My Facebook Cleanse

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One of the things I did while on my Facebook break: Vote!

As you may know, I took a Facebook break for Lent. I don’t always “give up” things for Lent, but I knew I could use some time away from Facebook. I chose it solely and specifically because I didn’t like the power it had over me. Let me quickly explain that:

had to check it. I got somewhat nervous when I didn’t. It’s kind of like not having my phone nearby: I get worried I’ll miss something important.

had to update it. Not because I thought the masses cared or wanted to hear about my day or what was going on in my life, but to document things for myself and to tell others.

I was becoming increasingly annoyed on it. This isn’t Facebook’s fault. It’s my own. Despite culling my friends list and unfollowing people, things would be shared that would, to be frank, piss me off. Mostly, it was the content of the article, link, etc. that would annoy me, not the person sharing.

And so it seemed like the easiest thing to do was take a break to recharge and reflect. Before making my decision to take a break, I read about others who had done it. Perhaps you’ve read some of these articles, too. With them in mind, let me tell you what didn’t happen on my break:

I didn’t suddenly gain a ton of extra time to read more books, begin writing a novel, start a new hobby or perfect an old one. Really. I always try to manage my time effectively and if I’m determined enough to do something, I tend to do it. Maybe I read a bit more (or read different things), I don’t know. I definitely paid more attention to Twitter and Instagram. I even occasionally opened Snapchat. And I’m pretty sure I already read and write more than the average person, so none of that really changed.

I didn’t often miss it or frequently crave it. To be honest, I thought this whole process was going to be much more difficult. On occasion, I’d want to share something. On occasion, I’d miss an important life update from a friend. On occasion, I’d want to Facebook stalk (don’t judge…you probably do it too!). But more often than not, I didn’t really think about it. The hardest part was deciding to do it and deleting the app.

I didn’t have a radical epiphany that forever changed the course of my life. I did learn some things, which I will share in a moment, but for the most part, I’m already pretty happy about where I’m at in life, where I’m going and those accompanying me along the way. So no epiphanies for me.

Well then. If I’m not a new person with a new job and a freshly written novel that’s sure to be a bestseller, was my Facebook break even worth it? Absolutely. And here’s why:

I’ve been more focused. Let’s be real: Facebook permeates our lives. Watching TV? Time to check Facebook, too. Exercising? Oh, look! A Facebook notification. Time to check it. Taking an afternoon walk? Facebook goes GREAT with that!

But without the crutch of Facebook, I naturally paid more attention to what I was doing at the time. Don’t get me wrong, the phone was still there and was still a distraction. Plus, there are plenty of other ways to get distracted and fail to focus on one thing at a time, especially when you consider yourself an effective multitasker, even if study after study says there’s pretty much no such thing. Facebook can be a huge distraction.

I’ve been calmer and more balanced. Me? Calm?! How can such an amazing, bubbly and extroverted person be calm and balanced?! What can I say? I’m an enigma. But seriously. Not seeing all those articles on my feed about terrible people saying terrible things to get attention really helped.

Sure, I kept up with important news and even some news from the “idiots being themselves” category. But seeing less needless drivel truly helped and might even be something I periodically reflect on as I interact with others on social media.

I’ve been more thoughtful and mindful. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How is it possible that someone who is already as thoughtful as Kyle could be even more thoughtful? Impossible!” But it can happen! As part of my time away from Facebook, I made sure to make more time for reflection. I also became more active outdoors, which helped. While these two things would’ve likely occurred at some point without my Facebook break, it certainly helped.

I’ve been able to better prioritize the things I want to share with family and friends. I’m not saying you’ll never see another silly or useless-to-you Facebook post from me again. I’m not saying I’ll rarely post things from now. But I’ve really been able to hone in on the things that I absolutely wanted to share versus the things that I wanted to share in the moment, but weren’t essential when I actually gave it some thought. It’s kind of like being an impulsive buyer instead of being a planned buyer.

So why get back on Facebook if this break was so successful? Because it was never about permanently weaning myself off of the site. If there’s one thing I’ve known all along, it’s that Facebook (or social media in general) does have meaningful uses and there were certainly some things I missed about it:

Seeing important updates from friends. When you’re not on Facebook, even if people are aware, they still don’t think to tell you something they’ve already posted on Facebook. Certainly, they aren’t obligated to do so, either. But you’re much more likely to miss things like new jobs, engagement announcements and event invites. These are productive uses of Facebook. Plus, I occasionally missed seeing those adorable (and oft-posted) baby or puppy photos.

Sharing important things with friends. OK, so it’s only been like 40 days of no Facebook for me. Big deal, right? While there’s certainly truth to that, there were a handful of times when I really wanted to share something and didn’t, solely because I was taking this Facebook break. Even though I gave myself permission to post if something mattered that much to me, I really didn’t want to do it (and I think I only ended up doing it once).

Making new virtual connections after initially making these connections in person. I mostly like to meet people first and get to know them, if only just a bit, before becoming their friend on Facebook. I use Facebook a bit more intimately compared to something like Twitter or Instagram. Plus, I don’t need any extra trips to Crazytown thanks to some random person I happened to friend after one brief encounter. It’s happened before and I really want to limit it in the future. That said, there were a couple of times when I got to know someone and would feel totally comfortable with that person becoming a Facebook friend, but had to wait. It’s not really a big deal, but it was noticeable and worth mentioning.

I’d encourage everyone to take a step back from the online world in general and really try to see humanity in person again. It seems like the more time we spend on social media, the less we see people for who they are. I think there’s a balance to be found and it requires constant vigilance. It’s much easier to virtually shout back at a person for his or her comments when you’re hiding behind a keyboard. In person, chances are we’d be milder and friendlier. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could try to mirror that online? Yes. Yes it would.

In the end, it’s about the personal relationships we create and maintain, not the virtual ones. My goal is harmony — to let the two worlds enhance each other. And I think everyone could take more time to reflect and recharge. For you, maybe social media has nothing to do with it. But for many of us, it does, and this short break away from Facebook has helped.

 

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