My Facebook Fast
Never mind the youth, I thought, that's me.
Shortly before that my friend and co-author, Hellen Riebold, had told me about a sermon preached at her church on the importance of reading the scriptures. The pastor, Dave Smith, had said that people wake up in the morning and immediately reach past their scriptures to their phone to check Facebook. "It's like he's been in my house!" Hellen commented. Mine too.
So on the spur of the moment that Sunday I decided to do a Facebook Fast and give up Facebook for two weeks.
Now, I've thought about this before but hit a snag: I need to use Facebook for work and to promote my books and blogs. This time, however, I solved the problem by linking my Twitter account into Facebook. (Hey, I never said anything about giving up Twitter!)
So now I've come to the end of my Facebook fast I have discovered something.
Facebook is wonderful.
I don't think it was an atypical fortnight, but here's what I missed or failed at by not being on Facebook.
- A missionary we said farewell to on the Sunday I started my fast was still in church the following Sunday. She had explained to the entire ward–via our ward's Facebook page–that her visa hadn't come through so her departure was going to be delayed.
- A friend's mobile phone broke. He is relatively new to Facebook but we have a lot of friends in common. He asked me to put out a general call for people to message him their numbers so that he could restore his contacts list.
- I needed to appeal for someone to give my daughter a lift on a school trip, since neither my husband nor I could take her.
- The NHS Blood service emailed me about their campaign for new donors, asking me to encourage all my friends to sign up. I'm quite passionate about the importance of giving blood (and have been doing so for years) so I would really have liked to post on my Facebook wall about the campaign and encourage all my friends to go to a session. Instead I just vaguely mumbled something to a few people and encouraged them to go to www.blood.co.uk. A link on my wall would have been so much more effective!
- Several amusing things happened which I would like to have shared. Ceri said, "Mum, don't you know how to be awesome?" for example.
I also discovered that my use of Facebook is actually symptomatic of something else. I like to take breaks. I'll hoover and polish the lounge and then sit down "for five minutes" on Facebook before I start cooking tea. It's how I relax and unwind. I played a lot of Solitaire during those two weeks (and that really is pointless) but didn't watch any more television than usual. TV requires a commitment of at least half-an-hour and I can't generally give more than fifteen minutes in my busy day. So my real addiction isn't to Facebook but to faffing. In fact, prior to Mark Zuckerberg's brainwave I used to waste those fifteen minutes every couple of hours on Yahoo Answers, and that really was bad (because it's basically a forum for arguments) and I really did have to go cold-turkey on it. (I've been Yahoo Answers sober for about six years now.)
I came back to Facebook, then, with some gratitude. Facebook really has improved my world, and the world, in so many ways. I can interact with what were once big, faceless companies (I follow Taco Bell UK with such enthusiasm that they sent me a "Superfan" t-shirt). I can invite all my friends to parties and events easily in a matter of minutes. I can share my holiday snaps and update all those I care about on events in my life very easily. I am now back in contact with many friends and family members who I haven't seen "in the flesh" for decades, and it's really nice to keep up with the everyday events in their lives. I can be uplifted and inspired, amused and challenged, and in so many ways enriched and educated, in just a few minutes of scrolling. I can also look at pictures of kittens and get into arguments with strangers.
I don't think I mistake Facebook for real social interaction at all, and I'm not convinced young people do either. I love to visit friends, but I also love to see their Facebook updates and be able to "chat" with them without having to drive to their homes. I think most of us know that there is no substitute for actually being with a person, but Facebook helps keep you connected when you're apart.
But my fast has changed how I look at Facebook in ways other than giving me a new appreciation for it. I am now spending less time on it than I was. Prior to my fast I seemed to think that I needed to know every single thing that ever appeared on my wall, and each morning I would scroll through until I got to a post I had read the previous night. Having missed two weeks I now realise that I don't need to read it all, much of it is not actually all that interesting, and I just glance at it occasionally, although I do check all my notifications.
I have also had a major purge of my "friends". Anyone who posts anything political (especially Americans who oppose gun control or universal healthcare) has been struck off my friend list. Anyone who swears in a post has gone. Anyone I don't really know or remember is out. Anyone who perpetuates a "Facebook will pay $1/Share=prayer" picture of a sick or injured child or animal gets the lecture. Anyone whose posts are generally complaints, grumbles or anything else which brings me down has been hidden. My Facebook wall is now a much nicer place to hang out, and I have no plans to abandon it again.