What I’m Learning About Myself and Friendship During a Facebook Break
Facebook Status dated November 15, 2013:
Friends: I’m taking a break from FB over the holidays in an effort to simplify and refocus. …Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!
I had hoped a break from Facebook would have afforded me previously lost opportunities to relate with people face-to-face. That if I stopped incessantly scrolling through my feed, I’d find more time to engage in deep conversation, make eye contact, read body language and interpret vocal nuance. That I’d rediscover the lost art of interpersonal communication while “doing life” “at my kitchen table” “in community.” Because, as all Facebook Haters know, communication via social media is an inferior form of communication. Really, it’s not communication at all. Facebook is “evil” and “stupid” and a “waste of time.” And so is Mark Zuckerberg.
Yes, I hoped I’d feel all those things and more.
But honestly, I just feel sorta disconnected.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I feel disconnected from Facebook friends. My interpersonal-face-to-face-read-the-body-language relationships remain intact. I will have healthy relationships with or without Facebook. But here are some things I’m learning about me and relationships through this break:
Over all, the Facebook break has been good and necessary. In the few days prior to that status, I had been debating a theological issue with a person I had not seen in probably 30 years and would not recognize if he showed up on my doorstep delivering fresh cookies. I was carrying my phone around like an addict, checking it every 10 minutes for my fix. At one point, I was kneeling next to the bathtub trying to bathe my daughter with one hand while I was typing a response with the other. My child was in the same room with me, trying to talk to me while I washed her hair (kind of) and I was shushing her so I could respond to a person I hardly know regarding something that does not matter.
And then, heaven help us, the crazy people started posting about having their Christmas shopping done a full SIX WEEKS before Christmas. And, I don’t know, I guess I have some unresolved shopping inferiority complex or something, but I got all weird and panicky and thought I was going to cry. Because I had a mermaid birthday party to plan and Thanksgiving travel plans to make and Christmas shopping wasn’t even on my radar yet. And suddenly, I felt tension across the back of my neck and my breathing became a little labored, because, “HOLY CRAP!!!! ONLY SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS AND I’M NOT FINISHED SHOPPING YET!! I SUCK AS A HUMAN!”
And since my life is full of actual people and actual activities that consume actual physical and emotional energy, I realized that I did not have extra physical and emotional energy to spend debating or comparing or crying or telling myself I suck as a human.
And then I was all, “Facebook is stupid and evil!” And, thusly, posted my intentions to break.
So, you know—clearly, I did the right thing, evidenced by the crying and labored breathing and stuff. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and interpersonal connection the last three weeks.
Frankly, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of news. Like yesterday, I got on for just a second because a real-life friend posted a picture of my real-life daughter, and I wanted to see it. I opened up my feed, and the very first thing I saw was a post from another good real-life friend saying she was in Haiti (on her birthday) picking up her adopted son. I had been talking with her about this adoption and holding her hand through every step of the process for about three years. I was flabbergasted! I had no idea she was in Haiti.
Of course, she had been posting updates—on Facebook—which I missed, what with the labored breathing, and all. I wished I could have been encouraging her and praying for her these last few weeks. I felt horrible about that. And also, I had forgotten her birthday. And I felt horrible about that, too.
In addition to forgetting birthdays and super important adoption announcements, I also realize that being off Facebook means I don’t see pictures of my friends’ kids and I don’t know what my nephews are up to with their music and I don’t know how my sister and brother or any of their children are doing. I also miss out on some great articles and some hilarious banter, which some consider time-suckers, but I happen to enjoy immensely.
I remember now, that before Facebook, I was not doing much life face-to-face in community. I was mostly just a really bad, disconnected friend. I remember now, how I was up to my eyeballs in mom-related responsibilities and always felt a little isolated. I remember I spent a lot of mental energy beating myself up for not phoning my sisters or not returning my best friend’s call or not realizing that a church friend was struggling. I remember that I also failed to mail pictures of the kids to the grandparents. And, while I intended to send cards for special occasions, I rarely did so.
Facebook is by no means perfect, but it genuinely helps me stay more connected than I was before Facebook existed.
I suppose I thought a Facebook break would afford me opportunity to contact my Facebook friends by phone or in person—or at least by email. But do I really have time for 700 individual conversations, coffee dates and email exchanges? Or even 50? No, I do not. And is it fair or wise to expect friends who are keeping people updated via Facebook (like my friend adopting from Haiti) to send me a special extra email or phone call? No, probably not.
Maybe inferior connection is better than no connection.
To be clear, I do not miss reading what people think about Obamacare or Obama or The President or Barak Obama or The Liberal Media. I do not miss daily invitations to play Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Safari Ocean or Papa Bear Saga (?). I do not miss play-by-play commentary of various televised sporting events. (Especially when I see them a day late.) I do not miss poor grammar, whining about the weather, sappy inspirational quotes or hearing how all your presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree for Christmas 2016. Stop it, already.
And I definitely do not miss that panicky compulsion to check Facebook every time I have 10 seconds to spare. I wasted a lot of time doing that—hours a day, probably.
But, I do miss having the honor of whispering a prayer for your sick child because you took a minute between wiping up vomit and more wiping up vomit to post he was sick. I miss chuckling at your wit when you describe your day or your observations (I have some hilarious friends). I miss seeing pictures of your little girl dressed as an angel for her Christmas pageant and your baby sleeping soundly in her crib. And I miss knowing today is your birthday. Because I stink at remembering today is your birthday.
Call it a waste of time or stupid or evil or inferior, but Facebook feels a bit like connection to me—at least for the hundred or so people whom I truly love, but will surely fall through the friendship cracks if I leave Facebook altogether.
So, while I still plan to stay on this break through the holidays, I look forward to reengaging in social media in January, as pathetic as that sounds when I say it out loud. Only, this time, I plan to do it with a bit more discretion, less crying and more balance.
Q4U: Have you ever taken a social media break? What did you discover about yourself? How do you balance the good and the bad in social media?
Contrary to what may appear to be the case, I am NOT on a blog break. In reality, I have written no less than 100 blog posts in my head and probably 10 of those are partially written on my computer. It’s just–oh my goodness–LIFE, people! LIFE is sucking the LIFE out of me!!! I’m desperately trying to find a new writing/posting rhythm while still balancing LIFE. What an irony, considering the name and focus of this blog. I love writing here and I love that you always show up to read it. I just wanted to let you know that I hope to have a more consistent posting schedule in January. Thank you for reading.
So, Sandy, I was also going crazy checking FB several dozen times a day, including the minute I woke up in the morning to catch up with my friends in other time zones. I took FB off my phone, so now I actually have to walk to the computer in order to see what my friends are posting about the cold… and it stops me from checking FB whilst washing my daughter’s hair but I don’t feel completely out of touch.
Rebekah, That’s a good idea. For this break, I removed email notifications and I moved the FB app from the first page on my phone to a screen a few pages back. That helps. But I think taking it off my phone altogether is a better option.
I totally get it Sandy! I left Facebook altogether a couple years ago, and when I came back I was very choosy about who I ‘friended’. I decided that I would let go of old school friends and friends of friends. I tried to ask myself if I really cared what this person had for dinner or what so and so did on Saturday night. Even now, there are many friend requests that I ignore. I feel bad, but I don’t want FB to be more of a time sucker (or morale sucker) than it already is.
If you decide to do the same, I hope you don’t delete me 😉
I think we became friends about the time you came back or maybe you left and then came back? I think I remember you leaving once. Morale sucker is a huge issue for me. Because mixed with all the stuff I want to read is a lot of stuff I don’t want to read. Maybe hiding more people from my feed–I don’t have it in me to “unfriend” people.
And don’t worry, friend–as I was writing this post, you were one of the people I was thinking, “even if I do leave FB forever, I could never just grab coffee with Kelly or even call.” Unless, of course, Kelly invites me back to speak at another conference. Just sayin.
Have I told you lately how much I love you?! You make me laugh out loud! That is except for the fact that I know you are actually really stressing over some of these things! I just want to remind you how much all of your friends/followers love & appreciate YOU…all that you are, all that you think you are not! You remind us that yes, life gets crazy (so do we), we may not always react appropriately (the high road is NOT the road most traveled!), and yet…Jesus loves us!!! It’s true: I’m ok and You’re ok (even if we’re a little crazy and unbalanced at times) because of that little baby KING sleeping in a stinky hay trough 2000 years ago. He SEES us (Avatar-style) and thinks His kids are just the bee’s knees or the schnizzle-fanizzle (I refuse to say SIIIICK because I’ve recently been sick and it’s not cool in any way)! He knows that we’re on a journey. While we want to always be “running” this race called LIFE, I think at times He’s pleased that we’re just putting one foot in front of the other. We forget that He reminded us to run with patience (Heb 12:1); sometimes that’s being patient with ourselves! You are so transparent (which in itself is a sign that you’re healthy – not everyone can admit they’re less than perfect) and down-to-earth! I love you as a friend, a blogger, and most of all as my precious sister who is just as REAL as I am! Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving (belated…yes, I forgot to wish your family, who I LOVE, a Happy T’giving…shoot), Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!!!
Jean, you are one of my favorite people in the whole entire world. That is all.
Sandy, you are an amazing person. I know a lot of people that feel they “need” facebook. I can honestly say I am glad I am not one of those people. I could check my news feed once a week and it be too much. I just dont care what someone had for breakfast or a video of some kids fighting in school. The things that i am most concerned about are in my home and i dont need facebook to see that. When facebook, even tv or video games are given more attention than our spouses, kids, work, driving, and even God thats when we need to step back and look at what we are doing to the people around us. I know that I would not want to be the one being ignored by someone because of facebook or its comparable “evil”. I do like to see what old friends are up to or looking at cute pictures of puppies, but spending hours doing so is overboard. Managing time is the key, and family should fit at the top of the timeline for sure. I love you and everything you have done for me. You are an amazing mother and friend. Be true to youself and what you know is right for your family and friends, you will be blessed with their love beyond imagination.
Oh, now see…I DO enjoy knowing what people ate for breakfast, as long as they post a picture and it’s awesome and yummy and gives me inspiration to create something awesome and yummy in my kitchen. I’m odd that way. 🙂 I agree that managing time wisely is key. Anything that sucks hours from your day should be closely monitored or reevaluated altogether. Anything that takes time away from your top priorities should be monitored as well. Great points. And Girl…YOU are one of the main reasons I am on FB. I am SOOOOO glad we reconnected there and absolutely adore seeing pictures of you and the kids. So, please don’t ever leave. I LOVE YOU.
I have only taken breaks from social media for a week or so while on vacation with no wifi. It has always been relaxing not to feel the pressure to check in every 30 minutes. I also got that disconnected feeling you describe when logging back on.
BTW, I enjoy your posts whenever they arrive. I’m always like “Great! Sandy’s back.”
Thanks, Lori. Up until very recently, I never even logged onto wifi on vacation or checked emails or anything. Before smart phones…I miss those days when a vacation was truly a break from the real world.
I love Facebook and no longer feel sheepish admitting that. One of the funny things I have noticed about Facebook snobbies (those not on that make snide remarks about those that are) is that they have some habits that they will spend HOURS on (watching TV sports for hours at a time while doing nothing productive) but give grief to those who enjoy social media. As for FB, I can scroll through my feed in five minutes or less – I just bypass posts if I don’t have time to look at pictures, read thru posted articles, rants, etc.
I also LOVE that I am friends with my beloved 5th grade teacher, a handful of friends that I had when I was 10 that I never would have dreamed of being able to keep in touch with since we had moved, and family connection with cousins who are spread out around the country. Plus, how many of us really even get to visit with our neighbors who are a mile away when life is so busy for all? But I get to keep up with their cute kids posts and photos and know at least a little bit of what is going on in their lives.
Fun stuff, if you ask me. 🙂
I have a close personal friend (*cough cough* my husband) who gives me grief about FB. But he will fall asleep in front of ESPN every night. And he often wants to know what’s going on with people we know who are my FB friends. Not to throw him under the bus or anything…just speaking truth.
I like keeping up with real life friends via FB, even it’s a little bit, too. Jon and I work the nursery sign in table at church and it’s so funny how family after family comes in to chat with me and we are all talking about stuff we shared and saw on each other’s FB walls.
I recently took a decent enough vacation from FB to break my habit of checking my newsfeed so often. I re-activated and found a tiny bit of important updates, a mild amount of entertainment, and a whole lot of irritation. Now I’m mildly irritated that the important information was mass-communicated instead of directly communicated to those who sincerely care the most.
I am so glad you inspired me to take this break. 🙂 There are a lot of things that irritate me on FB, too. That will truly be the challenge for me when I go back. To be able to regulate my time and/or restrict my feed in such a way as to minimize irritation and still stay connected.
What’s Facebook? 🙂