The newest cleansing rage is not the green smoothie, but the Facebook detox – taking a declared (unspecified) time off from the social media time suck.
I took a month off Facebook. I took a break from my daily scroll through pseudo-strangers’ lives, wondering which smiles are real and which ones phony; whose photos are accurate and who is hiding behind childhood images. I also wanted a break from putting my vulnerability on display. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and the urge to click while I had a momentary free second (or on the toilet) disappeared. I notified my “friends” that I would be on a hiatus. Facebook sent me emails daily tempting me with growing numbers of notifications. It tried to convince me I was a terrible person for not wishing a friend from junior high school a happy birthday. I didn’t miss it. It was very easy to forget all about it; nothing like dropping your coffee or cocaine habit.
When I logged back on, I wasn’t sure what to do so I uploaded my Instagram (irony) photos from my vacation to Hawaii. I knew it would yield some kind of social interaction – or else why was I even there? As a passive voyeur? Social scrolling had become such a routine, nail-biting habit and I was not getting any of value from it. It amazes me how addictive the perpetual virtual parade of “The Joneses” can be.
After I posted the photos, I scrolled down the dozens of missed notifications; birthdays, events, tagging me in photos and cat videos. I moved onto the news feed and scrolled down and down without stumbling upon a familiar post. How long do I go down? Is there something specific I was looking for? Weddings, new babies, huge announcements? I felt much less interested, having gotten accustomed to living without it.
Humans need distractions, entertainment, socialization, and Facebook is just this generation’s thing.
My grand realization was nothing more than “I do it more often than I should,” like any habit, but I also don’t need to delete it forever. (I realize this is language an addict would use.) When I logged in, I did learn of three new babies and one death. Facebook does have an uncanny way of reflecting life, however skewed, back at us. Sharing births and death with one scroll, sharing happy and sad memories without emotion just based on algorithms.
My Facebook cleanse has reassured me I can go for very long stretches without checking in and I will not miss anything. It has also reassured me that there is no benefit to being the first to know the breaking Facebook news. Mostly, it showed me that if I’m not wasting time with Facebook, I’ll find other ways to procrastinate.