Editor's Note: An experiment in going social-media free
It’s been said that Facebook is like the refrigerator: you look inside and don’t see anything good. Five minutes later, you know nothing has changed, but you can’t resist looking in there again.
We are halfway through Lent, which means I have been Facebook-free for three weeks. (I still post to The MidWeek’s Facebook page for my job, but maintain that is entirely different than checking in on my personal page.) I have also been without Twitter and Pinterest, having given up social media until Easter.
I read recently that more than half of Facebook users reported taking a break of several weeks from that monolith of social networking. Several of my friends swore it off in the weeks leading up to last year’s elections, sick of all the politicking. (As a side note, a friend once wisely noted, “Pinterest makes me want to be friends with people I’ve never met. Facebook makes me want to punch people I’ve known for years.” During election season, especially, I have to concur.) The demands of being constantly connected are exhausting, and having everyone’s opinion of every topic inflicted upon one can be stressful, to say the least.
For a few days, my sister-in-law tried to torment me, tagging me in a bevy of Facebook posts and comments so that I would get email notifications. Since I was on to her game, it didn’t really tempt me to check in.
When my desktop computer takes a long time to perform a function, I typically pick up my phone and check Facebook and Twitter while I’m waiting. The first time I picked up my phone and had to stop short, I was at something of a loss with what to do with that two or three minutes.
I expected to miss Twitter the least, since I generally only use it to check headlines. So I was surprised to find myself missing it a lot during hockey games; I hadn’t realized how often I check in with other fans or follow games I’m not watching using the site.
I also expected to miss Pinterest more, since that site is ridiculously addictive. There have been a few evenings at the end of a long day when I would really like to sit back and look at the beautiful and inspiring things I follow, but it hasn’t been as much a temptation as I was steeling myself for.
I haven’t missed Facebook as much as I thought I would, either. Granted, there has been at least one instance in which I wanted to send a message to a number of people at once, in which Facebook would have been handy. And I do really miss knowing what’s going on with some of my nephews I don’t see often and friends in far-flung places; when I could see their posts each day they didn’t seem quite so far away. The miles seem much more significant now.
In a recent sermon about Lent, I listened to a priest say Lent is about being fully in control of yourself.
“If I can’t say no to the cookie jar,” he said. “I’m enslaved by something. I’m not truly free.”
I do feel less tethered being off social media, though I’m discovering it is less an addiction than a crutch I have been using without even realizing it. I do plan to return to the world of networking after Easter, but a lot more aware and probably a little less often.