You know those people who have enough willpower to decide they are done with something and actually be done with it? I’m not one of those people, which is why I had never attempted a Facebook break.
I knew that if I deleted the app on my phone, I’d just log in on my phone’s browser. Or on my laptop. Or on my work computer. I knew if I left my Facebook active but just didn’t log in, I’d be anxious about the notifications building up. There were a number of reasons I just couldn’t take a break, even though I needed one.
But last week, after a particularly draining week, I started to think. I realized that Facebook really was the root of why I was feeling so drained and fed up with people. I was in a permanently crabby mood because of it. Then, I read one of my own blogs about how to care for your mental health in sobriety. I had written about taking a break from technology and realized I needed to heed my own advice.
So, before I could lose the nerve, I logged in, navigated to my account settings, and clicked deactivate. It asked me how long I wanted to deactivate for. I said seven days. That was just wishful thinking, as I didn’t think I’d really make it that long.
But I did. And doing so opened my eyes to a number of things when it comes to my relationship with Facebook, some good, some bad, some in between.
- I realized I rely on Facebook WAY more than I thought I did, especially for my jobs. I truly didn’t expect a Facebook break to affect my work very deeply, but it did. I so often look up people for stories and message them via Facebook. I get many of my story ideas on Facebook. I monitor the Echo Press page through my account. I promote my blog and graphic design work through my account. With no account, I couldn’t do any of these things. I ended up getting around it by creating a new account for myself and adding myself as an admin on all my pages. This account has no profile photo and no friends, but that didn’t matter for monitoring pages. It did what I needed it to do, but man, was it a process.
- Opening the app on my phone is second nature. So many times I mindlessly unlocked my phone and went to tap the Facebook icon, only to find a blank space where it had been. Doing so made me realize that I didn’t even have a reason to be opening it. I was just bored and it’s literally a mindless thing I do when nothing else is happening. This was most evident when I was in public places, waiting for someone or something. Typically I’d be scrolling through Facebook to occupy myself, but I didn’t have that option. It was actually a little unsettling. But it was good for me.
- I don’t need to share everything I think I need to share. So many times in the past week, I’ve had the thought, “Oh, I’m going to put this on Facebook,” followed by momentary disappointment when I remembered I couldn’t. But guess what? The world kept spinning. Not getting “likes” on a certain life experience didn’t take away from the experience itself. In fact, it made it more special to just have it for myself and the people I felt like sharing with. I tend to overshare on social media and sometimes in person, I know this. But taking a break from that was freeing.
- I didn’t miss it nearly as much as I anticipated. I really, truly thought quitting Facebook for a week was going to be the hardest thing I’ve done since quitting drinking. That’s how addicted to it I felt. But honestly, it wasn’t that tough. Knowing that my page was totally disabled helped a lot because I wasn’t worried about what I was missing. I knew no one was tagging me or commenting on my posts. There were some times I really wanted to look something or someone up, but I held out and forgot about whatever it was soon enough. And yes, the world kept spinning.
- I felt more calm and at peace and present. This was probably the biggest surprise of all for me. I didn’t realize how consuming Facebook was until I stepped away. It felt good to be able to be places, like this past weekend’s concert, and actually BE there. I didn’t enjoy the experience any less because I couldn’t post about it. In fact, I enjoyed it more. I was able to pay attention and take it all in and not worry about checking notifications.
Taking a week-long break was the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in quite a while. In coming back to it, I’ve been thinking about how this will affect my relationship with Facebook.
I won’t step away from Facebook permanently, because it is a vital part of all of my jobs and I enjoy keeping in touch with people. But knowing that I can step back and take a break and come away feeling as refreshed as I do will definitely be helpful in the future.
I also think that taking this break will make me more aware of what I am sharing. Will I still overshare? Probably. It’s who I am. Writing about things and putting it out there is how I make sense of my world. If people don’t like that, they don’t need to be part of that world. That won’t offend me.
But what I really want to focus on is not mindlessly scrolling through my feed multiple times a day. With the app back on my phone, I know that will be difficult. It is second nature and half the time I don’t even realize I am doing it. But with some reminders, I think it can be done.
All in all, if you’re thinking you need to step away from Facebook or social media as a whole, even for as little as a week, I recommend it. It’s refreshing and you just might learn something in the process.