I took a break from Facebook. Like that old song about the jet plane goes, “I don’t know when I’ll be back again.” But it had to be done. I was losing my mind – and myself – on the “social network.”
Facebook was at one time a virtual savior for my introverted self. It has always been somewhat difficult – okay, awkward – for me to interact with people. Since I was a little kid I have always felt like people look at me like I am an alien when I speak to them. I have always kept a close few friends nearby who “get” me. But large groups of people, especially people I don’t know well, are the scariest of situations for me. I don’t do well at parties. I’m not a mingler. But then came Facebook. Facebook allowed the writer in me to come through. On Facebook I had zero fear. I could say what I wanted or needed to say, and it came out the way I wanted it to. I could interact with people the way I have always wished I could. I didn’t feel like a social failure on Facebook. People liked me there. I had friends who would tell me they came to my page first to see what I was saying. When I commented on my friends’ posts, my words came out strong and witty, not bumbled language mixed with a red face. Facebook was my savior.
That was five and a half years ago. It is safe to say that though my physical body has remained here on Earth, in my house, living my life, raising my kids, going to work every day, going to my kids’ hockey games, my mind has taken up residence on Facebook. On my wall. I live there. That is my existence. My kids’ lives are there. My youngest son’s life has been chronicled there since he was five. If only it was just a documentary of my life. But just like all things used in excess, Facebook became an addiction for me.
I became obsessed with posting my every waking thought. My thoughts are so witty, so smart, they all must be shared on Facebook. Right now. I am eating at Red Robin. Right now. Thought you’d want to know. I am seeing a movie with this friend. Sorry you weren’t invited, but I’m not going to NOT post it. You must know what I am doing. Right now. My kids won both of their hockey games this weekend. You have never met me, or perhaps haven’t seen me since the eighth grade, but you will definitely need to know all of this. I am in no way attempting to disparage others who do these things on Facebook. I am saying this has become a problem, an obsession for me. I want to be a writer someday, you see. But I have no time to write. Because I work all day, and when I get home I am taking care of my kids and my house and talking to my husband about his day. Facebook is an outlet for me to let little tidbits of my writing escape, so I feel like I am doing something, you see. I will tell Facebook about anything and everything before I even think of telling my husband or my mom.
I want the likes. Everyone wants the likes. The likes, to me, are like a high. I am being validated with every like. You may have been scrolling through your phone at light speed and maybe just skimmed my post. But you pressed your thumb to that “like” button. And I am over the moon because of it.
The first thing I do in the morning after I wake up is check my Facebook account. I must scroll back to the last-seen post from the night before so I can catch myself up on my friends’ insomnia. Then I read something that I absolutely must comment on right now. It cannot wait. Who needs to get ready for work anyway? The last thing I do before closing my eyes at night is – you guessed it – check Facebook.
But the thing about any drug is that once you are addicted to it, you must keep it up to sustain that high, and then you must increase the amount you use it because it’s just not enough anymore. And then you find yourself holding onto your phone all the time. It might as well be a part of you. Your spouse or kids or friends right in front of you can be talking to you and you are scrolling through the same stuff you saw an hour ago. It’s kind of like when you’re hungry for something and you keep looking in the refrigerator for food that isn’t there. It doesn’t matter how many times you look. At some point you expect to see something different that will feed that hunger.
And I have many times been the person who has her phone in front of me at a restaurant while eating with friends. I’m never alone, though. The drama I have become involved in on Facebook would put some of the “Real Housewives” shows to shame. Yes, on Facebook people aren’t afraid to say things. Things that wouldn’t be said to someone’s face can and will be said on Facebook. I have made comments on posts – stating my honest opinion about something – and then laid in bed awake worrying about what I would wake up to in the morning.
I have slowly become depressed, anxious, and angry inside. Having started a new job a few months ago, I was having a difficult time feeling like I fit in. I couldn’t figure it out. But I had a revelation a little over a week ago. What if this wonderful social network designed to keep us all so connected is actually ruining us? What if I can link all of the drama in my life to Facebook? What if this “social” network that made me feel like a rock star on a web page made me even more antisocial and awkward and is actually amplifying my shyness with others? My life cannot forevermore be my avoiding social contact, stumbling through any conversation, burying my nose in my book, and basically saying, “See you on Facebook!” as I run far, far away from these people.
I took a break. I shut my Facebook down for over a week. I chronicled my thoughts and reactions to my “withdrawals” in my Notes app on my iPhone. Here’s what happened.
The night I shut it down: I miss the not knowing. I miss the ignorance. I miss not knowing my friends’ opinions and I miss not caring about them. There is too much chaos in my brain from Facebook. My son is almost eleven and I’ve been on Facebook for five years. I went 31 years without Facebook. I worry too much about what people think of me on Facebook. I worry about things that shouldn’t even occupy my brain. Other people’s struggles on Facebook become my struggles. I lie awake thinking about things people are going through on Facebook that I can’t control nor can I change. Meanwhile my laundry sits in piles. I have taken thousands of pictures that just sit on my Facebook account. I have never printed one of them. I feel like I take pictures of my kids for the sole purpose of uploading them to Facebook. For what? Likes.
First day without Facebook: Woke up and the first impulse was to grab for my phone to, of course, get on Facebook. Have had to remind myself about three times in ten minutes that I’m on a break from it. Forced to start actually getting ready for my day. I am thinking about people who might not have seen my message alerting the masses to my departure. Fighting the urge to activate to message them. I feel like a missing person. I feel like I’m dead. I keep wondering what is going on there without me.
Interestingly, the first thing I did after initially closing this note was to click on Facebook. It is worse than I thought.
It’s my first impulse to try to check on Facebook to see what’s going on. Whenever there is a lull in any action, I want to reach for my phone.
Second day without Facebook: Feeling withdrawn. Woke up again feeling the undeniable urge to check my phone. I am spending hardly any time on my phone at all since without Facebook I’m finding little to do with it. Computer too. Battery is lasting me all day without charging. Missing the “social” aspect of it, but enjoying being connected to my actual family. I feel like I have time to actually text my family or friends. I don’t have the Facebook chaos running through my brain. However, I find myself thinking in Facebook statuses. Thoughts run through my head and I want to put them on Facebook. My kids say something and I want to immediately log on.
I was thinking this morning that Facebook is like selling one’s soul to the devil. Oh, it makes us feel good, that high we get from “likes” and comments, but it comes at a huge cost.
Rode bikes as a family. Enjoyed the trail and just watching life around me. Nice to watch the pumpkins being loaded onto the truck. Riding bikes through crunching fall leaves. There is life after Facebook.
Going to dinner with the family and absolutely no one will know about it. I feel like I am truly off the grid.
Every time I get a text or an email, my next reflex is to check Facebook. And I scroll through to find an app that isn’t there anymore. What a sickness.
Third day without Facebook: Third day without Facebook. First weekday. I was super productive at work. I was able to actually focus on my work. I do wonder what people are up to, but it’s starting to seem like a distant other world to me. Not having Facebook is a quiet world. It is silent. But it brings to mind the songs “Enjoy the Silence” and “Silence is Golden.” It truly is.
Later in the week: Have worried about big life events like holidays and graduations, etc. What will happen if I don’t Facebook those events?
One whole week without Facebook: One week without Facebook and I feel the happiest I’ve felt in years. I am not worried about what my friends are doing or saying. I am living my life. I have texted or emailed friends individually. It feels good to actually connect like that again.
It’s been ten days today. I just re-activated my account, but I haven’t said a word. I don’t feel the need to really. My hope is to be able to have a healthy relationship with Facebook someday. I don’t want to reside there anymore. I want people to be able to know me without the Facebook persona.
When I look back at my comments throughout the week in my diary, I have already begun to revise my thinking. As for holidays and graduations, special events, Halloween costumes, absolutely nothing will happen if I don’t Facebook those events. They will still happen and I will actually experience them. The only difference is that I am no longer going to need my Facebook friends’ validation of those events.
The world still turns without Facebook. The sun rises and sets. It is astounding how life resembles the life I knew as a child when I remove the complications. Life doesn’t have to be so hard. In the course of one week, giving up the weight that was dragging me to the bottom of the ocean, I described that feeling of loss as feeling like I was a missing person or even dead, when really I was in the process of getting my life back. I am alive. I’m out here in the world living that life. Facebook no longer owns me.
Silence is golden, but my eyes still see… There most certainly is life after Facebook.