The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life. ~Andrew Brown
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Also around that time, another friend of mine was going through a divorce, and she didn’t want to be near Facebook. So due to their absence, I figured I might as well take a break from Facebook too. I never really thought it would change how I feel about myself and my happiness when I did stop Facebook, and yet it has in some odd ways. I also didn’t think it was going to be so easy since so many people seem “addicted” to it. And yet, it was easy, really easy, all you have to do is fill the void with something else.
First, let me say that I haven’t stopped Facebook completely. I do still have my personal page up, and I do visit it about once a month or less, depending on my mood. Other than deciding to post my wedding photos over this past snowy weekend, I haven’t actually posted anything on my page in about 2 years. I also choose to not comment, like, or do anything but occasionally scroll through my feed when I do check in. (Does that make me a lurker, even if it’s only once a month or less?)
And second, I have nothing against Facebook or its users. I use it as way to keep in touch with some family and a few friends. I also like to see the posts exclaiming weddings, engagements, and births. My sister started a page just for our families to share things, and I’ve seen a lot of cool pictures of great great grandparents and great great aunts etc on that page. I’m glad I can connect with my family past in such a way. But again, I only check it once a month maybe.
I’m lucky in the sense that I’m not stuck at a computer all day, in fact I sort of have to make time to be at a computer. However, I do have my phone with me at all times. So the first thing I did was delete the Facebook app off my phone. This made it harder to access when I was bored. It wasn’t the single push of a button anymore. If I wanted to look at it, it now required me to type in the address into the Google Chrome app.
However, I found myself not being bothered so much with having those extra steps, so I made it harder. I changed my password to something I would have to look up every time I wanted to check Facebook. This deadlocked me for enough time that I became less and less interested in wanting to check Facebook. But I still felt the twinge of wanting something to read, learn from, look at while bored at work. I had to find something to fill the void.
I don’t really play games on my phone. They are a last resort for my boredom. I don’t know why, but my mind wants to be busy thinking or learning or creating when it’s bored. So I found myself reading the BBC news app daily instead of Facebook. From there I hopped onto the AP News app. Then I downloaded the Duolingo app and started learning German in 10 minute increments. My current favorite app is Newsify, which is a app that aggregates my chosen blogs into one place. And to round out the whole field, I’ve started listening to podcasts ranging from the aforementioned Jack Kornfield to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as well as the TED talks. Facebook is often the last thing I think of now when I have free time.
What has this done for me? Well, I will say I’m quite informed on the news. I’ve also learned bits and pieces of German, that although they might never come in handy. And I have had my philosophy broadened by listening to the podcasts. Quitting Facebook has definitely increased my intellectual knowledge, but it changed me personally as well.
Once I stopped communicating on Facebook, my personal day to day relationships became more important to me. I became grateful to those who were my personal friends in real life, to really share a physical laugh with one another and not just “lol”. To have someone call me or hang out with me to talk and have real live discussions, not just leave a comment on a my page. And when my birthday comes around, getting a personal call or text telling me happy birthday just means more to me personally.
I’ve also become more content and happier with my own life. Consciously or subconsciously, social media has been shown to cause depression or discontent in people because we compare our lives to others on social media. After leaving it behind, I noticed that it did affect me somewhat in that way. Now I feel like my life is pretty awesome, and I also have very little desire to “brag post” about it. I feel better adjusted to my own whims and happiness instead of wondering if someone else is doing something better. And when I do see a post from a friend who is travelling some amazing country or a post about some wonderful night out or whatever, I find myself just being happy for that friend instead of envy or even jealousy.
In the long run, I’m grateful to those friends of mine who decided to quit Facebook for awhile. It gave me a chance to really change my own habits and become happier. Personally, I think everyone could do with a month or three without Facebook in order to see how they might be different too. Now if only I could learn to live without my iPhone in my hand all the time. Who knows what I could accomplish with that?
photo credit: Typography Project, I via photopin (license)