Every year when Lent comes around, I routinely give something up. Whether it's sugar, caffeine, meat, or laziness, the forty days are an exercise in will power, self-restraint, and (to a very mild extent) sacrifice. This year, I did something a little different. I gave up Facebook for Lent.
Yes, Facebook. Forty days of no Facebook. I allowed a few small exceptions to check in on my professional groups once in a while but even on those occasions there was no scrolling through the newsfeed or glancing at my notifications. Admittedly, I thought I was kind of cheating on Lent this year. It seemed like I'd given up something that wasn't really going to be that hard to give up. Not like my drug of choice, sugar. Apparently I underestimated the level of my social media addiction.
The first few days were actually quite a challenge. In order to minimize temptation, I removed the Facebook app from my phone, turned off email notification alerts, and deleted the little F icon from my bookmarks toolbar. And yet ... I still found myself reaching for my phone and mindlessly navigating to the spot where the app was previously saved. I'd grab my phone and almost instinctively, as if finding my way to that blue and white F was ingrained in my muscle memory, I'd click on over to where it should've been then stare at my phone for a few seconds before I remembered, "Oh yeah. No Facebook right now." I'd sit down at my computer, open my browser to work or check email, and find myself hovering the little mouse in the area where the F used to be on my tool bar before giving myself a mental slap on the wrist. No Facebook right now!
After about a week or so, I didn't really miss it as much. The little pockets of time previously wasted on mindless scrolling were now gloriously free. Instead of reaching for my phone during the bits of downtime I had here and there, I found myself reaching for my book instead. I actually managed to finish the book I'd been reading since October and start a new book that I'm now about a third of the way through. I watched new photography tutorials and stayed caught up on emails instead of frantically stressing about them after Rico goes to sleep for the night, and found time for exercise. I even found little bits of time to unwind with my favorite grown-up* coloring book. All those things I thought I didn't have time for were now becoming a part of my daily life. Turns out, I did have time after all. I was just wasting it all on Facebook.
I also, admittedly, watched a little more TV than I usually do. My old buddy Netflix, the only one who kept me company during late-night pumping sessions months ago was keeping me company once again during bouts of insomnia. But I noticed a difference even in my show preferences. Instead of being drawn to all the reality TV shows I previously knew and loved, I was repulsed by them. My favorite Real Housewives of Beverly Hills annoyed the crap out of me the last six weeks! I wanted interesting plot lines and deep, well-developed characters. I wanted to see fascinating new perspectives on real life situations and experiences. I wanted fiction and documentaries. As if eliminating the reality tv-like noise from my online life meant I didn't really want it as part of my real-life downtime either. I didn't want tidbits and snippets of other people's crazy or chaotic lives. I wanted to more.
Now that Easter has come and gone, Lent is officially over. I hopped back on Facebook Sunday evening and sifted through six weeks' worth of notifications, messages, and friend requests. I'm still working my way through some of it. The one downside to being off Facebook is that I missed out on a lot of things happening in my friends' lives. There were pregnancy announcements, new babies born, business changes, engagements, and other life happenings that may not have been huge milestones but were still important and worth noting. And I missed most of them because I wasn't on Facebook (the Husband updated me on some of our mutual friends' news bits though). It's sad to think that taking time away from one social media platform to have a richer and fuller experience in real life means that I'm out of the loop when it comes to announcements and special occasions, but that's the world we live in now, isn't it?
After this forty-day social media experiment, I've decided not to add the app back to my phone. And I'm not adding the bookmark short cut either. I will still check Facebook from time to time and peep in on friends here and there, but I'm not going to make it easy for myself to get lost in that blue hole again. Going forward, it will now have to be a conscious decision to open a browser tab, type in the web address, and be conscious of how much time I'm actually giving away to such a passive form of socialization. But honestly, isn't that how it should be anyway?
*I prefer the term "grown-up coloring book." "Adult coloring book" sounds like a porn coloring book to me!