Being away from Facebook for the span of Lent has been ridiculously easy. So easy that I almost feel like I cheated. The whole idea of Lent is that we’re supposed to give up something that we’ll miss! It’s supposed to be a sacrifice so that on the blessed day of the Lord’s resurrection, we are joyous and ecstatic and relieved!
To my great surprise, giving up Facebook was not at all a sacrifice.
There were a few moments of panic on that first day, of course. I was in the habit of getting ready for the day and then crawling back into bed with my French press coffee and my netbook to catch up on the things I’d missed on Facebook over the last eight hours while I was sleeping. That first day, I logged on to Twitter, I logged on to gmail, I caught up on blogs, and then I was done within about five minutes. I didn’t have anything else to do on the internet. So I fired off a few confused tweets about being on the internet and not knowing what to do on the internet.
And then I just closed my netbook and drank my coffee. I wish I could say I listened to my own thoughts, but I actually just listened to NPR’s Morning Edition, which was blaring throughout my entire apartment like it does every morning.
On the third day, I accidentally pulled up Facebook when I got to work and moved to log in when I remembered and quickly exed out before things could go any further.
After that, I never really looked back.
The plan was to use all the time I was wasting on Facebook for other, (supposedly) more meaningful things, like writing blog posts or e-mails, or reading, or sitting with my own thoughts. But that really hasn’t happened; I’ve just transferred my internet-wasting time, really, from Facebook to Salon and Slate. I still had Twitter as a medium for my compulsive oversharing, thank God. Now THAT would’ve been a sacrifice. But maybe without my trusty microblog, I would’ve done more actual blogging. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted a good idea on 140 characters instead of taking the time to flesh it out and craft it into a good blog post.
I have felt a Facebook-sized hole in my life, however, at times. Which is to say that these last fortyish days have made me realize exactly what I was using Facebook for.
1. Fact-checking information on friends. I was e-mailing with a friend from college and trying to tell him about a mutual friend of ours who lives in a city he’s interested in relocating to, but I could not remember her last name, and without Facebook to look it up with, I simply had to ‘fess up and tell him that I couldn’t remember it. The really odd thing is that I could’ve checked gmail for it, as she’s on my contacts list there too. Or my phone, as it still had my contacts from Facebook on there. For some reason, Facebook has become my go-to source for contact information, and without it, honestly, I felt a little legless when it came to these things.
2. Keeping up with important events in friends’ lives. I have a good friend who’s about to have her first baby, and without Facebook, I felt as though I wouldn’t have any clue when the blessed event arrived. One day I finally broke down and asked her how I would know, and she promised that she would send a mass text when he’s here, and that I would be included in it.
3. Managing contacts on my phone. My old phone automatically drew my contacts from my Facebook, and when I deactivated my site, it still drew the contacts but asked me every single day to re-enter my Facebook password (which I could not do, since my account was deactivated), so that was kind of annoying. Then my phone broke, and I got a new one, and I have yet to add any of my Facebook contacts to this phone, except for the ones that were also listed on my gmail (and gmail and Facebook famously don’t communicate well with each other). It will be a relief to sign in to Facebook with my new phone and see all of my friends’ familiar faces fill my contacts list. Even though, let’s be honest, I actually communicate with only about 5% of them. I had gotten used to having the ability to communicate with pretty much anyone I’ve ever met in my life at any given minute, and not having that ability was a bit bewildering.
4. Piddling away minutes. The times I felt the lack of Facebook the keenest was when I was waiting for something: waiting in line at the store, waiting for my prescription from the pharmacy, waiting for the doctor. There really isn’t a better way to pass that kind of throw-away time. Instead of burying my head in my phone, I looked up and looked around, and I wish I could say that I found the secrets of the universe there, but mostly I was just amazed at how many of us constantly have our heads buried in our phones.
5. Stalking Boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. Yep. I said it. Not in a crazy way (I promise), but in your typical sad, jealous, low-self-esteem way. I was paying regular visits to her page to compare myself to her (read: to feel inferior to her). I’m happy to report that I didn’t miss her or her infuriatingly pretty face at all, so this is one thing I won’t be using Facebook for anymore after I return. Hopefully.
6. Saying too many things. One of the main reasons I gave up Facebook for Lent was that it simply made me feel crappy when I spent too much time there. A study was done about this recently, about how using Facebook makes some of us sad. I was definitely one of those people, for all the reasons the article lists, and for others, too. I felt left out a lot when I saw pictures of my high school and college friends all hanging out together, and also inferior (see stalking ex-girlfriend above), but I also felt icky about the things I was saying to other people on Facebook. Not necessarily anything in particular, and I wasn’t necessarily saying snarky things (though some of them definitely verged on it). I was just saying too much to too many people, spreading myself too thin. When you say that much to that many people, you’re bound to make a fool of yourself or offend someone or both eventually. I’m one of those people who overanalyzes all of my contact with people, agonizing over if what I said could’ve been misconstrued, or if I had been unintentionally rude, or if something came out the wrong way, or if I was insensitive. Saying less, y’all, is the best way to save yourself from this agony.
7. Promoting this here blog. I have my blog set up to automatically post new entries to my Facebook feed, and a massive amount of people were clicking through to read my new entries. Seeing my pathetic stats on that first post-Facebook post was upsetting, to say the least, and probably contributed to my utter lack of blogging these last several weeks. A lot of people assured me that they had subscribed to my blog feed and were still reading, even if I couldn’t tell through my stats. But it was still disheartening. My own mother didn’t know how to access my blog while I was away from Facebook until I explained it to her last week.
It was a weird time, really. I felt cut off, sometimes in a bad way, but usually in a good way. Before I gave up Facebook for Lent, I had a no-Facebooking-on-weekends policy so that I could be truly present and enjoy my time with Boyfriend. After I gave up Facebook, every day allowed this sort of presence, and I loved it. I basked in it.
It also allowed me to remember how we communicated with each other before Facebook. Best Friend took to texting me her Facebook status updates, which enabled us to have personal conversations about them rather than those insufferable “likes” or throw-away comments. After the first week, my mother actually told me that it was a mistake for me to give up Facebook. She missed being able to keep up with my life on a daily basis (and apparently doesn’t understand Twitter). But then our weekly phone conversations became more meaningful and covered more ground and allowed us to delve deeper into some of the things going on in our lives.
There were funny moments, too, when I realized I wasn’t the only person who forgot how things worked before Facebook. Last week a friend told me she wanted to get a tattoo, and yesterday I asked her if she ended up getting it. She said yes, but she was so sad that I can’t see the picture of it she posted on Facebook! I had to gently remind her that she could e-mail it to me, to which she replied, “Yes I can! Yay!” Like it was a revelation.
This particular friend of mine is Hindu. She asked, “This passover thing, is that when you can get on Facebook again?”
Close. Lent is officially over on Easter morning, which means I “can” log on to Facebook again this Sunday. But just because I can doesn’t mean I will.