If you told me this time last year that I would be off facebook for a year, I ( and others that know me) would have laughed heartedly in your face. On September 15th 2013 I decided to deactivate my account. At the time it was a temporary measure, to get some virtual “space” and enjoy my post exams bliss without online distractions. A few days turned into a week, which then turned into a month – and now its official I’ve gone whole 365 days without facebook! I thought I would write a
lot little bit about what this year has taught me – so relax, grab a cuppa and read on playa!
Lets start with the good, shall we?
1. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”… no, wait, er…. i think i do!
- Pre facebook free self would complain about time all the time. Theres not enough of it. Not enough hours in the day, days in the week, days in the weekend. Sentences would start “if only I had the time I would *insert fun here*. However I had plenty of time for facebook. I scrolled endlessly at every free moment through my news feed. I knew what was going on where, when and with whom (more on that later), but I found the more I knew about everyone else the less I really understood myself. Scrolling is such a brainless activity – and the perfect after work sofa slump behaviour (in fact studies show surfing the web has now replaced watching television as the highest grossing “leisure activity”). Once I got rid of the option of facebook, I found pockets of free time I didn’t realise i had. At first i wasn’t sure what to do with it if I’m honest – most of my adult life had the blue screen and thumbs up in the background! but slowly I began to take back my time, and also myself. I took up hobbies, REAL hobbies – I started running – ran a 5k, lifting weights, joined a modern quilters group and have made 5 quilts so far in a year of starting! I’ve read books, i’ve decluttered my home space, I’ve travelled, I’ve excelled at work presenting in international conferences, and I’ve made new friends in the process. So if you think there isn’t time for that, think again.
2. YOLO replaced FOMO
- I didn’t ever want to admit it – but under my facebook urges and deep within the roots of my habit was a fear of social rejection. There is something somewhat comforting of being “in the know”. Of being part of the fold, the clan, the group. When you are on facebook you have instant access to a number of people and social circles, and you can be up to date just by updating your feed. You know who got engaged, who is pregnant, who went where and who is having a good time. I had FOMO (fear of missing out) and facebook is fuelled by this natural human feeling. When I quit facebook I had to accept this truth, and trust me at times I got the itch like a bad drug habit – I just wanted to know the gossip! i was going out to places and parties where people would talk about basically the last facebook updates and I would have no idea – and that was hard for me at the beginning because I felt excluded. Somewhere in the year my FOMO turned into YOLO (you only live once) mentality. I stopped caring so much about what others were doing, and started focussing more on my own reality. I decided to make my life something worth living – which sounds drastic I know, but it was real for me. I started to learn more about myself and become the person I wanted to be and who i Have been hiding all along. Without the fear or constriction of comparison, I felt free to express myself without worry of what my friends/family/feed would think. I belive this day that quitting my facebook was one of the pivotal points in my weight loss journey – as I’ve lost over 20lb (1.5 stone) slowly but surely since losing facebook. It gave me the energy and confidence to persue things like sports and activities, and in the process I replaced my facebook habit which a much better gym habit !!
3. The purification of friendships
- I am of an age (nearly 30) where I can just about remember meaningful friendships before the age of mobile phones and social media. As much as I love it as a tool to help enhance friendships and create new connections, this time last year I was feeling a bit burned and frazzled by the overstimulation of facebook and its impact on my friendships. Its probably important to mention here that my oldest and closest friends at the time were facebook obsessed – if you thought i was bad they were a million times worse. With distance and exams and significant others pulling us all in different directions, facebook became an easy way to stay in touch after university – however i started to notice that for some it was their ONLY way of keeping in touch. It replaced phonecalls, it replaced face to face coffee dates.. Now I want to be clear I’m not blaming facebook, my friendships with one person in particular had cracks from the start – but quitting facebook really allowed me to see who my real friends were. i found out those friends I had counted once as close, actually treated me as I did not exist because I wasn’t on facebook. I made the effort but it was futile, I realised they preferred friendship at a virtual distance and that was my cue for closure. Thankfully on the flip side i was reassured that my departure strengthened many old friendships and brought a new light to new ones. I actually met up with friends and family more regularly in person, which has been so lovely. Coffees dinners and days out together have really positively impacted my friendships and when I see them I really “see” them – I’m not updating my status tagging them, nor are we just talking about status gossip – its amazing! its old school friendship !! and i may not have 500 “friends” but I’ve got a good handful that i know I can call, text or see in person where it is mutually loving and supportive for years to come.
4. I don’t have facebook fever
- Facebook has taken over the world. Even in our travels to tiny villages in Thailand, locals are on facebook! its insane. I go out for dinners and I’m on the train and I hear people talking about facebook soo much its unreal! I wonder if people stopped using facbeook and used the time to pray, talk, think, meditate, read… I wonder how life would be different. It dawned on me this time last year that I didn’t want to have facebook defining my thirties as it had my twenties. I was tired of caring too much about what other people thought of me. Deactivating my account, activated my soul! I feel I have blossomed into who I want to be and after a year of being without it, the fever has subsided. Life has been my antibiotic! It feels nice to know i have a choice because I once felt i “had” to be on facebook as if its part of my DNA! i used to care a lot but now all those social anxieties and tensions have disappeared. i feel my life is a lot simpler and stress free – and I’m loving it!
So those are the good so far but it is not all roses and rainbows – here are some of the not so good findings after quitting facebook for a year
1. Distance makes the heart grow fonder
- The ONLY updates I genuinely miss are those from family and friends abroad. I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of family dotted about the world and I’ve travelled a bit so made a lot of connections during my teens and twenties. Facebook is still the easiest way to connect with people especially those far away in different cities. Yes there is email, but there are people I’ve met and I don’t have their email! Maybe i should have told them i was quitting facebook to get their details, but i miss all that stuff. My brother has kiddies and he updates photos for them all to see and I like that – if I was to ever return to facebook (unlikely) it would only be to update a core group of people around the world about my family life and important events
2. Out of sight out of mind (and I’m okay with that)
- Like I mentioned before, some people actually stop being invited to things because since I’m no longer coming up in peoples news feeds I’m somewhat non existant. Most recently I was formally invited to a Hen by the bride but the bridesmaid who was chief organiser (whom I don’t actually know) didn’t invite me or give me the details because she had only made a facebook group to which i wasn’t included in because I’m not on facebook! I took a while to get used to but I realised if its really that important and people really care they would communicate with me somehow. The old process of natural selection and “naturally drifting” from people has resurfaced since leaving facebook and I’m actually cool about it because if it is meant to be it is (rather then still knowing everything about your pre school friends you have not seen since you were 4 years old!)
3. Out with the old and in with the new
- Maybe it is a total coincidence but since leaving facebook I’ve found twitter and instagram. I particular love instagram because I’m part of a fit healthy community on it which I find encourages and motivates me on my journey in a positive way (as opposed to facebook which for me fuelled feelings of envy and self comparison) I know some might think I’ve just replaced one “addiction” with another, but i do feel that I have control over my social media use and I can take a step back anytime I want. I also see it now in a different perspective and its an aid rather than a crutch, if that makes any sense at all ! I still love technology, I use it all the time in so many ways and it helps me stay in touch with people and connect but this time it feels more on my own terms and in my own way and space.
So thats me ! a whole year without facebook, which is a hell of an achievement for someone that was a facebook addict ! i hope this has inspired you if you are thinking of taking a break from social media, or sparked any thoughts and interests into the whole social media virtual reality topic. I didn’t think I’d make it a weekend, let a lone a whole year so if I can do it anyone can! thank you to everyone who has supported me in this journey – I DON’T see myself returning any time soon but its great to celebrate that one year milestone!