Facebook, We Have a Problem, Part One: Just Give Me a Hit of that Sweet, Sweet Refresh

Creative/ Social Media/ Thinking

By now nearly all of us have a friend who’s posted an “I’m taking a break from Facebook” post. I’ll be honest, until I found myself typing this post myself, I never really got the point. It’s just a harmless way to pass the time, I’d think as I scrolled by. What’s the big deal?

Then I slowly began to notice how often I was allowing myself to be pulled off task by the urge to go check something on Facebook. Maybe something I posted was getting a lot of replies, or I was in the midst of a heated debate, or maybe someone was wrong on the internet. Or perhaps I was bored, or lonely. Whatever the cause—and I could come up with many—over time, I found I was allowing my attention to be divided between whatever I was working on and whatever might be happening on Facebook.

How Much Time Do You Spend On Social Media?

Look around you any old day and you’ll see people with devices in their hands. Red lights, checkout lines, waiting at the crosswalk—people don’t really stand and wait anymore. And those snatches of time spent refreshing your Facebook feed add up. Give a thought to what this does to the way we experience the world, and each other.

When I began to explore my Facebook usage, I found that too often, I was pulling out my phone at the first tug of boredom—or not even boredom, really—more just unclaimed time. Honestly, how important is it for me to know that I’ve received a message, or that someone “liked” a photo of my vacation, or what a friend thinks of their new car, while I was in line at the grocery store?. But there I was, pulling out my phone at the prospect of even a few moments of just being.

And then there’s the deliberate time I spent at Facebook: catching up, creating new posts, commenting on photos and being part of the hubbub that makes Facebook so irresistible.

I’d be willing to bet that if you add up all the time you spend at Facebook, you’ll be very surprised. For example: even if you’re spending 3 minutes, 3 times an hour, on social media (and you know that’s completely doable) for twelve hours, that’s slightly less than 2 hours a day. Times seven days, and you’re staring at Facebook for over 12 hours a week.

Now I don’t know about y’all, but 3 minutes, 3 times and hour isn’t a realistic estimate of how much time I spent at Facebook. What about those 40 minutes on Saturday morning? Or those coffee-fueled morning catch-up periods? For me, it worked out to about twenty-five hours a week. (!!!!) TWENTY-FIVE HOURS A WEEK. Imagine what I could have been doing with 25 hours a week! It’s enough time to go the gym 5 days a week, read a couple of books, go to the farmers market and cook every meal from scratch, sleep an extra hour every morning and spend 30 extra minutes a day playing with my dog Jim, with time to spare. It could have been spent creating instead of consuming. It could have been spent getting my business up and running, or keeping up with my daily writing practice, or in any number of far more productive activities.

Have you ever taken a social media break?

Of course, even if you swear off Facebook completely, you’re not going to harvest every newly free moment and put it to virtuous, productive use. Some of your social media time is spent keeping up with friends and family, or just having conversations, and those activities won’t, and shouldn’t, stop just because you’ve chosen to put a particular socialization tool down for now. No one wants you to cut off your connection with your many wonderful friends! But reaching out to individual people is far more deliberate and personal than scrolling though your Facebook feed. You can give people your full attention instead of checking for their comments between reading several other threads. Call me old-fashioned (I am), but I don’t think friendship should be multi-tasked, at least not every day.

It was time to make a change. But how to proceed? We’ll get into that as we proceed through this series of posts. Stay with us! And we’d love to hear about your experiences with social media cleanses in the comments. 

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