So about a month ago, I decided to take a two week fast from Facebook. A few days into my fast, I heard a bunch of people griping about some changes Facebook had made, how much they hated it, etc. But I held fast. With the exception of replying to some ministry related message in my FB inbox, I didn’t log on at all; no status updates, no news feed perusing, nothing.
After two weeks, I decided to slowly immerse myself back into the world of Facebook. A month after my fast began, here are some of my observations:
- Initially, I was shocked at just how many times during the course of the day I had to catch myself from logging on to FB just out of habit. Got a few minutes before a meeting? Sitting at a red light or waiting in a doctor’s office? Out of force of habit, I’d just mindlessly check in to Facebook. My fast revealed to me that at least 10 times a day, I had been wasting time on FB, which is WAY too much.
- On the flip side, I was amazed at how much more productive I was by channeling all that energy and time into meaningful tasks. I got more work done, which freed me up to do more of the things that I really want to be doing, rather than wasting time on Facebook.
- I knew this would happen, but I felt a lot less connected to my “extended” friends. Like extended family, extended friends are those people that you’re close to, but you don’t talk to them or see them often. Through FB, you’re able to maintain some semblance of correspondence with them, even if the correspondence is intermittent and limited to status updates and comments on walls. By unplugging from FB, I instantly lost what little connection I had with these friends.
- But I was hoping this would happen, too — I immediately felt more connected to some of my closest friends. Rather than checking in on them via FB, I had to actually pick up the phone and call them if I wanted to talk. I also felt more present to the people I love the most — my family. Rather than being distracted, I was more fully present in conversation with my family, which was a huge plus. Think about it: how often are you on FB when you could be talking with your spouse or playing with your kids?
- In the end, I’ve realized how little I really miss Facebook. The fast has been a really healthy exercise to help me see how much of a distraction FB had become in my life. But thankfully, it was just that, a distraction, not an obsession. But after a month (more or less) away from it, I’m ready to come back to FB on my own terms.
What will those terms be? Here are a few suggestions I’m mulling over:
- Limits. We all need parameters and limits in our lives. With something like FB, it’s probably even more important because, a) we don’t see it being something that’s very harmful, and b) we don’t see how much of a time suck FB is for us. A healthy relationship with FB respects time and frequency parameters.
- God-honoring. The good thing about FB is that it gives you a tremendous platform to communicate with others. A good question to ask: How can I use this platform to best honor God? Status updates can be completely mindless (as plenty of mine are) or they can be intentionally God-focused. I want to use FB to share more scripture, more spiritual thoughts, ask more faith-oriented questions of my friends.
- No substitutions. FB communication is an inevitable part of our lives now, but if I can help it, I don’t want to let FB be a substitute for “real” interaction: a phone call, a conversation over a cup of coffee, etc.
All in all, I’d recommend a FB fast for anyone serious about re-evaluating their relationship with social media.