28) One Month without Facebook

One month without Facebook? Isn’t that like going one month without food? Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but for many of us, myself included at times, Facebook has become an integral part of our daily routine and life in general. The social networking site reportedly has more than one billion active users worldwide, everywhere from the United States to Nauru. If you’ve never heard of Nauru, I hadn’t either until I did a quick search on the old Google to determine Facebook use by country and saw it listed. According to the always-verified-and-trustworthy Wikipedia, Nauru is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific, and, covering just slightly more than eight square miles, is the world’s smallest republic. Apparently, one hundred percent of Nauru’s internet users, just five percent of the total population, are also Facebook users. Maybe joining Facebook is a clause they must adhere to when they sign up for internet.

Anyway, as I was saying, a ton of people use Facebook. And to those who argue that the number-of-users statistic isn’t accurate because some people have multiple accounts, well, to them I say that anywhere in the vicinity of one-seventh of the world population having their life displayed on a silly little website (no offense, Mr. Zuckerberg, or whoever actually created Facebook, as ‘The Social Network’ made me somewhat confused on that whole issue) is pretty astounding, especially considering that roughly the same percentage of the world population lives without electricity. Wait, what? Yes, the number of people that live in the dark, have no refrigerators nor have access to modern hospital services, is the same as the number of people who have an unlimited (and unfortunately sometimes unfiltered) ability to create an online world their friends and family can see. And “like”. And comment on. And speculate about. And draw incorrect assumptions and conclusions from. And whatever else people do on Facebook.

Now, before I sound like a hypocrite, I will freely admit that I’m guilty of not only using Facebook, but abusing it to a certain extent as well—in that at times it’s been too much of a fundamental part of my daily routine. I just woke up and desperately need to relieve my bladder from the seven-hour hold? Well, that can wait until after I check Facebook to see when the last time Bob relieved his bladder. It’s mid-afternoon and that editing project with a 5:00 pm deadline is pages and pages and pages from being done? Well, surely I have time to just hop on Facebook and see what project Fred is working on. It’s evening and I really ought to go for a run, make dinner, return the call I missed from my sister a week ago, do laundry and respond to at least one of those personal emails that are now filling up two pages of my inbox? Well, it’s been at least a few hours since I’ve been on Facebook, and therefore I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of important, life-changing things like how many times Bob used the bathroom or if Fred made his project deadline. Oh, and I have to be updated on which hilarious memes are currently trending. Sure, these are slight embellishments, but I think my point is clear. And, in continuing to be totally transparent, on numerous occasions I’ve definitely checked Facebook more than “just” three times per day as the aforementioned example might lead you to believe.

Certainly, to counteract all the seemingly negative things I’ve said about Facebook, it has its merits. It’s a convenient and easy way to see who is pregnant or just had a baby (everyone), peruse photos of awesome trips friends recently took and reconnect with long-lost friends. It can also be a great tool for organizations or people with certain careers. I acknowledge the benefits and positive attributes of Facebook, and I do not negatively judge those with strong attachments to the site.

That said, I can easily avow that taking a one-month hiatus from the social networking site provided me more positivity than the noted benefits have done. Admittedly, it was a bit challenging at first. As previously stated, logging into Facebook to see the latest happenings, or post something about my own latest happenings, was something I did daily, if not more often. But, as the hours turned to days, and the days turned to weeks, I realized I wasn’t even missing it. I mean, was there a legitimate reason to check in every few hours, or even once a day? Was I really missing out in life by not being regularly updated on what Bob had for lunch or when the last time Fred used the bathroom? On the flip side, was anyone else really missing out by not being able to see a recent picture I posted, or read one of my updates that only I and maybe a few others found funny or interesting? The answer was no. My life had certainly continued, just as I’m sure everyone else’s did despite my lack of adding things to their newsfeed. If I wasn’t able to pinpoint the value the site provided my life, then was there any? If my life didn’t fall apart due to temporarily abandoning Facebook, did it stay the same, or maybe even improve?

Though it’s hard to look back and quantify accurately and specifically the amount of time Facebook used up, I can attest that not using it definitely freed up time and enabled me to be more productive. I spent a little of my daily “Facebook time” tackling my 30×30 list, like learning more than two hundred ASL signs, several one-string-at-a-time guitar songs and even a handful of chords. I spent my time reading books rather than my newsfeed, and wrote my novel rather than status updates.

Furthermore, I believe I was more in touch with a number of people while not using the “social” network, because if I wanted to find out what was going on in someone’s life, I had to write or call rather than merely skim my newsfeed or visit that person’s page. Similar to me reaching out to my friends, I realized that if my friends had something exciting or important to share with me, or just wanted to keep in touch, they called or wrote. I even received a handwritten letter!

Finally, in addition to having more time to pursue my goals, and a stronger inclination to keep in touch with friends beyond the extent of clicking a thumbs-up icon, not using the site helped me maintain my self-esteem. Before Facebook, I never used to measure my value by the number of friends I had, or perceive my importance based on the number of “likes” my photos and updates received. Also, not seeing the delicious meals friends had prepared, taken pictures of and shared with the Facebook world allowed me to enjoy my low-maintenance (okay, lazy) dinner of a tuna fish sandwich, and not feel bad that I hadn’t made a gourmet dish. (To my friends who are culinary masterminds and post photos of their works of art, right on; others may be inspired to try to emulate your skills!).

When I initially wrote this goal, I had no idea what kind of impact taking it on or achieving it would have on me. I thought it might be tough, sure, but I never would’ve guessed that not using Facebook would affect me the way it did. Or make me realize the way using it had been affecting me. Years ago, while I was still a Myspace user, I remember being resistant to Facebook. I lamented about converting to the new platform, I was confused about the picture-sharing concept my friends touted as one of its biggest advantages, and I was by and large not interested in joining. My resolve finally crumbled one day and I joined the movement. Now, however many years later, I happily revert to my original stance and state that I will no longer be using Facebook. Call me old-fashioned, but I look forward to writing more emails, using my phone to actually make phone calls, and asking friends and family members about their lives with genuine curiosity because I will not already have gleaned (or think I have gleaned) every aspect of it on Facebook.

Note: In no way is this blog post meant to offend Facebook users, as I obviously was one for years. Everyone has their reasons for using it and I do not judge.

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