On the Sunday, Feb. 9, I deactivated my Facebook account and reactivated it the next Sunday when I returned from a reading period ski trip. Here’s what I learned:
It feels really good to abstain from Facebook. Try it, I promise its going to be okay. I understand you have friends who are now scattered across the country, and probably the rest of the world, and you need Facebook to maintain a presence in their lives. It doesn’t even have to be an active relationship. Just seeing your name immediately associates you with a specific set of memories pertaining to your Facebook friends.
As long as your posts keep coming up on their news feed, the memories they associate with you will never die. That is, for it’s own sake, extremely important. Except, most of your time spent on Facebook is probably spent aimlessly browsing through your news feed.
Before I quit Facebook, I would scroll through my news feed the moment I woke up and immediately before I went to bed. Before and after meals, classes, workouts and parties. When I cut this out of my life cold turkey, if only for a week, I saved myself about an extra hour each day. Even though that time saved was spread out during the day, there was a noticeable feeling that my days were longer. After one day, I started to really enjoy this feeling.
I know it’s super hard to resist going on Facebook. Even if you have iron willpower, you’ll immediately go through odd withdrawal symptoms. For me, personally, they took on the form of these little muscle memory itches where I would feel the urge to flick my index finger down to the taskbar and open up Facebook. Each time you have the itch to open Facebook, fight with all your power to resist it.
The best way to overcome this was to have a sort of mephedrone site that I could immediately go to until the itch to check my Facebook went away. For me these were news sites like The New York Times and The Washington Post op-ed pages, naturally. It could be Buzzfeed, YouTube or even your school email, but having this back-up site will really help kick the habit.
You don’t miss out on much. Personally, my news feed had accumulated a lot of information that I was never interested in. Part of what made this self-imposed restraint so successful was because by forbidding myself to go on Facebook, I was forced to get up and seek out more small and casual interactions with the people around me. Those casual interactions, as I learned very quickly, were much more valuable than scrolling through my news feed. Which leads me to my next point.
Think on the disconnect between who you are on Facebook and who you are in real life. That’s about how much you’re getting from everybody else you’re friends with on Facebook. Because we naturally put the best parts of ourselves on Facebook, our profiles essentially become a social résumé. In the same way an employer can’t really understand an interviewee’s personality by their business achievements, we too aren’t really getting the full picture from each other about who we are as individuals.
So, returning to the point of maintaining a presence in other peoples lives, be wary of the fact that the presence you maintain for people on their news feeds is very far removed from the real you, which suddenly makes your presence on Facebook seem far less valuable than before, as well as the value of what shows up on your news feed.
The experiment was a really positive experience, and I encourage everybody to try deactivating your account for even a week. Though I find myself back to old habits, I’ll know that whenever I’m ready, I can muster the willpower to reap the benefits of a spiritual break from Facebook.