After spending years building up a “friends” network and feeling a significant amount of gratification from “likes” on posts that can take minimal effort, committing Facebook “suicide” may seem like a daunting proposition for many users. I enjoyed posting articles and calls to action for causes, seeing it as efficient activism. Staying in touch with friends that lived far away is also a great feature of Facebook. However, I began to feel that Facebook may have made my social life too easy: I was connected to all my “friends” all the time (even when I’m out with friends, family or at home in my sweats), and so I never had to make difficult decisions about my social life, not having to choose who to spend time with, as I am able to “spend time” with everyone at once. The other downside is that it is distracting when I actually am doing something that needs my attention.
I realized my use of Facebook was causing me to give away my most valuable commodity, time, without much reflection. Value can be calculated in many ways, and as time is our most valuable commodity (you can’t buy it and it literally makes up your life) I felt it was important that I used it in the most auspicious way possible. An hour on Facebook meant that I could make contact with many people at once, but the contact is, for the most part, trivial. Facebook messaging and posts are much less effective forms of communication than were written letters. This might be due to the amount of time and effort put into the communication: letters took time and focus to compose (the subject matter/topics had to be organized into a comfortable flow so that the reader could understand the message) and required resources to produce (paper, ink and stamps cost money). This meant that you could not send a letter to everyone you knew on a regular basis: you had to be selective, sending letters and maintaining relationships only with the people who were important to you. This made it a necessity to make decisions as to your social contacts and interactions: the person had to be worth your time and you had to be worth theirs if a relationship was going to continue and grow.
Frequently using Facebook can, to a large extent, eliminate this thoughtful socialization. You never loose contact with anyone (unless you have a falling out, in which case they (or you) can be “defriended”, blocked, or both) and yet have access to the minutia of their lives (you can see what they had for breakfast, read about their unfortunate car trouble and see their latest vacation pictures). This creates an false sense of connection: you know a lot about the person’s everyday life, but rarely or never, speak to them. It has been too easy to stay and make “friends”. I think the lack of effort which is involved with same may have a lot to do with the present “loneliness” crisis: we are all very connected without having much human contact or actual relationships.
I used to spend quite a bit of time of Facebook (it was a daily usage of at least an hour) reading and sharing articles from my favorite publications, having “discussions” with friends and looking at pictures (not all of them were cute animals, but that’s besides the point). I would also loose time on Facebook, looking up at the clock only to realize a half hour had passed when I only intended to spend 15 minutes when I clicked on the app.
After a “unconnected” vacation, where I did not check Facebook or other social media for about a week and a half, I had felt more rested than I had in a long time. I realized that I had sacrificed a lot of attention and energy to notifications and constant connection without generating a good return on the investment. I wanted to keep my “rested vacation” vibe going (well, as much as possible) when I got home. However, I also didn’t want to get rid of Facebook completely, as I have lived in several places over the past 10 years and did not want to completely sever contact with all those friends (hypocritical? Maybe. But, the human spirit is only rational to a point) with a click.
I decided to restrict my Facebook usage instead of eliminating it completely. I disabled all notifications (on devices and e-mail), deleted the apps from my phone and actually logged off (I was always logged on) committing to only log on on Sunday mornings for an hour. I chose an hour a week because if I were to attend a discussion group or other event, I would likely attend once a week for about that amount of time. If I missed Sunday (when I embarked on this I didn’t think that would be a possibility) I would have to wait till the next week. To keep myself accountable, I posted about my new commitment on my page, leaving my e-mail contact if anyone wanted to get in touch with me.
The first few days were odd and uncomfortable: anytime I had a break, I reflexively would pick up my phone or grab my laptop to log in. I decided instead to complete a small task with my 15 or 20 minutes (this usually meant doing a chore that I had been avoiding or going out for some exercise). Over the week, I realized how much time and how many opportunities I had lost by over-using Facebook: my usually messy house was strangely in order, I had several great bike rides and swims in place of “connecting” and I was much calmer than usual.
On my first Sunday, I got up, had my coffee (and cigarette, this will have to be the next to go) and relaxed with a book for about 45 minutes. I did some dishes, got laundry started, re-potted a plant and played with my dog. I didn’t realize until about 11:30 that I had not yet logged on. I opened the site to find 44 mostly useless notifications, 4 messages that I was able to respond to in under 5 minutes. I posted an article and logged off. I smiled; I had the whole day ahead of me.