I quit Facebook for a month, you’ll never guess what happened next …

One day in January 2016 I checked my Facebook “news” feed to discover that it contained no actual news from any of my friends. There were no status updates, no news or pictures of friends and their lives. What it was crammed full of was shares, likes and re-posts (usually clickbait or viral marketing stuff) none of which I cared about. I decided I’d had enough, I would go on a one month Facebook detox.

I posted a status telling everyone that I was going to leave Facebook for a bit, uninstalled the app from my phone and deactivated my account on the site. I went Facebook “cold turkey” for a month and here’s what happened.

People thought I was over-reacting or worse…
I got a couple of responses to my post telling me that I was over-reacting & that I should just shut-up and deal with it. Some people felt that my decision to quit Facebook was somehow a personal attack on them. If I wasn’t with them (on Facebook) then I was against them. What was more interesting was that some people thought that my decision to quit Facebook might be a sign of some underlying problem and thought they ought to check up on me. In the 24 hours after quitting, I actually received phone calls “just to see how I was doing”. These people meant well, in fact I can understand their thinking entirely but it’s a sign of how deeply ingrained Facebook has become in all of our lives that my decision to withdraw from it was seen by some as a warning sign of a deeper problem.

I realised the true extent of my Facebook addiction…
I would find myself with my phone in my hand, staring blankly at the spot on the homescreen where the Facebook app icon used to be. Or I would go to open Facebook on my computer only to realise that I’d deleted the bookmark. This really brought home how I’d become conditioned into reflexively and unconsciously checking it, jonesing for the little buzz of endorphins I’d get from seeing a new update. Tellingly, after uninstalling the app, I’d typically have 20% more juice left in my phone battery at the end of the day!

I realised how much everyone else was hooked…
Not having access to it made me notice how often I would see that familiar blue on people’s phones or screens. I would hear the familiar “pop” and “ding” of notifications and messages arriving. The whole world is hooked! This must be what it’s like for smokers who quit, you become acutely aware of everyone who’s still got what you used to have.

I spent more time “in the moment”…
One definitely positive aspect of quitting was that it made me realise that I was missing out on precious time with those around me while I was absorbed in my phone. To my horror I realised that I’d been routinely staring at Facebook on my phone when I should have been in the middle of playing with or paying attention to my own son! Now, I’m not saying Facebook made me a neglectful parent, but it was enough that he picked up on it and it was enough that I noticed when I had to stop doing it. Another positive aspect was that I had more to talk about with friends when I saw them. Because I hadn’t already seen it all, when people asked me what I’d been up to or I them, it was genuinely news to me.

I stopped missing it (mostly) …
Now, after a month away, I’m finding that, for the most part, I don’t miss the vast majority of Facebook any more. I don’t feel the need to share what I had for lunch today, I’m just dandy not hearing about what band you saw last night. There were some things I did miss though. I missed seeing updates from my friends. The interesting thing was that it wasn’t all my friends’ updates that I missed, it was really only the people who I see (at least fairly) regularly anyway.

Conclusions…
So, will I go back to Facebook? Well, yes, I will. But I’m going to use it very differently and more consciously than I ever previously did. I’m not going to reinstall the app on my phone and I’m not going to add it back to my bookmarks. I’m going to be the one to decide when I go there and not be a slave to notifications. I’m going to unfriend a lot of people. Not because I have anything against them but because I’m, more than likely, never going to see them again.

In conclusion, I thoroughly recommend trying to take a break from Facebook. You might find that the results surprise you and I think, whatever you ultimately decide, you’ll be all the wiser for the experience.

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