A month without Facebook

Ashley Goodsell/Signal Tribune<br><strong> For a habitual Facebook user, what would a month without it mean?</strong>
Cory Bilicko
Managing Editor

One late evening, a little more than a month ago, I found myself going through the “news” feed on Facebook, just out of habit.
I was enlightened about what one person had for dinner, discovered that another person gets really frustrated by fitted bed sheets and found out that someone else was having a hard time deciding from among the various movies playing at a local multiplex.
Then I realized about an hour had passed. Then it hit me: by reading about the minutiae of others’ lives, I was living vicariously (kind of) through them. But they’re not climbing Everest (not at that moment anyhow), they’re not relating a life-altering epiphany and they’re not directing valuable insights my way. They’re simply having a meal, making a bed and picking a film. And that’s all dandy and fine, but… as I’m peeking into the lives of others and reading about the mundanity, I’m not living my own life. In that lost hour, I could have been painting, reading, exercising, cleaning or working on a freelance project.
That is when I decided I needed a month-long break from Facebook. I’m not addicted to that social-media “playground,” but it has become a time-stealing habit. I thought that 30 days in Facebook Rehab would help me to see how valuable my time really is and that it’s not hard to do other, more meaningful, things instead of feeling bored for two seconds and then immediately checking in to the “news” feed.
Right after choosing to take the break, I decided I’d also write about it– intermittently, since I’m not much of a journal-keeper:

Day 1– Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013
It’s not so much that I miss it already, but I keep finding myself wanting to post things: either to share something I like (VH-1’s Pop-Up Video), or a request for help (“How do I remove the Jay-Z radio station from ‘My Favorite Stations’ on the music-streaming service Spotify, since I didn’t actually save it as one of my favorites?”).
I’m realizing that Facebook has created in me a (false?) need to share everything I like but that it’s also become a source of assistance (crutch?) for me. I have a feeling that is the characteristic that I’ll miss most. I’ve used FB to help me solve many problems; it gives me quick access to hundreds of people (not sure of the exact number of FB friends I have since I’m not letting myself log on to it right now) to provide advice, guidance, solutions or answers, either en masse or cherry-picked for particular problems.

Day 2– Friday, Aug. 2, 2013

I find that I don’t miss scrolling through the News Feed to read about the minutiae of everyone’s life, but I do miss being able to seek advice from people; I’m planning to do some refinancing of credit cards, and it would be great to get others’ input on this. I’ll just make sure I read all the fine print on those credit-card offers before I make any decisions.
It is appearing that, for me, the addictive aspect of Facebook lies not in wanting to know what everyone else is doing, but in all the free advice!
I do keep finding myself getting the urge to log on to Facebook, without really knowing why. When I stop and ponder it, I come to the conclusion that the urge arises out of very fleeting moments of… boredom? Or maybe Facebook has become my go-to for breaks. I’m really not the type of person to get bored; there are SO many things I’m interested in doing, and I’m never actually bored, per se.

Day 9– Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
Now I’m starting to wonder what people are up to. (Maybe I was wrong in my previous assessment.) I just got the urge to log on to check the News Feed. I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve had no desire to, but now, for some reason, I’m having that feeling that I’m missing out on something.

Day 18– Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013

This is the closest I’ve come to logging on to Facebook since I started this break 18 days ago. But I’m holding fast. What’s the point of starting it if I’m not going to see it through? One month it is!
I’m starting to feel some guilt about not notifying certain people that I’d be taking a break from it. A few people have texted me to make sure I’m okay since they haven’t seen me on Facebook in so long. I guess that goes to show how significant a communication medium it’s become… and how much I’ve been using Facebook.
I have been spending more meaningful time with friends lately; this weekend alone, I was with five different friends at different times. Perhaps that is a consequence of this break. Maybe since I haven’t been social on Facebook, I’ve felt more of a need to actually be with other people.

Day 26– Monday, Aug. 26, 2013
This past weekend, I went to an indie-music festival in L.A. with some friends. We had a blast. Of course, I took lots of pictures. I went ahead and posted some of them to Facebook by simply uploading them from my phone, although I’m still not going on to the site. I’m realizing that Facebook is important to me as the means to document my life, in words and pictures. That is something I really like about it; I enjoy being able to organize all the photos I take at an event or during a particular occasion, sharing it (for those who are interested), and revisiting it later. It’s actually bugging me a little that I can’t do this yet for last weekend’s festival. Just a few more days to go.
It was a great feeling enjoying all the fantastic bands with my friends, as well as being among lots of (young!) people there.

Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013
Well, ‘tis over. And I’m grateful for the break. I think it has helped me see that I shouldn’t allow Facebook to get in the way of living my life, but it has also provided me with a new appreciation for it. Facebook, for me, can indeed be a real time-suck, if I allow it to be, but it also enriches my life in many ways. I love the quick and easy access it affords me to family and friends who live near and (especially those who live) far. I like knowing that people I care about are doing well; I just don’t need to know which shoes they wore today. I love that, through Facebook, I can get solutions to (sometimes unique) problems– solutions that I can’t necessarily find by using Google. And, as a family member, friend and artist, I love viewing people’s photos. Sometimes, in doing so, I get ideas for paintings.
Now that my break and writing about it are over, I’m going for a walk, and then I’m going to paint. Then I’ll probably return to Facebook and post about it… so that my friends and family can waste their time reading about it.

Culture

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