Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why I'm on a Facebook Fast

The concept of doing technology "fasts" or "breaks" has interested me for a while.

I think taking time off from something - whether it's news, video games, porn, or social media - can be a good way of understanding what impact that usage is really having on you.

So two days ago I entered my second ever Facebook Fast.

It's pretty simple - I wiped the Facebook app from my Android phone and my iPad. I swapped in a profile photo that says "ON A FACEBOOK BREAK - CALL OR EMAIL ME".

Why did I do it? Here's my personal thoughts and experiences on Facebook's impact on me and my happiness:

#1) Facebook made me unhappy through comparing my life to other's lives. Well, not really my life to their actual lives. My life to their carefully curated highlights. I call it "Facebook Envy". Articles about this have been coming out for a while, from the Time magazine, to Psychology Today, to the New Yorker.

#2) Facebook made me unhappy through focus on the many, many things in the world that we should be fighting for (or against). I call this particular one "Outrage Fatigue", and it may be related to being a liberal psychotherapist in Seattle. In any one day, I may see posts linking to articles, videos, petitions and fundraisers to fight Monsanto, global warming, racism, sexism, war in the Middle East, a teen dying of cancer, GMO's, the honeybees dying, homelessness, and more.

Each one trying to cut through the torrent of information to get my attention (and probably time, energy and money, too).

I'm tired. Tired of over-focusing on the bad. I could probably really focus on one (I have a friend who has focused all her energies on gun control, for instance, to great effect) but the constant whipsawing leaves me sad and overwhelmed.

#3) Facebook has made me unhappy through.....isolation! I know, that one seems counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I have seen the pattern play out more and more lately. While I *know* more information about my friends and what they are doing, I think I see them less. And when I do, there seems to be less to talk about. There are no surprises anymore.

I hear that this is impacting high school reunions, as people get together and the news they would have shared is already shared. Even with people they haven't seen in person in years. It takes some of the impetus and drive away from actually getting together in person!

I'm focusing on seeing more friends in person, and writing letters during this Facebook Fast.

#4) Facebook has made me unhappy by being a huge time-suck. It was famous for being the most "sticky" website ever. It truly is. One can be on it for a looooooooooooong time each visit, if you care enough, or have nothing else pressing, The problem is, it fills in time (and takes will and impetus) that might be better used for, say, blogging, or exercising, or something else creative (rather than consumptive).

I've already gotten more done in these two days than is average for me in a week. Crazy.

Finally #5) My Facebook use had me *way* more un-present in those typical weeknight evenings with my wife, We're married with a kindergartener, and if you're a parent you probably know the drill - homework, dinner, bathtime, books, bed. Followed by two tired parents on the couch watching TV. At least in the past we'd be half-focused on TV and able to chat, comment, talk, backrub, etc. But with the iPad and smartphones running Facebook, we looked more like teenagers.

Instead, last night we watched a whole movie ("Fault in Our Stars", BTW) with no checking for the whole 2 hours. What a nice experience!

Well, that's it for now. I will blog about the experience of being off of Facebook and what other impacts I see.

No comments: