Did you guys hear the story about how Facebook had an outage in LA last week? Well it goes something like this. The site went down for about half an hour and people freaked out. Like freaked out so much they called 911.
“911 Operator, what’s your emergency?” “ Oh God, please help me, my Facebook page won’t load. I’ve tried loading on my phone, my i-pad, even my old dusty lap-top, and it just won’t work. I’ve even restarted my computer. What is happening? Oh, god, I can’t see my friend’s posts? I can’t even see the singing grumpy cat who asks for bacon with his bowl of milk. What’s happening? Please send help immediately.”
I’m not going to trash talk Facebook. I am an avid user and fan. I post every day. I don’t post nonsense stuff like, “going to the grocery store” or “heather is feeling frustrated…” I post pictures of my kids, one-liner quippy quirky status updates, occasional news articles that are fascinating (to me), and links to my blog posts that I write here. But guess what I did last week? Wait for it…
I logged out of Facebook for an entire week.
Gasp! No! Say it isn’t so. I removed the app from my I-Phone, didn’t peek once, nor post, nor like, nor poke. Nothing. Complete radio silence. And I survived. And it was awesome.
Lately I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy. Snore, snort…what else is new Heather? You’re the queen of over thinking and pessimism you skinny a** ennui hipster. I know… can you believe it? Ahem. Anywho, I’ve been feeling bored and unengaged. And I wonder, how could I feel this way? I have a wonderful life. I have a full day with my two children who are truly fun to be around, even if Ruby tries to bite me almost every day and Henry constantly makes fart sounds with his hand inserted into his sweaty armpit. And the times that I’m not playing with my kids, I’m cleaning, making dinner, reading, running, gardening…or….checking Facebook. I like cleaning, believe it or not. It’s satisfying, and there are visible and immediate results. I also like cooking and the other mentioned hobbies. So by process of elimination I figured maybe it was Facebook that was making me bored and lonely.
I know there are articles that suggest Facebook makes people feel unhappy, but I haven’t read them. I figured they were hogwash. After all, I have always defended my overuse of Facebook. It’s been my outlet for maintaining friendships, commiserating with other parents, and connecting with people especially as I am home with my two children (which in itself can sometimes be a very lonely and isolating experience.) So instead of reading articles about Facebook’s effects I wanted to experience firsthand what it would be like to have this behemoth fifth “member” of our family disappear for a week. After all, we need breaks from our children sometimes. Maybe we need breaks from an equally demanding time consuming presence.
The first day without FB I felt anxious and lost.
What was I missing? Did people even notice I was gone? There is so much happening right now and I can’t see it, is what I kept thinking. Admittedly I had some panicky moments wondering if I could go an entire week without logging in. Eventually when I got bored with playing legos and/or games with my kids, I didn’t retreat to the kitchen to sneak in a few glances of the infinite scroll, I just sat back with my own thoughts. I read the news. I went for a run.
Every day became easier and like many habits, the need to pick up my phone and log on disappeared. You might be thinking, “well of course dropping Facebook wasn’t so bad because you knew at the end of the week you could go back and log in.” I thought the same thing too. So Sunday morning rolled around, and I knew it was the day to “join the masses” again. And I didn’t log in. I didn’t even want to, nor did I even care. So I waited until last night. And when I logged back in, not much had changed. Yes a few friends had some really wonderful news to share and I missed seeing them. But there was still the mind numbing chatter of useless information floating about. My heart started to race a bit and then I was…bored.
This blog post is getting to be longer than I expected and I applaud you if you’re still reading. But one more thing before I close. After my week without FB I ended up reading some fascinating articles about how FB makes us feel unhappy. I also read some great articles about how it makes us feel great. But one particular article in The New Yorker really struck me. One of the points the author (and research) makes is that when we are on Facebook we are just passively scrolling through posts, articles, and pictures. She refers to these types of users as “passive” rather than “active.” I do actively participate in Facebook, I post pictures, I comment on people’s posts, and I engage with other people. But more often than not especially lately I spend much more time just passively scrolling thru the pages. I find that passively being on Facebook is all that I have time to do these days. My kids need my attention, so when I’m bored or I need a mental break from parenting I just quickly scroll through to read what people are up to. I don’t actively engage with anyone, not even myself. I’m allowing myself to sit passively as life passes me by. And so when the author of the New Yorker article wrote the following statement, my mouth dropped open and I stared at the words as if she were talking to me,
“the greater the number of things we have pulling at our attention, the less we are able to meaningfully engage, and the more discontented we become.”
I’d be lying to myself and you, gentle readers, if I said I will never use Facebook again. But I am going to start limiting my time on the infinite scroll. I’m also going to try and change the way I interact with my “friends” and become more active and engage with other people, both online, and in real life. I want to meaningfully engage with my family and friends as much as possible. I don’t like feeling discontented nor disconnected, life is too short.