I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a full-blown Facebook addict. (Hi, my name is Ariaun…) I’m a people person who loves to write and who spends most of her time with two young children. It’s the perfect storm for a social media addiction, and FB is my drug of choice. I enjoy almost everything about it. (Except maybe cat videos. I could live out the rest of my days without seeing another cat video and still die happy.)
But for quite a while now I’ve felt a nagging pull to take a break. Like a good addict is prone to do, though, I’ve always managed to talk myself out of it. “But this is how I connect with people!” “I’ll miss something important!” “I don’t really let it take up that much of my time.” This past December the desire to take a hiatus from FB became rather overwhelming. So on Jan.1 I pulled the plug for a month on my biggest vice.
It’s now the middle of February. Looking back, I have to say that removing myself from FB was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. And I learned a few things, to boot. Would you like to discover my confessions and insights? Forge ahead, dear reader, and let’s discuss.
- As a FB addict, I checked my notifications first thing every morning, before I even got out of bed.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. It’s a nice, quiet way to stimulate my brain as I try to wake up. It’s kind of like my pre-coffee pick-me-up. I don’t remember how I did life before smartphones, do you? Well, without my FB app, I had to find a different way to wake my brain up every morning. I started out by reading news headlines, but after a couple of days I just couldn’t stomach it. So I decided to try waking up the old fashioned way: I got myself out of bed. I went to my living room, turned on a lamp, picked up a book, and started reading. Visualize it with me for a moment.
I love reading books, and my favorite time to read is first thing in the morning. But too often I find that the mindless perusing of social media easily draws me away from quality literature. (Plus, it’s challenging to hold a book in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. You Third World people wouldn’t understand.) I wanted to change that habit in January, so every morning, instead of surfing on my phone, I picked up a book (this one happened to be Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson), and I sat down with my coffee to read. This book, along with a couple of others, has drastically changed my parenting philosophy, (which is a conversation for another time), and I’m not sure when I would have taken the time to read it without my FB break. I discovered a sense of freedom in not feeling pulled to my newsfeed every morning. Now when I wake up I (usually) start my day with a book or with scripture reading. I could be wrong, but I suspect it’ll make me smarter than starting my day taking a quiz to find out what my left index finger says about my personality.
- Turns out I actually DO have time to do those things I don’t have time to do.
This one is harsh. I have a laundry list of 5-10-minute tasks that, up until January, I just could not find the time to do. Some of them have literally been on my list for years. They weren’t difficult tasks; they were just…what’s the word…boring. And so when given the choice between taping the cover back onto my son’s LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia or spending five minutes seeing if anyone left a comment on my status update, the latter usually won. Okay, fine, the latter always won. Take away the quick ride on the ego trip, though, and all of a sudden, the small tasks become a manageable “thing” that can easily be dealt with. And doyouknowwhat? Knocking things off my to-do list gave me even greater satisfaction than thumbs-ups on my status updates! Who knew!
- Playing with my kids and having face-to-face conversations is more fun than debating issues on FB.
Well, I didn’t really learn this, I already knew it. But I liked having BIG conversations with people on FB, and this was what I thought I would miss most of all. The unexpected truth is, I didn’t miss it. Not even a little bit. Intentionally disengaging from virtual conversations freed me up to spend more time in real, live conversations, with visible body language and everything. I enjoyed not feeling compelled to share my opinions. With this newfound discovery I’m (slowly) learning to be much more cautious about what I choose to talk about on social media. I’m also finding myself less interested in engaging in other people’s controversial conversations online. Not because I don’t enjoy the discussions; I do! But because the amount of time required to clearly express one’s thoughts in writing without the benefit body language is one of the most difficult, time-consuming things about social media. And I realized that it’s often more stressful than fun. Ain’t nobody got time.
While my husband and I thoroughly enjoy having open-minded discussions with people about social issues around the dinner table, I plan to now be more careful about engaging in those same conversations virtually. I was reminded that my time in this season of life is better spent loving on my friends and family. I still enjoy being an active listener on FB, but I have set a goal now to be less of a talker. To wag more and bark less, if you will.
- I don’t like my kids seeing me on my phone.
Most of my FB interactions happen on my phone more than any other electronic device I own, and I suspect the same goes for most people. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m out in public, I can’t help but notice (judge) how often people are on their phones. In restaurants, at the grocery store, at the park, in traffic…everyone has their heads in their phones. What I realized about myself was that, though I try to be diligent about putting my phone away when I’m around people, my children still see me on my phone at home quite often. Whether it’s FB, Pinterest, a news article, or a text message, my face is in my phone more often than I’d like to admit. Consequently, I’m indirectly teaching my kids that this is an okay thing.
Perhaps I shouldn’t characterize being on one’s phone for a considerable amount of time as being inherently good or bad. But for me, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s not how I want to be remembered. I don’t want my children or my husband to remember me as being distracted by my phone all the time. I don’t want them to remember that I looked down at my phone more than I looked them in the eyes. I don’t want them to remember me as having always focused on someone else’s conversation. I don’t want to grow old and discover that I missed most of what was happening in my life because I couldn’t stop watching what was happening in other people’s lives. My point is, I only have a few short years to make lasting memories with my children. I want to be careful and deliberate in the way I craft those memories. Being on my phone all the livelong day doesn’t fit well into that plan. My break from FB sealed that truth for me even more.
Yes, smartphones and social media are probably here to stay. And even with the things I learned from my Facebook “vacation,” I’m still a huge fan and I probably always will be. I love engaging with my wide variety of friends far too much to kiss it goodbye forever. But taking a break from FB’s constant beckoning gave me a renewed perspective on how to set boundaries for myself. It helped me to be mindful of what I most value in my everyday life. I honestly thought I would hate every minute of my month off, and I’ll be honest, Inauguration Day was HARD, I tell you. But overall, it was not only an experience I truly delighted in, but it’s one I now plan make at least a yearly habit.
How about you? Do you set boundaries for yourself for social media? Do you take intentional breaks regularly? If so, what perspectives have you learned? I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me!