Disclaimer: None of this writing is intended to be a judgment toward you or any of my readers… especially you extreme lovers of Facebook. 🙂 These are merely thoughts and self-reflections I’ve had that I’ve decided to share openly. If they get you thinking and reflecting as well, even better. This writing came, not out of a need to explain myself, but merely out of a desire to express myself. Feel free to come along for the ride.
What would you do without your Facebook account for one day (assuming you currently have one)?
What would you do without your Facebook account for one week?
For a month? A year?
Okay, now I’m just being dramatic. But what are the feelings you just had in your gut just thinking about life without access to Facebook?
Ten months ago to the day, I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted the app off my iPhone. Yes, “deactivating” is technically still having an account, but the point is I stopped using it cold turkey.
As one might expect from someone who liked the occasional Facebook hit each day, there were a few days of withdrawal – not as bad as I had expected, but I did have a continued inclination to search my Web browser bar for the bookmark and a disappointed thumb looking for the now-deleted app from my iPhone.
“Michael, why in the world would you do such an act of anti-social behavior? What about all those people you abandoned who must have thought it was them who pushed you over the edge? What’s the matter? Did you stop LIKEing them? And the memes! For the love of all things holy, think of all the MEMEs you didn’t see!”
I decided I wanted some of my time back.
Well, I didn’t get time “back,” but it afforded me extra time in the future.
Thunk a Thought #1: I Learned About the Value of Time
Call it getting older. Call it reading “Getting Things Done” too many times. Or call it saving a TON of time not perusing Facebook each day. The value of time has become a greater reality to me. But let me say right away that I am far from being an expert with having a perfect time balance. It’s definitely an area in which I seek to continually grow. So don’t misread any of this as me proclaiming I’ve “figured it out” because I haven’t.
I truly believe that time is one of the greatest, most valuable assets we have a human beings and it’s also one of the most valuable treasures we have to give others. I want to use it wisely. And while the term “wisely” will be interpreted differently for each person – what’s a wise use of time for me may be a waste to you – the truth always remains that we each have 24 hours each day to do with it as we see fit… no more and no less.
I believe that where we find ourselves at a loss is often less about what we do with our time, and more about not being active stewards of our time. If I’m going to choose to play a video game instead of learning a valuable new skill, I want to at least be making a conscious decision to do so. If I’m going to waste time, I’d at least prefer it to be done consciously. In other words, I want to be actively managing my time.
Among the litany of options that “must”, “ought to”, or “could” be done, I want to be an active participant in what I ultimately choose to do. The ability to make this conscious decision is complicated with all the shiny time sucks that are encountered on the internet, or on TV or mobile devices, etc. Trust me when I say I absolutely LOVE technology and media… it’s my livelihood. But it takes consistent effort to balance necessary mini mind breaks with truly productive tasks. And, no, compulsively checking your email (even if it’s for your job) is not always a productive use of your time.
I think one of the most difficult places to be in terms of time management is “floating.” Moving from one shiny object to the next or being lured around from one person to the next with no real direction or purpose. And, boy, it’s easy with a solid internet connection. Facebook was just one of those shiny objects causing me to float a bit. I decided to disconnect for a while to get my bearings, and focus more on other things.
So how do you keep from just floating and start swimming? That is, how do you make conscious use of your time? For me, it’s asking myself, “What do I really want? Am I truly doing what is important to me right now?” Or “What is needed in this situation?” And then I make a decision.
Thunk a Thought #2: I Learned About the Value of Close Friends
If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, I will say I’ve missed you. I’ve missed seeing your latest meal, seeing your baby pictures, and laughing at your videos. At the end of the day, what’s special to my family and friends is special to me too.
Now that that is out of the way, I’ll ask you this question: “If you closed your Facebook account, how many of your “friends” would still remember your birthday? How many of your friends would still share things with you via email, a letter, a phone call, or a visit to your home? Likewise, with how many of those friends would YOU still be in contact?
In one instance over the past 10 months, I had written an email to a friend of mine wishing them a happy birthday. The response I got back was this: “I’m impressed you remembered my birthday, being that I am no longer on Facebook.” Their statement really hit me
I’m sure most people on Facebook have experienced the typhoon of good cheer on their birthdays or other holidays. I do appreciate the calendar system in Facebook. What became even more revealing to me about Facebook, is whom you still hear from in the absence of Facebook. Again, this is not a judgment – we can’t be in constant contact with everyone we’ve ever met… and that’s okay. But it is a subtle reminder of how important it is to have people who are truly close to you that you can trust and confide in and who will use any form necessary to stay in contact with you… Facebook, Twitter, email, phone call, home visit or whatever it takes. 🙂
Thunk a Thought #3: I Learned About the Value of Being in the Moment
“Check out this mole I just found on my leg!”
“I just had a successful bowel movement!”
“Have you heard what __insert latest celeb gossip here__ just did?”
These are just a few shared Facebook posts that would have been best left UN-posted.
I believe it is best sometimes to just enjoy a moment without the need to broadcast that moment.
I’ve learned that there is something virtuous about “special” things that happen to a person remaining unspoken to the Facebook masses. Even though my examples were a little over the top, this could apply to just regular, everyday things as well. In my opinion, there’s something to be said about enjoying a thing without the need to show everyone else the thing.
In some ways, I equate this to going to a fireworks show and seeing everyone recording it with their mobile phones. (If you’ve done this, you know who you are. It’s okay, I’ve done it too.) Sometimes I want to say, “PUT THAT DOWN AND JUST ENJOY THE FIREWORKS!”
Sometimes, the more we try to capture the moment, the less we are physically, cognitively, emotionally, and/or spiritually IN the moment. And, much of the time, just being in the moment is exponentially better than trying to enjoy its shadow (picture, video, etc.) later.
Thunk a Thought #4: I Learned the Value of Not Always Needing Approval From others.
There’s being in the moment without sharing it. There’s sharing a moment (or thing) to enjoy it with others. And there’s also sharing a moment (or a thing) because I desire the praise, admiration, and approval that comes from others.
There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with enjoying genuine positive feedback from others – I love it too. And there’s nothing wrong with the satisfaction that comes from making people laugh, smile or be moved or inspired by something you share… I get it.
Where it becomes a problem, I’ve found, is when getting that attention or getting that “Like” becomes a driving motivation. When sharing on Facebook becomes showing off on Facebook, it can become counterproductive. And since I don’t care to get into a discussion about how to differentiate “sharing” and “showing off,” I will say this: I believe it comes down to a person’s intentions and motivations. Basically, I’ll seek to keep myself in check and you seek to keep yourself in check. And if we ever start feeling like we’re getting carried away, we can always revert to Thought #3 and just be in the moment (not posting anything at all).
Thunk a Thought #5: I Discovered a Self-Inflicted Sense of Ostracism
When seemingly everyone else in using Facebook and you are not, it can make a guy (or girl) feel a bit ostracized. But in the case of leaving Facebook, I suppose it was self-inflicted ostracism (if ever there could be such a thing). It was fine, really. If you ever decide to take a break, know that you’re not really losing your friends and family. 🙂 You just may feel like you’re on a cyber-social deserted island…
Anecdotally, here’s a quick list of other things I learned from 10 months without Facebook on a more functional level:
- Many websites and blogs only give you the option to post a comment using Facebook. In short, if you want to leave a comment, you need an active Facebook account.
- Many online courses and interest groups have decided to use Facebook groups for discussion forums exclusively. In short, if you want to chat with the group, you need an active Facebook account.
- At the risk of sounding obvious, I’ll still say this: If you want to use Facebook for your own business, you pretty much need to have a personal account active to run it (though you don’t need to be socially active on your personal account, of course…). Last I checked, Facebook still likes to have a person tied to a business profile. That was not a surprise to me, but just something to keep in mind.
- You can’t officially “Like” anything ever again (without Facebook) on websites, blogs, etc. But who says you can’t “like” things the old-fashioned way, right? (The way that doesn’t require pushing a button)
- If you want to see pictures of your family and friends ever again, you’ll probably need an active Facebook account since most people don’t snail mail photos anymore. Yes, you may see the occasional emailed photo, but that’s still not too common. And while many of the other social media companies offer photo sharing, Facebook still seems to be the place where even great-grandma posts pictures.
All That Being Said… I’m Back
I am now back on Facebook… personally and professionally. I look forward to reconnecting and starting new connections on Facebook in the future. And I do hope to see it in a new light considering the thoughts I mentioned above. And knowing that my world, indeed, did not collapse without something like Facebook at my side, I can’t help but wonder what else we all can live without that seems so important or so essential to us…
What would YOU do or how do you think you would feel with a few days, a few weeks, or a few months without Facebook? Or, if you love one of the other social media more, how would you feel without one of those instead? Share YOUR thoughts in the comments below.