This past Lent, I gave up Facebook. That’s right. Forty days without scrolling, posting, or replying. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did allow myself to use Facebook for blogging purposes, to wish people a happy birthday (if I remembered without FB reminding me), and to check to see if we were having a snow day. I think these occasional breaks in my Facebook fast, these brief glimpses at what I wasn’t commenting on, sharing, and liking, opened my eyes to a few things about Facebook and about myself.
- I’m weak-minded and idly curious. Why would I, why would anyone, ever waste time reading things like What Does Your Favorite Donut Say About You? or Celebrities Who Have Shockingly Small Homes. I also don’t need to read about the Birthday Party Invite from Hell or The Politically Incorrect Things to Wear to a Music Festival. And I know I could do without Reasons to Give Up Bacon Forever and Signs You are Unhappy and Just Don’t Know It. The point is Facebook is rife with all too tempting bits of information, gossip, fear-mongering, and funny pet videos that in no way enrich my life or make me a better person. It wasn’t until I stepped away from all that that I realized how much time I spent on such junk. Okay, the occasional well-timed funny puppy video can brighten a bad day, but for the most part, these things are just a huge time suck.
- I set a bad example for my kids. I can’t count the number of times during Lent that I absent-mindedly picked up my phone to check Facebook in the car rider line at my son’s school, in the check outline at the store, in the doctor’s office waiting room, WHILE MY KIDS WERE TALKING TO ME!. Seriously, I had no idea how much of a distraction Facebook is until it wasn’t distracting me.
- I rely on Facebook for my news. How many times during Lent did someone say to me, “Did you hear about (some global event or national story)?” And I would have no idea what they were talking about because apparently I’m too shallow or have too short an attention span to pick up an actual newspaper or to tune in to twenty minutes of CNN.
- I rely on Facebook to make me a better person. Did you have a birthday in the last couple of months? Have a baby? Lose a loved one? Share some exciting or terrible news? Well, I am sorry if I did not congratulate you or send you my condolences, but in the absence of social media to tell me what’s going in with my friends, I am completely incapable of reaching out to you.
- I need you to know that I’m right and you’re wrong. Again, allowing myself to get on Facebook even occasionally during Lent, just brought home how much Facebook affects me. If I happened to see a post by some well-meaning but woefully misinformed friend, co-worker, blogger, or online publication, it was all I could do not to respond with a strongly worded smack down. Ya know, because arguing with people on Facebook always changes their minds. Not that I do it very often – I don’t. But at least when it isn’t Lent, I’m able to distract myself from the
woefully misinformedpeople I disagree with by watching funny videos of puppies fighting with a vacuum cleaner.
- I am skillfully adept at finding ways to waste time and distract myself. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest. . I might need Facebook to find out if we are having school or not. I might need Facebook to learn what is going on in the world and with my own family and friends. I might need Facebook to spout off my opinions. But I certainly do not need Facebook to kill time or to distract me from the laundry.
So, was life without Facebook the spiritual kickstart I was hoping it would be? Yes and no. My big epiphany did not come, as I thought it would, from all my Facebook-free time. Instead my big epiphany came in the realization that in some ways Facebook brings out the worst version of me. Clearly I have some work to do, but I won’t be giving up Facebook for good. I would miss staying in touch with old friends. I would forget too many birthdays and be too clueless about what’s happening in the lives of people I care about. I would still find a ways to waste time, but I would just be more isolated when I do. Even though, I found out some uncomfortable things about myself, in the end, I still think there are more positive things about Facebook than negative. And besides, I would really really miss all those funny puppy videos.