…Okay, it was actually, TECHNICALLY 22 days. But who’s counting? I like how “21 Days Later” sounds (is it because there’s a well-known movie that contains this time frame in its title? it’s unlikely), so we’re just not going to count one of the days that I spent off of Facebook. And yes… this post is alllll about Facebook, the social media/networking site that
we I just hate to love (and love to hate).
I began this little “experiment” on October the 13th, a Sunday.. and initially, it began out of sheer irritation. With people.
Over the years, I’ve watched quietly as my “friendships” with people have turned into weekly “likes” and monthly “comments,” semi-annual “in-person” visits and annual “happy birthday” posts. And on Sunday, thinking about it just made me angry (coupled with seeing the same girl smiling in her stupid car seat and the other same girl standing awkwardly in front of her bathroom mirror.. for the seven hundredth friiiiiiickin time). I was sitting on the leather couch in our living room, legs tucked under me, leisurely looking at Facebook to pass the few intervening minutes before Chris and I would begin playing Heroes on Netflix when I suddenly stared down at my phone accusingly. The blue F logo seemed to shine more brightly and infuriatingly than ever. “You know you can’t stay away,” it seemed to scoff. “Are you challenging me?” I whispered inside my own head, raising one of my eyebrows in disgust. “You think that you can just replace eye contact, hugs, table side conversations and hearing someone laugh OUT LOUD with your crypt and html?” A vindictive idea hit me suddenly: leave Facebook.. but for just a little while. A set period of time. Show blue F that YOU are the boss, not some hopeless addict stalking the lives of grown up kids who don’t give a hail mary about you.
I had seen too many of my friends declare their hatred and disapproval of Facebook and then rashly delete their Facebook accounts, only to reopen these same accounts a month (or even a week) later. So I told my little world of family and friends that I would be taking a Facebook hiatus… that I would be back in December, and that if anyone wished to contact me in the meantime, my email was provided in the status update. I posted the status with a satisfying click and smiled to myself approvingly; “thisssss will be an interesting experiment!”
With all of this new information and all of these intriguing ideas developing in my head (and about five minutes into my “experiment” — it may have been three), I noticed that Chris was taking a long time coming in making his way downstairs, so I absentmindedly reached over for my phone and tapped the blue F —- completely out of habit. I caught myself quickly, a little surprised, and then decided that I would need to take things a step further by creating some preventative measures. Yes, it was decided; I definitely needed to set some boundaries so as to safeguard my resolution. I proceeded to delete the Facebook app from my phone and then sighed in relief. Now, keeping my promise would be easier.
It was a long time coming. For too many months, I’d hear Christopher droning on in the background while I scrolled mindlessly through my Newsfeed, only to, five minutes later (after he had left the room), perk up and ask, guiltily, “Whatttt were you just saying?” Car rides to and from school that used to be scenic and an ideal time for conversation turned into official Facebook catch-up times, and driving myself to work and back became a safety hazard as I routinely hugged a bowl of cereal in between my legs, brushed my hair with my left hand and tried, with my other free hand, to respond legibly to private messages and public comments on my wall.
So an eventual break was inevitable, and upon making my resolution, my mind immediately drifted to my blog, and my irritation-infused break from Facebook quickly became an exciting sort of “experimental endeavor” to see how many of my friends would reach out (ie how many people that claimed to be my friend really cared about me) during my absence.
So yes. This whole Facebook Hiatus, 21-days later business began as a sort of pity party.. a pathetic idea of pronouncing open judgement on the 442 people that called themselves my friends — turning them into guinea rabbits and “scientifically” testing their affections and loyalties.
The following day, after Chris left for work around 4:40 in the morning, I reached my arm over to the nightstand and grabbed my phone. My early-morning routine is to “check up” on Facebook for a few minutes to help acclimate myself to an empty house and then, to fall back asleep. I stopped myself, staring into the dark, thinking “without Facebook.. what can I do on the internet?” I googled “news” and read up on a random article about something that didn’t interest me before moving on to news articles related to the recently shot Veronica Mars movie. They engaged me for about six or seven minutes but proved dissatisfying, so I checked to make sure my alarm was still on, set my phone back onto the night stand and tried to fall asleep.
The next day, I wondered if anyone had commented on my post. Or liked it. But I told myself… you’ll find out in December. Remember? You do not care. And they probably don’t either.
So passed Monday. My first day without Facebook.
Tuesday morning, Chris left for work and again, at 4:40 AM, I reached for my phone and wondered to myself, “what can I look up that will help me fall asleep?” Now, you first must understand that we’ve been studying Space in our Physical Science class, so I’ve pretty consistently had black holes, comets and gravitational wells on the mind. I have actually (despite my self-attested ‘non-scientific nature’) developed quite a liking for Space.. a fascination with it, really. So, at 4:44 in the morning, I decided to YouTube videos of Space. And I was successful.
For the past three weeks, I have spent my early mornings watching videos of Space, from simple satellite views and collages of stills to Felix Baumgartner’s daredevil free fall from 24 miles above the earth. It became habitual for me to google pictures of Space and wonder to myself what kind of Space tattoo I’d like to put on my wrist someday. I now consider Space as a dear interest of mine; we bonded during my absence from friends and I often picture myself, at night, before falling asleep, as suspended in space, looking down on earth as though it is something completely separate and distinct from me.. far, far away. One of my new goals in life is to ride the Virgin Galactic someday (or, fifty years from now when my hope is a tad bit more feasible but still a fantasy, whatever functions like the Virgin Galactic).
So my days passed uneventfully; the round of work and school and cleaning and shopping kept me busy and, without Facebook, life was quiet. I spent more time thinking and less time observing others. It was sort of relaxing (especially coupled with the fact that I picked my Yoga routine back up).
And, ultimately, I was able to prove that my suspicions were true: friendships “these days” are pretty darn superficial. Out of the 442 friends I boast on Facebook, 5 contacted me during my little hiatus… and it was all the ones that I expected would.
So! Was I successful? Sure.. I tested out my theory and, yes. People really don’t give many flying flamingoes about keeping in touch with acquaintance-friends. Good job, Rose! That’s a crazy, unexpected find.. but seriously, my mindset regarding the whole experiment changed pretty early on. Like… on day 2.
On day 2, I realized, this experiment isn’t to test the people that claim to be my “friends…” it’s to test me. On multiple levels.
Firstly, I let not using Facebook become an excuse to not contact people (people that I supposedly, purportedly care about and consider “friends”). It’s a two-way street, and to ignore and neglect people entirely is clearly seriously worse than soley using Facebook as a communication medium (it’s better than nothing, right?)
Secondly, the emphasis that I placed on how many people would contact me during my social media absence was a shitty idea of “scientific analysis.” Facebook friends aren’t best friends. ..does it even need saying? The term “Facebook friends” redefined itself for me during the past 21 days, and I’ll end with that.. in a moment.
Thirdly and mooooost importantly, my Facebook hiatus tested ME. What am I at the end of the day? Who? All likes and comments and friend counts aside, what is important to me and about me? What do I consist of? In what do I find personal value? What are my hobbies.. do I have any anymore? Do I make time for the people that I love? Am I negligent? Does Facebook become a barrier, or an excuse, or is a platform, a tool.. a surprisingly helpful medium?
And how did I spend my time during the past 21 days? The time that I used to spend on Facebook I spent, instead, playing the piano, watching videos of Space, doing some extra cleaning during the week and calling family members more. Mainly, my grandparents. It was a pretty fair trade off.. in some ways, life was better.
But I missed Facebook. True; 437 of the 442 friends on my Facebook page aren’t my besties, but who has the time for that many besties? Acquaintances are valuable. It’s nice to keep in touch with the people that you used to work with, and it’s fun to keep tabs on the schoolmates that you used to go to class with in a non-intimidating, pressureless kind of way. It’s special to see pictures of people aging, and kids being born — and it’s fun to watch dogs biting frisbees and to see pretty meals presented on fancy restaurant plates. I truly enjoy it, and, with greater moderation, I have decided to keep Facebook. For all of its faults, it has one great anchor: providing your family and friends at your fingertips and allowing you to involve yourself, as much or as little as you like, in their lives.
So my conclusion on the matter is Facebook is great but breaks can be good. Coming back to it now (earlier than I anticipated — my mother misses me and I finally convinced my Grammy to join; how could I possibly miss this turn in history?), I have a different perspective on the whole thing and my addiction has been effectually curbed.
Wonder how many likes this post will get…
PS as a side note, is it just me or is any one else out there Twitter-hesitant? I’ve pretty much resisted every social media advancement/ invention that presented itself during the past few years (Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn).. and because it’s so frickin time consuming. I’ve invested years into Facebook and really don’t need to be virtually present “everywhere.” Facebook, at the present, still seems to rule the social media world.. and I really hope it holds. Thoughts?