On Facebook Fasting

From November 4 through December 4, I stayed off Facebook. It was the longest period of time I’ve been off Facebook since I joined in May 2007. I deleted the app from my phone, I logged out of my account, and, save for a couple instances where I needed information from public pages for companies or organizations, I did not go on Facebook once for 30 straight days.

I didn’t miss it. And I don’t feel much of a need to go back.

There were a few frustrating instances, to be sure. I didn’t deactivate my account, so I still got an e-mail every time I would have received a notification (and towards the end, e-mails about things I wouldn’t have received notifications for, like random pictures random friends posted, as Facebook’s way of saying, “Look at what you’re missing!”). It was particularly frustrating in instances of events or messages where I couldn’t respond, but in each of those situations, I found a way to work around my inability to respond through Facebook.

But I certainly didn’t miss hearing about the artificially perfect lives of people I once knew. I certainly didn’t miss hearing the opposite extreme, how unbearably awful the lives of some people I once knew have become since they couldn’t find a parking spot within 20 feet of the store this morning, and it was drizzling #firstworldproblems.

I don’t think I’m going to rock anyone’s world by saying I’ve battled insecurity issues for most of my life. I think everyone deals with insecurity to one degree or another, and a quick peek around Blogland shows you I am far from being the only blogger who has ever not been particularly fond of herself for one reason or another. One thing I realized near the end of October, though, was just how much Facebook magnified my insecurities, encouraged me to entrench myself in the comparison trap, and enabled me to be even more cruelly, unfairly judgmental than I naturally am.

“Oh look, another engagement of one of my peers. I give them…three years. Maybe five.” <– blatant judgement to mask my insecurity over my own relationship status.

“She worked out again today? Didn’t she already do Insanity and then went to hot yoga for another hour? Girl’s definitely got a problem.” <– judgement.

“Eff. That girl I worked with at camp finished her marathon faster than I finished mine.” <– insecurity, comparison.

“Look how much weight she’s lost and how many people have nice things to say to her about how good she looks. No one ever tells me I look good in my profile pictures.” <– insecurity.

“Well, well, well. Mr. Beautiful from high school has sure packed on the pounds now that he’s not a three-sport varsity athlete. Sucks to peak at 17!” <– judgement.

Ad infinitum.

And it wasn’t just looking at what other people posted on Facebook — I totally played into this. After I finished the Chicago Marathon, I posted a picture of my medal on Facebook. Part of that was due to the fact that I was incredibly proud of myself (and rightly so, I think) for completing 18 weeks of training and covering 26.2 miles, and I was so proud that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. But that wasn’t the only reason. Though I may not have consciously thought this when I posted it, that medal was a huge, “Screw ALL of you,” to everyone I’m friends with. Screw your relationships, screw how much you looked down on me for not being a good athlete in high school, screw all of you who ever in any way made me feel inferior, because LOOK WHAT I CAN DO. Look what I did. Be impressed, because I am BETTER THAN YOU. Look at me, living a successful, urban life, all you married going-nowheres I went to high school with. Look what I can do with my free time. I ran a freaking marathon. Love me for what I’ve accomplished.

And yikes, team. If my constant judging of everyone else via Facebook wasn’t enough of a reason to get off, the fact that I was actively using Facebook as a way to try to make other people jealous of my life sure was.

Sometimes I’ve found myself wondering, “How on earth did people keep up with each other before Facebook?” and I’ve realized: they didn’t. They kept up with the people that mattered and let everyone else fade into the past. Do I really need to know the girl who sat across from me in seventh grade science is married? Do I really need to know a girl who lived on the opposite end of my floor for one semester freshman year of college is spending the holidays with her boyfriend? Probably not.

Facebook certainly has its benefits, but I think taking a month away from it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in quite some time. I don’t need to know the mundane minutiae of the lives of people who are no longer a part of my life. I don’t even need to know the major developments in their lives. Goodness knows I do a fine job of finding things to be insecure about without social media’s help.

I’ve been back on Facebook for the past couple of days, but only to respond to event invitations or messages. I haven’t reinstalled the app on my phone, and I’m still logged out of my account on my work computer, where I spend the majority of my computer time. I don’t know if I’ll keep this up forever, but when I saw one of my good friends changed her profile picture a few days ago to one of her and her boyfriend and instantly felt the green monster creeping up in my stomach instead of genuine happiness–and this is one of my good friends, not a random kid I who went to high school with me–I knew it was hardly the healthiest place for me to spend my time. If all I’m going to do is judge people  or try to give them a reason to judge themselves in relation to me, I probably shouldn’t bother with it at all.

Sorry no photos 😦 Thoughts, though? Anyone else have a similar experience with Facebook or social media in general?

16 thoughts on “On Facebook Fasting

  1. I think facebook is quite useless. I only use it to keep in contact with people I am not as close to or just haven’t spoken to in a while. mostly college friends to be honest. I actually use the private messages more than my own fb wall! I agree with you, I know we all are ‘over sharers’ when it comes to social media, it is hard to not fall into that trap.

  2. Facebook is more of a birthday reminder service to me right now and a way for my far away family to keep up to date with things (mostly by photos since they don’t speak much ingles).

    I still get a little jealous when I see people doing adventurous things or look socially busy, but then I ask myself, would that honestly make me happy at this point in my life? Not really and I move on. Finding what makes me content and embracing that, rather than continuously wanting what everyone else has regardless of if it is what I want, has been key to me!

    Also, cupcakes solve everything

  3. I pretty much use Facebook for messaging one of my best friends these days but I have to admit, as a college student, it is a prime procrastination tool. I do tend to post a lot, but it’s mostly just the pictures linked from my instagram so I don’t feel like I’m actively “using” Facebook as much as some people. It’s funny, though, as I’ve gotten older, Facebook has started to annoy me more and more so I wonder if I’ll eventually say screw it and turn it off for awhile. I’ve certainly had my moments in recent years where I’ve deactivated my account only to reactive it two days later. Sigh. It’s one of those annoying things that is sadly hard to live without simply because it is a good way to stay up on peoples’ lives, although I really don’t NEED to know what Sally Smith is doing on the weekends when I haven’t talked to her in the past 10 years. To help with that, I’ve begun doing Facebook friend sweeps where I delete everyone that isn’t somehow a part of my life. It helps a lot!

    • Oh yes, prime procrastination tool for SURE. I think 90% of the time I found myself on Facebook at work, it was because I didn’t want to do my work. (…Now I just read BuzzFeed. Hahaha.). But yeah, those friend sweeps are smart. I don’t think Facebook is inherently bad, but I think building up a collection of Facebook “friends” that aren’t actually a part of your life puts it on the road to being bad pretty quickly.

  4. Facebook is my least favorite form of social media. I’ll scan my newsfeed and respond to stuff but besides that I use it to keep up with the people who I care about but live far away and to help remember birthdays. It’s not good for me to use it for more than that (like stalking, for example).

    • Agreed. Especially when I was really bored, I could so easily fall into the stalking rabbit hole, where I’d be all, “Wow, I haven’t thought about so-and-so in like five years. Wonder what they’re up to?” and find myself, like two hours later, trying to figure out what happened in the lives of everyone who was a senior in high school when I was a freshman haha. Soooo unnecessary.

  5. Part of me wonders if because Facebook didn’t really become a thing until after I graduated college and was several years into the workforce that I don’t feel the need to “friend” every single person I’ve ever known or met. There are lots of people from my high school who I know are on Facebook but who I’m not friends with. I don’t mind. I’d rather use it to stay connected with people I care about rather than hundreds of people I knew years ago but no longer speak to.

    • For sure. The majority of my Facebook friends are people I added in my first couple of years of having Facebook, which coincided with the end of high school/beginning of college. Not surprisingly, most of those people aren’t in my life anymore, aside from virtually via Facebook. I appreciate the ease Facebook gives to getting people together (like through event invitations and all that), but in terms of keeping up with people…honestly, the people I want to talk to, I do. I don’t particularly need to keep up with random people from my high school years, like you said.

  6. First off, this is one of the most honest posts I’ve read in ages. Major kudos to you for putting yourself out there with this because while I know this is something 99.9% of us struggle with (myself included), I don’t know that many (myself included) would admit it. Once again you’ve shown your awesomeness 🙂 The only time I really use facebook is to keep in touch with running friends. My run club has a facebook group and uses that to communicate with everyone, so I’ll go on to see what’s new for the week there, but otherwise, I don’t do much anymore. I think it’s nice to be able to keep in touch with people, and I do like seeing the munchkins of people I went to high school with (even if I can’t imagine being a parent myself yet), but I’d much rather be random on twitter and instagram or play in the blogosphere if I’m in the social media world.

    • Aww thanks so much, Caitlin! Really means a lot 🙂 There are definitely some groups I communicate with primarily through Facebook, which is why I don’t think I’d want to give it up entirely, but I think just limiting my usage to that kind of interaction will do me a lot of good.

  7. I’ve read this post about 3 times now, and keep marking it as “keep unread” so I could comeback. I needed to sort out my thoughts I guess. As I was reading all your thoughts while looking at facebook I wanted so bad to say “I don’t do that” but I do it as well.
    I’ve unfriended a lot of acquaintances and other people I haven’t talked to in 3+ years and doubt I ever will again. Plus if people post too many triggering things for me I remove them from my newsfeed.
    Facebook does have its advantages but most of the time it isn’t good for me. This makes me think I should just delete the app from my phone.

    • Honestly, just even deleting the app is a good start, in my opinion. I go back on Facebook a little now, but it’s not likely to be my way of passing time (and, at the same time, beating myself up mentally) since it’s harder for me to access. I totally agree — there are lots of good things about Facebook, but it’s easy to get caught up in the bad things if you’re not working to avoid them.

  8. I’ve deactivated my account and so far do not miss it at all. I do have a separate one for my blog/running. I realize that if I really want to know what is going on with someone then I would just call, text, or email that person.

    I got tired of reading some of the BS that people were posting. Oh, and don’t get me started on the swearing and typos. Ugh!!

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