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Last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent—I’m not a practicing Catholic, but it has a few handy practices—and decided to keep a diary about the process.
After two days, I realized I didn’t care enough to continue writing things down. Basically, the first few days were the hardest, like… breaking any habit. Interestingly enough, a paper I read on social interaction design commented that it takes 3 days to come off social media habits. While I couldn’t find a cite for it, it does seem to hold true for me. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and their ilk are desire engines. Effectively, despite all your rage, you’re still just a rat in a cage. It’s no longer enough to dazzle people to get attention; instead, sites and products must instill habit, and they do. Fortunately, there are ways to break habits by recognizing exactly what it is they reward.
At the end of the year, I decided to do it again for a couple of weeks because of several days of reactive behavior:
- The Sandy Hook shooting just had happened and people were arguing about gun control;
- Instagram made a mistake and people were freaking about that;
- Someone posted a (fake) video of an eagle snatching a toddler into the air;
- The next day was 12/21/2012.
Critical thinking had died.
I’m back—who cares, really—and here are some observations about things on Facebook:
- Arguing about gun control and posting crappy images, one way or another, immedately after Sandy Hook seems really, really tactless if you go review it all now.
- The next time some free social media service changes their Terms of Service, give them a few days before you react… chances are they’re just not thinking particularly clearly. They’re not geniuses, they’re just people like you and me.
- Google something before posting it as truth, especially if it seems pretty fantastic.
Some observations about Facebook withdrawal:
- People check in via texts and messages when they notice you’re gone; that’s nice.
- It takes a bit to shake firing up Facebook when you get bored or frustrated.
- I use Facebook to keep on top of current events; moreso than news websites: regular news websites have their own (entertainment) agenda and can be slower than Facebook.
- Facebook messages, while sometimes spotty, can be more reliable than regular email.
- I missed seeing my family.
Some positive things:
- I occupied myself, e.g. finishing all those online articles I meant to read later.
- I felt like time slowed a bit, because life was more quiet.
- Created more, consumed less.
I recommend the experience. Another friend is doing it for a year, which is pretty impressive. I’ll miss him, but I’ll just have to find him in person to see how life is going. Personally, I’m going to limit myself, but I’m not quite sure how, yet. I like being connected to people, so how often? Once a day? Once a week? What do other people do?