Twelve days ago, I decided to once again take a break from Facebook.
It coincided with a relationship break as well, which made it feel doubly risky. How could I ever get through my too-solitary life without my 300+ friends?
Turns out I can survive. And I bet you can too.
Why the break? I was using Facebook like a drug. Checking it before my eyes were fully open in the morning, sneaking peeks when I was driving, ignoring my teenager while I re-posted a funny meme or a shared a passing thought. I knew I was allowing it far too much control in my life, and it felt similar to being on a people mover at the aiport – one of those lateral escalators – the speed of which kept getting turned up incrementally. Sure, I was saying hello to everyone (“Hello! Hi! Great job on the workout! Congratulations on the job! Your baby is adorable!”), but with an increasingly frenetic, driven pace that was making me feel out of control, and in the end, terribly, terribly disconnected.
The benefits of Facebook can’t be denied. My membership in the Single Dad Laughing Health Club helped me lose and keep off 20 pounds, and netted me a zillion new friends, some of whom I love like sisters and brothers. It made possible one of the peak experiences of my life in the form of the Tough Mudder last month. And it allowed my boyfriend and I to find each other, against all odds, 18 months ago.
But the dark side was too much. For a while, I used it to keep connected to my adult kids, but they use it less than I do now. My relationship insecurities were magnified by presumably innocent comments and “likes.” I tell my clients that you can’t prove innocence and you can drive yourself crazy trying, and far too many hours were spent trying to do just that when I was feeling jealous or out of touch with the man I love.
Like with any addiction, though, I couldn’t quit until I was truly ready. I’ve done Facebook detoxes before, with varying degrees of success. One friend even gently mocked me, saying I’d be back sooner than I planned. Not this time. Here’s how I’m doing it, and I have no plan to return. You see, my detox is working. Yes, I feel lonely and at odds with myself, and confused about how to spend my time. But on the other hand, I feel less driven, more settled (potentially), and am becoming more aware of what my life really is about, and what my needs are. And though I’m only 12 days in, and I have a lot to figure out, I finally feel like I’m creating the mental space I need to do just that.
So, in case it’s helpful, here’s how I’m doing it.
1. I announced my plans hours in advance. On Facebook. This allowed people to comment, say goodbyes, etc. Not everyone would want or need to do this, but my presence on Facebook was large, and I knew people would wonder where I went. I also didn’t want to dramatically disappear. This detox wasn’t about drama. It was about self-care.
2. I included my phone number in that last post. And I asked people in those final hours to private message me their numbers if they wanted to, and I wrote them down in a notebook, old school style. I didn’t know how hard/easy the detox would be, and I wanted ready support if I needed it. I’ve heard from a dozen people since I’ve been off Facebook – friends and acquaintances who are kindly checking in with me to see how the detox is going.
3. I had my teenager change my password and told him to not allow me the new password before May 1, no matter what. Yes, this gives him access to my account, but I honestly don’t think he thinks I’m interesting enough to go poking around. I trust him. And it adds a powerful layer of accountability. I also deleted my mostly dormant activist account, so I couldn’t use it to “cheat.”
4. In my mind, I tagged certain people as specific supports – who to talk to if I was feeling insecure about my relationship separation, who I knew could lift me up, make me laugh, or have a meaningful conversation about life, and so on.
5. I committed to continuing to do what I found Facebook most useful for – what this meant for me is having regular conversations with friends (I started a group text with a four of my girlfriends when I was at the salon the other day and occasionally we check in with each other), and taking selfies after I exercise (I’m saving them all up for a collage at the end of the month that maybe only I will see). I also decided to stay connected with the Map My Fitness and My Fitness Pal apps which gives me opportunities to report my fitness goals and accomplishments – something that’s very important to me.
6. When I notice that I’m jonesing for Facebook, I instead send a message to one of my kids or my friends, or I make an encouraging comment on one of my friends’ fitness app entries. I’m currently evaluating and attempting to limit my time spent on the social parts of the fitness apps, as they have the same addictive qualities as Facebook, though they are more manageable for sure.
7. I’m staying busy. I ran/hiked/biked 50+ miles last week and have been religious about meeting with my trainer, working out, and logging my food. I’ve read two books and listened to a lot of music. I binged watched House of Cards and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I took myself out for a martini and made small talk with a fellow mom of young adults. I went geocaching with the teenager. I have work to do in this area – who am I without Facebook? My fitness is obviously a major focus, but I’m feeling a bit one-dimensional. The important thing is, that without Facebook, maybe I’ll finally have a chance to figure it out.
8. I just started journaling again last night. I was fortunate on Facebook to have a couple of “secret” places I could share my feelings with my best friends, and it’s hard to not have that readily available. But at the same time, it’s been good for me to not be talking as much, often in circles, about the things that I often cannot control. Instead, I find myself more action-oriented.
9. I removed all the other distracting apps from my phone and my life. No more Words with Friends, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. It’s not just about Facebook, it’s just mostly about Facebook.
10. I’m beginning to think about my future in a meaningful way. What do I want it to look like? Where do I want to be? How do I want to be living my life?
I can tell you this – I honestly don’t know that I will ever return to Facebook. The cost was so much more than the benefit. I might not be living my life exactly as I want, but I feel like I’ve started to reclaim it. And like other addicts, I might not be able to practice Facebook in moderation. I’ve given myself until May 1 before I re-evaluate. I expect the next ten days to be as illuminating as the last twelve have been.
I’m wondering…have you ever considered or completed a Facebook detox? How did you do?