convinced that the behavior of the national media is trickling down to the local newspapers. They look for conspiracies even in the coverage of the school board meetings, as if any of the small town reporters have enough time or gumption to concoct stories slanted one way or another. Most small town reporters want to get in and get out of their meetings and go home on their meager salaries and eat some beans out of a can while binge-watching Netflix, since they can’t afford cable on their salary.
But I have digressed – as I so often do.
My brother and his wife have decided to completely delete their Facebook accounts after Lent, if not before. Adapting to a world without Facebook will be a challenge, but it’s needed, my brother, who will turn 50 in a few more months, says. Turning 50 has apparently caused him to reexamine his life and I’d rather he give up Facebook than dump his wife for a younger woman and buy a Harley during this phase. I’ll miss tagging him in all those memes about being the favorite child, but texting him to say so will do just as well.
I am torn between wanting to completely delete my account and keeping it to stay in contact with some friends and family, but honestly, most of those friends and family don’t actually speak to me, even on Facebook. Most likely I’ll decide to say good-bye to Facebook by the end of Lent. I highly doubt I will be missing much when I do and I might even have more time for other activities like I did when I took a break from the social media giant in December. The best thing about shutting my account down? Never writing another bloody blog post about Facebook and hopefully never talking about it again either.
Some people probably even think you have died. You haven’t posted in a week and you’re not liking their posts to show them you still care about their thoughts (because this is the only way people communicate or feel validated anymore). They don’t see you in person because, well, you’re not online so they figure you might be depressed (and who wants to deal with depressed people? Yuck!) or sick or mad about something and they don’t want to know about any of that stuff.
If they do see you in person they tell you how much they love the photos of your kids, which you stopped posting several months ago, and then stare awkwardly at you because, since you no longer post status updates, they don’t know what is really happening in your life. I mean, what if it is bad? Then they’ll feel bad they didn’t know. And what if it is good? Either way they’ll be trapped listening to you share about your life without the ability for them to simply click like and scroll by you so they can quickly move on to the meme with the kitten clinging to a limb (aaaawww! Kitties!)
I thought leaving Facebook back in December would make in-person interactions with friends become more of an occurrence and when they did happen it would be more meaningful. Such was not the case and I know it will not be the case again when I walk away from Facebook again in March.
I accidentally restricted my posts from someone even before I left Facebook and they told me they had no idea what was going on in my life because they couldn’t see my status updates. They told me this on messenger. Because apparently picking up the phone would have been way too mentally taxing. Can you imagine if they had had to speak to me in person? Why I just shudder to think of the horrors that might have entailed. Actual human interaction? Ew.
Thankfully they sent an apology for their actions via messenger to a family member of mine. I feel much better now, knowing they still don’t care enough to pick up the phone or actually speak to me about what’s actually happening in my life, but hey, at least they can talk to a relative about me – via text.
So, yes, I went back to Facebook after my break from it in December and instead of being excited and feeling refreshed to handle it all again I almost immediately felt annoyed. The break was a wake-up call to me to how vapid and ridiculous Facebook is.
The first week or so I was back on I watched someone rant about people complaining about the walk to their car in the morning being cold. People had no right to complain about how cold it was to walk to their cars because by doing so they were clearly spitting in the face of every farmer in the world that has to go out at 4 a.m. to milk the cows in such awful cold. I wasn’t sure of the logic behind this post but I guess the poster wanted us to be sure that we remembered that farmers are suffering in the arctic cold. In other words all they had to write was: “Remember that farmers have to go out in this cold, no matter what. They don’t have a choice. Think of them and say a prayer.” That was way easier than the virtual smackdown that was clearly unnecessary but is a common occurrence on Facebook, where someone is always more important than someone else (and don’t you forget it because if you do they’ll be sure to remind you in a passive aggressive meme.)
Then there were the passive-aggressive, leading questions.
“Does anyone know why school is even closed today?”
The person could have easily written: “It’s stupid that school is closed today” because that was obviously their opinion in the first place or they wouldn’t have added “EVEN” to their question. The leading questions dripping in sarcasm are always fun to read – over and over and over again throughout our feeds.
And, really, that’s what my disdain for Facebook comes down to these days. Ninety-eight percent of what is there is unnecessary. I’m not only preaching to other people here. I’m preaching to me too. Almost everything I have posted there in the last ten years (my word! Ten years?!) has been much of the same. Looking back at my posts over the years is like looking at my journals from seventh grade. It’s definitely cringe-worthy; like mental fingernails on the chalkboard of my immature past. I would definitely say the site has brought out the worst in me, the grumpy, judgmental and complaining person I used to keep locked in my private, tangible journal. For many of us Facebook has made us think complaining about everything under the sun should be a normal part of our life when, newsflash, it shouldn’t.
Choosing to no longer log on to Facebook every day or maybe even every week has been a decision I have felt I’ve needed to make for a long time. I can’t imagine how much further in life I’d be if I had never logged on to the site in the first place, all those years ago. It will be interesting to see where life will take me as I plan to log out and leave it behind for a long while, if not for good.
For now the breaks from it have taken me behind the scenes of the real-life walking dead (in some ways) and out back into the land of living, where I am able to seek out new friends who can still talk to me even if I don’t post for everyone to see which emotion I’m feeling at any given moment.
When bloggers and others talk about a social media break let’s be honest, we know they (we) are talking about Facebook. As far as social media goes, Facebook is the biggest time suck for most people. Not only that but Facebook has more information on you than anyone else and their tentacles reach into so many facets of the Internet, disconnecting from them for a while, or all together, is probably a pretty good idea.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t spend that much time on Facebook” and while it may be true that you don’t spend a large, continuous block of time there I have a feeling you spend much more than you think. In the same way someone who wants to lose weight benefits from keeping a food diary, someone who is considering a break from social media should write down each time they log on to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube.
I bet many of you would be shocked, or at least surprised, at how often you check those sites throughout the day. You may check first thing in the morning, at lunch, while waiting in line, while waiting at a doctor’s office, while waiting anywhere you have to wait more than ten seconds, throughout your evening and before falling asleep. I would bet that there are many times you intend to log on to the site only a few moments but before you know it an hour or two or more has passed and your children are wandering to the neighbors to ask if the neighbor will cook them dinner because you’ve been swallowed by the internet.
In December I started a Facebook detox after realizing how addicted I’d become to social media. It was keeping me from enjoying life and accomplishing tasks. It was actually Facebook’s own fault that I left the site for 30-days. They sent me a video featuring various images as a celebration of the fact I had been on Facebook for close to 12 years. Twelve, time sucking, anxiety-inducing, life-wasting years, with some chances for staying connected to faraway friends and family (the only positive I could think of).
The realization of how much time I had wasted staring and scrolling, comparing and crying over things I had read or watched there hit me hard and all I could think was “how much further would I be in life without this stupid site?”
I feel almost embarrassed to admit that the detox was difficult and tested my will-power, showing me how much Facebook and it’s validation-psychology actually had a hold over me. I would have been more embarrassed if I hadn’t known there were thousands more who felt like me based on the fact that an internet search yielded page after page of links either focusing on the author’s own decision to detox or an article showing you how to do your own detox.
I’m not sure why I feel the need to offer yet another blog post offering advice about how to prepare for and succeed with a detox from social media but since all our experiences are unique I’ll offer the plan of action that worked best for me.
Write down how you plan to fill your time while you’re on the break. Maybe I’m the only one that over thinks and overly prepares (at least for some things) but list ideas of what you will do during the free time you’ll have now that you’re not logging on to social media. List things like “read that book I bought two years ago and never read,” or “stain the deck,” or “organize the bedroom closet.” Include things in the list you know you’ve wanted to accomplish but haven’t because you’ve let your brain take a walk around the block while scrolling on your phone.
Make a list of hobbies or interests you have been wanting to explore more. When you take a break from social media you’ll suddenly discover you have more free time, almost too much free time. Now that you have more free time you can explore hobbies you either used to do or always wanted to do. For me, I’ve started to learn more about cooking, delved back into sketching, and am considering archery. I’m kidding about the archery. I have no interest in that. I’m actually focusing on low-impact workouts versus picking up a bow and arrow. You never know where exploring a new hobby will lead you either; maybe even a new career.
Charge up your Kindle, or e-reader, or get a stack of actual, physical books together. Reading is an amazing way to escape from the world and your stress. I highly recommend something in the fiction genre to truly distract you from the real-life drama around us. Right now I’m reading the first in a series about a British aristocrat and her “lady in waiting” who investigate mysteries together. I’m not exactly sure when the stories take place but it seems to be the 20s or 30s. The first book is titled “A Quiet Life in the Country: A Lady Hardcastle Mystery.” by TE Kinsey. (Edited to add: I wouldn’t recommend book two. It is just dragging on and on and on. It’s a bit like being tortured in with David Copperfield in high school at this point. I don’t recommend continuing the series.)
4. Make a list of tasks you haven’t got to that you know you would complete if you put away the distractions of social media. For me this included updating my stock photography portfolios, updating this blog, updating my online photography portfolio, keeping track of what I’m eating, and cleaning my closet out. Guess which ones I still haven’t tackled, even with the social media break?
5. Call friends and ask if they want to actually meet in person. That’s right. People really can still meet in person and have face-to-face conversations. Try it while you’re on your detox and enjoy remembering the old days of actual human interaction. Personally, this has been a bit of a failure for me as my friends are too busy to meet in person right now (maybe they need an intervention for their social media addiction?), but I’ll keep trying. Their life has to slow down at some point, right? Right?!
Seriously, I’m sure we will get together in person soon. And even if you don’t meet up with friends, go out and talk to actual people. Visit a museum, visit a local coffee shop and smile at people – look at the world around you and notice some things you didn’t notice before because your head was down, looking at your phone or device. Yes, as an introvert, this particular advice is hard for me to follow myself, but I’m working on it. One little step at a time, okay? Be patient with me.
6. Find a good documentary to watch and learn more about the world. While I don’t recommend trading one addiction for another, finding a good documentary or Netflix series that teaches you about another part of the world or about those who lead a different life than you is an excellent way to expand your mind. Learning about life somewhere else doesn’t always happen on social media where we mainly associate with people we know or who are interested in the same things we are. I’ve been watching a few of these types of documentaries and two I recommend happen to be related to food.
In Search of Israeli Food is about the food of Israel and it also touches on the different cultures there and the conflicts between the Israeli’s and Palestinians. It follows the journey of Michael Solomonov an award-winning American chef who was born in Israel. He travels to Israel and meets various chefs there and also reflects on his own childhood, which was affected by the death of his brother, killed by Palestinians along the border.
Another is called Theatre of Life and it is about Massimo Bottura, the top chef in the world, who helped open missions in Italy feeding the poor with the waste from restaurants and supermarkets and cooked by world-renowned chefs. It not only shares the story of the chefs but the stories for the people who come to the centers because of their life situations.
Some other suggestions on what to do during your break (a few are repeats from above):
Go for a hike or just a walk
Start an exercise program
Take up a hobby
Clean out your closets
Declutter your house
Order and frame all photos stuck on your hard drive
Make a photo book full of all the photos still stuck on your hard drive
Paint a room in your house that you hate the color of
Start volunteering at local nursing homes
Call friends you haven’t talked to in a long time
Visit local museums
take an online class (many universities offer them for free)
So, the bottom line is this: you will be fine if you detox yourself from social media. In fact, you might have more of a life if you put the phone down, shut off the computer and simply walk away from it all for a while, or for good.