Just in time for Lent, I have decided to give up Facebooking. While I do not forsee being able to stay off of the site for a over a month, I do need at least a short mental vacation from social networking. Ever since the website has become a part of my daily routine, I usually have one of these so-called “Facebook Fasts” about three times a year. It may sound silly and/or simple at first, but it is not as easy to do as it sounds. I typically have decent self-control (no, not the App) when it comes to anything “internet,” but sometimes my social networking hobby becomes an addiction, from which I must routinely detox. I consider checking my Facebook once or twice in a day reasonable. When I begin using the Facebook Mobile App, staying signed on throughout the day, and religiously checking statuses, I know that it is time for a break. I find that I usually become impulsive during major life events, usually traumatic ones, such as break-ups.
As a child of the impulsive, internet generation, it is easy and almost inevitable to fall prey to compulsively checking the the easily accessible social connections that we all have virtually in our pockets. We are constantly connected, whether it be through text messages, wall posts, tweets, instagrams, and even phone-calls (but this very personal form of communication seems to be a dying one). I find that, cyclically, I become response-obsessed, meaning that if a friend does not respond in an appropriate and/or timely manner, I become impatient, agitated, and even upset with the friend in question. It usually takes a culmination of negative feelings to make me realize that I am being ridiculous and must take a break. Being disconnected is surprisingly a very mentally freeing thing. Last year, I made a promise to myself to keep my phone away during special events and times, including holidays, family parties, and even time at the gym. This was also something that was surprisingly very difficult at first. Now, I actually look forward to these phone-free times, because they allow me to reconnect with the people who are most important to me and with myself. It is something that, if you find yourself struggling with, is definitely worth doing.
“Facebook Fasts” are difficult at first, because, in the first few days, I find myself reaching for my phone, doing everything I can not to tap that infamous blue App. It forces me to pay attention to and focus on things that I typically would not, including particularly boring lectures, dull waits in doctor’s waiting rooms, down-time while doing work, and even in-between paragraphs while writing papers. The first few days are the hardest, but it gets easier as the days go on and, eventually, I find myself thinking about what my Facebook friends are posting about less and less.
One draw-back to not going on Facebook is that it definitely keeps you out of the loop of goings-on in your circle of friends. Facebook has become such a significant means of communication that not going on for even just a few days could prevent you from getting event invitations, important messages about group projects, and even in some cases assignments for classes. It also prevents you from knowing what is happening in the personal lives of your friends (God forbid you do not know when your second cousin is doing her laundry!). In all seriousness, though, this is a major draw-back to this attempt to clear your mental clutter.
As I read this post back to myself, I begin to question whether or not it is a bad thing that I even have to think about “fasting” from a social network website. Did Mark Zuckerburg intend for us to be this addicted to the site he birthed? Does anyone else have an issue with the fact that we are actually becoming addicted to this connectedness? I do not know whether or not this is normal behavior, or if it is my slightly compulsive personality that leads me to need to do this every so often. Regardless, I am not ruling out any other social networking sites from having to be included in this “fast” in the future. For instance, I have not yet needed to do this with my Twitter account, but I am not ruling it out. As time goes on, I guess we will see.