Cyber Detox: Five Facebook-Free Days

Last Sunday, I cast my phone and computer aside and declared it would be a week without Facebook or Twitter (except for the fact that my blog automatically tweets itself). Aside from the time-wasting potential of both sites, I needed a break from being overly involved with friends and “friends”–you know, the Facebook people that you would never actually share bits of your life with in real-time, but now that they now fill out your collection you know more about them than their own grandmother does.

While I love being connected to many in the FB community, I was tired of getting caught up in other peoples’ relationships (and relationship endings) like some kind of living Mexican soap opera. I was unimpressed by your breakfast cereal selection. I don’t care about most of your kids.

And yet, there I was, at any given moment of quiet, reading up on your updates, and, further, reading into them. I read them after phone interviews. I read them while trying to come up with a witty headline. I read them while trying to remember if it’s an “associate” or “associate’s” degree and whether bachelor’s is lower case. I read them while waiting in line. I read them first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

As a self-employed solo worker, I began viewing these updates like my co-workers, providing constant fodder and water-cooler white noise.

It became a kind of tick, like a cyber-Tourettes.

Initially, my goal was to eschew both Facebook and Twitter for Google+ for the week. I’d been lazy about learning the perks of G+ and figured that in the absence of the other two, I would immerse myself. “It’s only a way of connecting with the smartest people on the Internet,” my G+-fanboy boyfriend said. But I have to say, I still am missing the appeal. I’ve gone there a few times and it just doesn’t have the suck-you-in factor, for me, that the other social sites have.

“You have to look at the area updates,” Neil said. He told me that it’s most interesting on your phone, where you can look at the feed from people nearby. I told him I wasn’t looking at it on the phone, I was looking at it on the computer. “Oh,” he said. “You’re right, on the computer it does kinda suck.”

The FB-free first day was a challenge. Slammed with post-Thanksgiving deadlines, I observed myself coming to a momentary break in a grant-writing project and my phalanges itched to type in that eight-letter url. If not that, then at least the seven-letter one? I resisted.

Actually, Neil and I began sending status updates back and forth.

“Fb update,” he texted me. “Just another manic Monday.”

“Fb update,” I wrote back. “I need a vacation from my vacation. Gah.”

“Like,” he wrote back.

Of course, these are things neither of us would have posted on Facebook. But the texting continued.

“Fb update: I will never buy cheap towels again! Do these things come in queen?”

“Fb update: I picked a good week to stop using Fb.”

“Fb update: Do cats find the smell of our pee as offensive as we find theirs?”

“Fb update: That Cenegenics guy freaks. me. out.”

When detoxing, you’ve got to get it all out of your system, right? I quickly replaced my urge to check Facebook with other online tasks. I blogged. I checked the stats on my blog. I checked how many times my other blog, at Inspiratoblogs.com, had been shared. I read the news. Each distraction was a momentary break. I didn’t get sucked in the way I do with those other sites, and I relatively felt free of mental clutter.

A couple of days into it, my cousin texted me that my other cousin, who’s pregnant, is having a girl. I texted back and we caught up a bit over the next couple of days. I then let my sister and Neil know that a girl cousin is on the horizon. “I know,” both told me. “I saw it on Facebook.”

I was proud that I’d heard it personally. I’d expected the week would make me feel disconnected, but it was actually quite the opposite.

I have no plans to dismantle either my Fb or my Twitter account. But I will be going into next week with a fresh perspective and an awareness of my cyber weaknesses. All in all, I’d say this has been a good experiment.

“Fb update: [Insert bad 12-step joke about FB here]”

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