As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to give up Facebook for the month of May, as an experiment, and in hopes of getting more (novel) writing done.
I tend check Facebook multiple times a day, sometimes in an almost compulsive manner. Not so much when I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, when I generally use software that turns off my internet connection, but when I’m doing my copywriting work, and need to keep email and various websites available. (And yes, I have the software that lets you block social media sites, and I use it sometimes but, hey!, there’s my iPhone with Facebook on it.)
But I worried that Facebook was getting in the way of my productivity in general, distracting me too much, and pulling me off track too frequently. (Oh the rabbit holes that are YouTube or Funny or Die or The New York Times — and a good link on Facebook can easily send me tumbling down into them…)
There was also the weird sensation of a sort of Facebook consciousness when going about my everyday routine. I’ll have some funny experience or make an observation and think: I should share this on Facebook! And how would I word it? And who will have a witty comment in response? It sort of freaks me out a little, that my brain has gotten trained that way.
Anyway, I decided — inspired by #BoNoProMo, “Boston Novel in Progress Month” — to take the leap and take the month off.
And you know what? I hated it.
It was, to my surprise, not that hard to resist logging on. I didn’t actually disable my account, for various reasons. I just generated a crazy random password — one of those insane ones we’re all supposed to use to foil hackers, like fN45$s<Qnn..?P242z7 * — that I’d never be able to remember, and wrote it down and hid it away. But I could have logged on if I really wanted to go through the trouble.
I haven’t missed the dopey “copy and paste this status if you believe that it’s wrong to kill puppies” type things. I don’t miss people having political debates that go absolutely nowhere. (And I don’t miss getting pulled into them myself.) And for God sake’s people, ENOUGH WITH THE BUZZFEED QUIZZES. (I’m convinced the results are just randomly generated anyway.)
But I really have missed the camaraderie, and the updates and the sharing and humor and, yes, even the dopey viral videos. I miss the tributes to people, famous and not, who pass on. I miss congratulating people on their successes and sending them prayers in difficult times.
I’ve realized that as someone who is self-employed, and spends most of her day sitting in front of her computer, alone, Facebook really is my version of an office water cooler or kitchen or cigarette break. It’s my touchpoint with the rest of humanity, and with the people I care about, or am nostalgically curious about, or (in some cases) can’t even remember how I know, but have a fun FB rapport with. It’s my little breather and reward when I’m working my ass off — whether it’s working on my novel or writing website copy about medical testing equipment.
And, truthfully, I’m not sure I’ve been any more productive than usual without Facebook. There’s the fact that there are plenty of other ways to distract oneself on the Internet (my Twitter presence has definitely gone up, but Twitter sort of leaves me cold compared to Facebook.) But the larger reason is that I think that Facebook breaks actually give me the re-fuel I need (or have conditioned myself to need) to be productive.
So, contrary to some people’s theories, I will not be saying a permanent goodbye to Facebook. I can’t wait to get back on.
BUT there are a few changes I’m going to make. First of all, I will not be putting Facebook back on my iPhone. I just don’t need that level of distraction and connection throughout the day. I don’t want to have a knee-jerk look-at-my-phone impulse whenever I get a spare or quiet moment.
Second of all, I’m going to try to downshift the number of times per day I check Facebook (I’m going to uncheck the “keep me logged in” box), and keep it for “dessert” after I finish a task, rather than something to snack on in the middle of it.
OK, wait; that analogy doesn’t quite work, because if the task is the meal, you don’t snack in the middle of a meal, right? I suppose it would be more like saying that I’m not going to take bites of my cake in the middle of eating my spaghetti and salad. Because that would be gross.
No spaghetti and cake! I should write that on a post-it and put it on my computer. (Elsa would read it and say: Yum! Is that what’s for dinner?!)
Or, to change metaphors, I don’t want Facebook to be that annoying co-worker who comes over and starts blabbing about the weekend or bitching about office politics or whatever, and WON’T LEAVE, even when you literally start typing while they’re still there, and you end up just pretending you need to go to the bathroom so you can get up and walk away. (Except — another analogy flaw — that co-worker sucks, and Facebook doesn’t.)
I’m glad I took this Facebook fast, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could do it. I am not a cyborg yet. But I also feel less ashamed about saying, loud and proud, I love Facebook, dammit. And with a few tweaks in my usage, I’m looking forward to rejoining the village.
So…what did I miss?