I’ve just finished a one week Facecation. I got the idea (and the term) from my friend Roz, who did her own Facecation recently. I don’t know what her exact motivation was, but in my case, I thought that Facebook and I needed a little time apart to get our relationship back in balance. The form of our relationship was roughly this:
Chris- Checking it first thing in the morning, struggling to keep up with friend’s postings, continually trying to think of witty things to post for my status or in response to others postings, struggling to clear out the constant stream of alerts in my inbox, continually clicking on Facebook throughout the day to refresh a brief feeling of excited contact with the rest of the world, being unable to get to bed at night because I needed to check Facebook one more time in case anything new had happened.
Facebook- Accepting all my attention while otherwise practicing complete disinterest toward me.
You can see what the problem was.
I’m no stranger to compulsive behavior and online addiction, so I could see it too. I also had the feeling that I was increasingly getting cut by the other edge of the double-edged sword that is social networking: it can make you feel connected to a lot of people, but it also prompts shallow and fleeting connections that masquerade as real intimacy. So I decided on a one week break, just to let the dust settle. From midnight Wednesday last week through midnight yesterday, I did not visit Facebook, deleted all e-mail alerts from it unread and even, when I was fast enough to zap them, tried to delete the messages without even looking at their titles.
What can I tell you about that experience? Well, for starters, like most any break from something compulsive, it was pretty much an immediate relief. The withdrawal was fairly light, too. I did have the weird lurching feeling of continually composing status updates in my head about things I saw or felt, and then realizing that if I had thoughts I wanted to express, I had to find a real live person to express them too. That seemed unreasonable! But that went away after a few days, and I had very little of the “what do I do with spare moments?” feeling that I thought I might have. Instead I almost immediately felt more alert and appreciated the free time and free head-space. I also appreciated seeing people at various points throughout my week more, since I couldn’t “cyber-see” them in-between. The other thing I noticed is that, after a day or two, the daily 20+ e-mail alerts I was receiving dwindled down to one or two. When you don’t constantly feed the beast, it doesn’t spontaneously come looking for you too often.
There were a few things I genuinely missed. When I finish reading a book, as I did with a behemoth 515 page tome this past week, I like posting the review. I also use Facebook to pimp my writing, so when I had new things come out here and there, it was a little frustrating to not be able to make use of this practical tool to let people know. And I missed the ability to send quick messages to people following up on things we’d done together over the weekend, which is not profound but is something that online networking lends itself well too. I also found myself with an ongoing strange yearning, when I got a real e-mail from someone, to go to their profile and see their pictures. Maybe not so strange- visual contact is very important to human socializing.
And now that I’m back? I am decidedly ambivalent. It’s nice to “see” everyone again and to have the often convenient tools for staying in touch that Facebook provides. But I liked the peace and quiet, the increased time and energy, and the added impetus to make real contact with people that my break provided me. What I think I’m going to do is turn off all e-mail alerts (except maybe for events and pictures, because events need timely response and pictures are fun!), so that I’ll only see stuff from the site if and when I go to the site. And I’m going to put myself on an every other day regimen for visiting Facebook. Maybe this will reintroduce a little balance into the relationship, and make my contact with it a more deliberate and conscious.
And so I return…