Last week, I blogged that I would be taking a one-week break from Facebook. With the help of browser extensions, I would avoid signing into Facebook. (And for good measure, I threw in HootSuite and YouTube and focused primarily on Twitter.) My rationale was whether I was becoming a little too dependent on the service, focusing more on the quick fix of being liked rather than on being authentic. So this post marks one full week without Facebook (somewhat), and so....what did I learn?
Apps Like StayFocusD Really Help - After installing the StayFocusD extension on my Chrome Browser and a domain blocking extension on another, I found both have features that make avoiding certain sites long-term easier. In fact, I used the "Go Nuclear" feature on StayFocusD to block me from Facebook for an entire week....meaning that if I accidentally chose to sign in, I received this screen:
So yes, I met both my main and stretch goals from last week, managing to stay offline for seven full days until today.
It's Very Easy to Cheat With Mobile - OK, I admit I was tempted and signed onto Facebook on Thursday using mobile. Scrolled through, found nothing of interest, then left...because quite honestly, I wanted to go hard core.
And I didn't have a site blocker on my browser, but then again...I really only checked to see notices. Otherwise, it felt hard to let go of checking it (out of force of habit). Speaking of which....
I didn’t suffer from FOMO as much- everyone who leaves Facebook for awhile has a moment where they fear they’re missing out on what’s happening….and that fear (aka FOMO) can often lead to relapses back onto the network…
But as an experiment, I decided to check out my rarely-used Twitter account. On the day when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th actor to play Doctor Who. In having actual short conversations with people, it felt more...honest. Accepting. More engaging.
(And no, I’m not turning this into a Facebook vs. Twitter fight….merely pointing out that I felt more involved in something than in checking random items on my Facebook feed.).
Was it tempting to sign on during this period? Yes, but I also realized that there’s no reason that I have to sign into Facebook. Even when I was bored and using my smartphone, I never felt like signing into Facebook. Sure, I looked at that login page….but ended up deciding “n0” and moving on…..
It’s easy to bury your feelings on Facebook - One of the consequences of leaving a social network for a short period of time is, well…I got depressed. Seriously depressed. Rather quickly.
All of the stress and drama of the past few weeks around my mother’s health hit me hard. (And it happens to many adult caregivers as well...and it started as I was thinking of withdrawing from Facebook). After getting some time, space, and breathing room, I found myself in a downward spiral of despair and depression. Even when I would post something on Facebook about being down, it would often go….unacknowledged. No likes, sadness, and too few comments of support.
I’m not blaming my friends….I’m blaming Facebook’s algorithm. But more on that later...
So without hesitation, and in need to get my feelings out, I grabbed a legal pad and began writing. Yes, I could have used a keyboard, but something about this felt more purifying….and I would have been breaking my Facebook silence. My writing came out in droves: paragraphs about feeling isolated and alone. Prose poems about feelings acknowledged and unrequited. Many letters that would never be sent because they were more about owning and expressing my feelings than telling others….
...and those feelings scared me enough to get outside help. And I have written about mental health and creative depression enough to know the necessary next steps to take. And that my friends would worry if I hadn't.
But this process allowed me to process my emotions, to write out my anguish if only to be able to articulate it more clearly. Writing about my emotions validated how I was feeling more than a casual Facebook hug or like. If Facebook is a torrent of expressions (usually out of anger or frustration). this was more like a slow release, allowing me to unload several burdens and feel more confident in reaching out for help. (And yes, I am reaching out. Just not solely on Facebook).
But this leads to my final point…
I now see Facebook as a Pavlovian response generator – For many of us, Facebook is a social connector. Facebook sees itself as an advertising platform….but the way in which Facebook is organized, from its algorithm to the type of “optimization”, lends itself more easily to random “liking”, substituting engagement for affirmation. People can be "interested" in events without ever attending, and can "like" articles without ever reading them. Call me clueless until now, but I understand why some people use the "echo chamber" metaphor for Facebook: other voices can be heard, but they're mostly variations on your own.
My Twitter experience helped me feel much more connected to a greater community, and I managed to reconnect in some way with several colleagues. If you're looking for a Twitter vs. Facebook argument...this isn't that. It's no wonder that there have been many examples of people using Facebook to document their issues; there's the promise of immediate hope or response. Facebook allows people to broadcast without really communicating, and my absence from the platform has made me realize that I have felt unable to communicate.
I'm not blaming Facebook, but spending so much time on it didn't help.
With so many nonprofits and social enterprises relying on Facebook as a marketing tool, it feels like Facebook is rigging the game. No matter how much organizations try to optimize in order to “game the system”, there’s always a consistent feeling that Facebook is lacking the vital connection that’s needed for a social network.
For my own insights...I probably will be back on Facebook, but not as much as in the past. I won’t be relying on it for my own sense of self-affirmation, and I can even spend that time writing all sorts of things….
Like blog posts.
And prose poems about feelings acknowledged and unrequited.
Your thoughts? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or join the conversation via our Facebook page. And as always, thanks for reading!