I have an addictive personality, if there is such a thing. At the very least, I’m prone to overindulgence in anything I enjoy: food, drink, the company of my favorite people. The necessary results are obvious. I’m chubby, frequently hung over, and have to be dragged away, kicking and screaming, from spending quiet nights at home with my husband. More troublesome, I also find I get sucked into easy, mindless entertainment. I’ve spent entire days on the couch watching Sex and the City marathons and most recently, I’ve realized just how much time I waste checking Facebook.
My complaints with Facebook are several:
1) While my close friends are on my feed, they’re buried in the white noise created by the kids I sat next to in 11th grade calculus and those guys from that college party when we hotboxed an igloo. It’s not that I don’t care about the difficult decision between getting an iPhone or a Droid. It’s just… who the hell are you?
2) Despite having no idea who these people are, I still read about every damn one of their wild Saturday nights, their insane workloads, and their political opinions. Even though I can’t always place their faces, this is the first thing I do in the morning when I reach my computer. Even as I write it, it makes no sense. I’m carefully following the activities of near strangers instead of catching up with real friends or the news or, whoops, work emails.
3) I can’t stop. It’s like snack food all over again. Once I pop, I just can’t stop. It doesn’t matter that I don’t care and that I consciously know that there are a dozen more productive and interesting ways to spend my time. If I’m logged into Facebook, I will check it at least once an hour while I’m in front of the computer. I began to feel powerless against this time suck. It can be a fun tool but my relationship with it is making me resent the whole damn thing.
4) Speaking of relationships, I’m afraid it’s changing how I communicate with others. I’m horrified to think that I drop close friends a two-line inane wall post once a week instead of having a real honest-to-God conversation with them once a month. There have been volumes written on how social media is changing how we communicate with one another and in this case, I don’t like it.
5) Did you ever notice that even sweet little old ladies will flip you off in traffic? Interacting through a computer seems to give us the same cajones that the highway does. Maybe it comes from physical separation or some sort of mental distancing? Maybe it’s the lack of reality? Whatever it is, it makes me dread every election as my feed fill up with the effluvium of political warfare and ever increasing frequency of sentences written in all caps. We’re all friends according to Facebook but we’re ready and eager for violent conversation. Most recently, I’ve even participated in one. Over the stupidest of topics with a close friend. But the conversation would never have spiraled out into an ugly mess had we been face to face.
So, last Friday morning, I logged out of Facebook for a one-week sabbatical. I don’t intend to totally eschew their services entirely. In moderation, I like what they offer. What my vacation did was help break the addictive spell over me and help me decide on some changes to make for the future:
1) I whittled down my feed to just the people I really care about. I don’t mean I unfriended, I just hid them. If I would feel uncomfortable getting caught in a one-on-one in-person conversation with them, I hid their posts. Why didn't I just purge my friend list? I’ve had several discussions about just that this week. In the end, I’m anti-purge. I don’t particularly care what my friend number is but I know it hurts some people’s feelings when their number depletes and I don’t want to do that for the sake of my own neurosis. Plus, I like the option of looking them up if a good reason presents itself.
2) Already, Facebook checking feels less compulsive. I’m going to limit my time there to once every few days instead of once every 15 minutes.
3) In my time away from Facebook this week, my communication habits have realligned. I exchanged delightfully and epically long emails with my best friend of almost 20 years. I had dinner with good friends that I haven’t seen in months. I called people.
4) My notifications are permanently staying off. I don’t need to be alerted by email every time someone comments on a picture that I liked two months ago.
Now I’m back and the first thing I did when I logged in this morning after a week’s silence was to make real plans with real friends. Then I logged out and got to work at my real job.