Two Years Without Facebook: Part One

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Back in May 2012, I wrote one of my favorite Creating Communication blog posts called “My Year Without Facebook.”  This May will mark a milestone… I’ve lived Facebook-free for two years.  How much time do you think you’ve spent on Facebook during the last two years?  The average American in my age bracket spends 3.8 hours per day on Facebook (Source).  That’s nearly 3,000 hours in a two year timespan.  WOW!  Would you consider any of those 3,000 hours productive?  I’d venture to guess that most of that time was wasted.  What else could you have been doing?  What important goals could you have accomplished?  What classes could you be taking… what exercise could you be doing?  Who could you have been developing relationships with in the real world?

The BBC reports that this generation of young people are out of control with their Facebook usage.  When they are asked to report their favorite hobbies, they don’t say dance or football, going to the mall or going on a road trip.  One of their favorite things to do is to check their Facebook (Source).  I have a serious problem with that.

Since I deleted my Facebook account, I find myself becoming less and less patient with people who use the social media site.  My students can’t wait until we get a break or until lunch so they can get on Facebook.  I sit at a red light shaking my head incredulously as I watch the girl in the car next to me access Facebook from her phone.  Facebook is what we do when we’re bored, when we’re lonely, when we have a single second of down time.  We can’t just wait in the checkout aisle of the grocery store; we have to get on Facebook.  As I watch the world around me live and breathe Facebook, I consider my experiences during the last two years.  I don’t hesitate to say that these years have been the most productive of my entire life.  I don’t waste time on Facebook, and I find that I don’t waste time generally speaking, either.  Breaking my social media addiction for me meant becoming a more productive version of myself.

In “9 things I learned from deleting my Facebook account,” college student Kendra Benner offers some lessons on her experiences living Facebook free.  These lessons reveal it IS possible to live without Facebook; that social media gives an artificial sense of connection; that birthdays are more special; and that Facebook can hurt real life relationships.  I’d like to explore these four lessons after my two years of living without Facebook.  This two-part article will contains all four lessons.  Today, we will discuss the first two…

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Everyone I know has Facebook.  Everyone I know who deleted Facebook went back to it after a short period of time.  Consider Creating Communication commenter Miguel.  After a successful 30 day Facebook fast, his goal was to go 365 days without the social media website.  He had initial problems with family and friends not wanting him to deactivate; he found himself logging in and reactivating his account a few times a week; and after only four months, he felt peer-pressured by friends into rejoining.  Check out Miguel’s journey here.

Miguel’s story is common.  People initially feel excited and more productive without Facebook; however, the desire to “connect” and stay in the loop with friends proves strong.  Our desire to fit in trumps our desire to lead healthier lives every single time.

What do I mean by “healthier” lives?  Staring at a computer screen harms our eyes.  And sitting around on a computer all day is literally killing us.  We much prefer staying in and playing with a computer as opposed to going out and exercising.  Experts can say it until the cows come home, and even though we know it’s true, laziness is far easier than productivity.

The same is true with cell phones.  Instead of living in the real world and experiencing life as it happens, we’ve come to rely on our cell phones as security blankets.  We whip them out so we don’t feel alone, so we can connect with others… It is frightening that we have a difficult time being alone with our thoughts.

For me, based on my 7 years using it and 2 years without it, Facebook is almost synonymous with laziness and insecurity.  What do you think?

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Benner writes, “If you have whatever amount of Facebook friends, you feel like those people care about you and you actually have this community, but that’s not always the case. I definitely value quality friendships over quantity, so it was kind of a superficial sense of connection” (Source).  I agree that social media provides an illusion of friendship and connection with others.  Reading Sherry Turkle’s book and watching her TED Talk sold me.  “Face-to-face interaction teaches ‘skills of negotiation, of reading each other’s emotion, of having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion,’ Turkle says. She thinks people who feel they are too busy to have conversations in person are not making the important emotional connections they otherwise would” (Source).  I first discovered Turkle after listening to her half-hour interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, and I highly recommend the story.

Many people report feeling anxious if they post something on Facebook and don’t immediately get a “Like” or a comment.  The constant reaffirmation that what you’re doing is “right” or “supported” shows how vulnerable and self-conscious we are.  Facebook preys on our insecurities, on our vulnerabilities, and on our need to belong.  All-day Facebook users are addicted to that reaffirmation, and that isn’t a good thing.

Most of us collect Facebook friends.  We meet someone in a bar or at class and add them to our growing list.  Do we have 800 friends?  2,000?  4,000?  The popularity contest we engage in on Facebook reminds me of a celebrity collecting fans.  The person with the most friends/fans wins, right?  Not quite… Studies show Americans have – on average – two real, trustworthy friends (Source).  If most of us have two best friends, what is the point of the 2,548 others we’ve collected on Facebook?  To brag about our amazing lives?  To show off?  To prove something?  To compare our lives with others?

I’ve found that since I deleted my Facebook, I focus on cultivating real relationships with people.  What does that mean?  During the past two years, my goal has been to spend less time on the Internet and on the phone and more time in person with people I care about.  Because of this personal commitment to nurturing in-person relationships, I’ve had more brunches, more cocktail hours, more workout sessions, and more fun face-to-face with people than I would have two years ago.  How do YOU balance connecting on Facebook with connecting in real life?

Stay tuned for Two Years Without Facebook: Part Two tomorrow for the remaining two lessons.

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One thought on “Two Years Without Facebook: Part One

  1. I adore this post. I have never had a facebook account and I am determined to be the last person standing without one. There are many reasons for this including the lack of privacy, being sucked into a black hole where times disappears, having to read the endless mundane updates of 3rd cousins twice removed and the artificial sense of intimacy. I am all for old-fashioned communication. I love the way that you have articulated your reasons here.

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