A Week Without Facebook Brought Me Back to Actual Reality
by[dropcap]G[/dropcap]oing off Facebook isn’t easy. Like a lot of people these days, I suffer from an addiction to social media. And for many of us, Facebook is a very big part of that.
Indeed, after announcing to my friends and followers on Friday morning I was “going off Facebook” for a week, I cheated on the very first day.
I checked in to see if anyone had responded favorably (or negatively) to my hiatus announcement, or had replied to any of my last comments on the previous days’ threads.
Feeling guilty for cheating, I logged off Facebook after a couple of moments, and then realized that I had to turn off “notifications” too, so I didn’t have them tempting me to cheat again, with those beckoning banners.
Vowing to myself not to look again, how did I spend the rest of my time that day? Or rather, how did I allow my day to be further time-sucked away from me? Well, I soon found myself on Twitter: Facebook’s equally evil addictive twin. And then I wasted time on Instagram, Linked In, and…the monster that is YouTube.
Talk about going down the rabbit hole! YouTube does though take you off on viewing tangents that you never intended. On this particular day, I started watching an old video of Alpine and ended up an hour or so later watching a trio of girl folk singers in the Democratic Republic of Georgia!
Realizing that I’d merely swapped my Facebook addiction for other social media, I then decided that I had to go cold turkey by banishing all social media for the rest of the week.
Where is the twelve step program for that?
Ironically, I’d cut television out of my life seven years ago for pretty much the same reason, and now, here I am trying to ween myself off Facebook as well. I used to spend hours and hours staring at the “boob tube” (as my parents used to call it) as though I was brain dead.
“Well, at least social media is interactive because of the ‘comments’ section,” I’d tell myself. But when I think of some of the ‘discussions’ I have on Facebook—the derogatory comments, the insults, the group gang-ups on anyone who dares go against the status quo—is it making my life in any way better? Not really.
Do we ever change people’s minds by arguing on Facebook? Most of the time I’d say no. People tend to “double down” on their beliefs and what they think is true. Even worse, we are all capable of radicalizing our beliefs just by continuously feeding them; and the heated discussions will continue forever ad nauseam.
Our egos and our desire to state what we believe won’t ever go away. We all seem to want to prove and sway others to believe that our way is the “correct” way and the “truth.”
Not being on Facebook for a week made me realize the social networking service truism that the more one writes things down, the more one believes them—and the more one is convinced it is actually true. On Facebook everyone has their very own virtual soapbox spouting their own written version of “truth!”
Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild (or not if you’ve seen The Social Network)brings to mind Charles Bradlaugh’s 1880 quote:
Without free speech no search for Truth is possible; without free speech no discovery of Truth is useful; without free speech progress is checked, and the nations no longer march forward towards the nobler life which the future holds for man. Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech.
Another benefit to shutting off social media was the sense of calm that I experienced on day three of my week’s experiment. No longer was I becoming irate at people ranting about various issues I didn’t agree with, no longer did I waste time ranting on my own page, and no longer was I contributing to endless debates about stuff I couldn’t change anyway.
As more time opened up for me when I didn’t have my face stuck in a screen, I noticed things I might have missed before—like the two doves nuzzling each other, or the baby bunnies grazing on the grass in the backyard, the abundant bloom of daisies, and the gorgeous sunsets.
Yes, I know we can see amazing, natural beauty on social media but it isn’t the same as feeling the breeze on your face or smelling orange blossoms in the Spring. This may sound clichéd but not being on Facebook inspired me to go out and appreciate the beauty and wonder and truth of nature; in the here and now.
We spend too much time dealing with “conceptions” rather than perceiving the real world as it is. Real people. Real nature. Things you can see, behold, touch, smell, feel.
Yet, there are some victories to be found within the madness and mayhem of Facebook. In fact, I actually did change my mind on one subject because of it: via one friend’s posts, I became a vegan. And it’s down to social media that veganism is growing exponentially nowadays.
I feel part of that movement, and it makes me feel good that not only did someone influence me, but that I in turn, have influenced others to do the same. I believe it is because of the knowledge and information available to us as we scroll down our social media “feeds” that we can change our minds and our outlook.
Perhaps, with all its annoyances and ills, there is some good to be had from social media, though, I’m sure I angered some by posting yet another Mercy for Animals video.
For the most part, however, people do not change their views because of social media. Do we like falling out with friends we used to have great laughs with and fun times together? Do we like frustrating ourselves to the point of madness? Or do these heated discussions cement our views ever further into our psyche until we literally seethe with disgust, horror and disbelief at the views of the other side?
When we reach this point, we need to step away from social media and our computers and phones.
Did I miss my Facebook community? I did a bit. I realized too many of my friends nowadays are virtual and not physical. which saddens me. I definitely feel I need to get out into the world more and experience life and friendship first hand—rather than through a screen.
But more importantly it made me feel more introspective about the bigger questions and bigger, deeper aspects of life rather than short-term politics and events.
Finding some balance is key. Sure let’s conceptualize for a time, connect with those we can’t physically be near, gain knowledge, explore new concepts, discuss and argue if we must… but let’s not forget the immediate and tangible perceptions of the beauty and wonder and yes, the truth of the real world.
With that balance, we can—as Charles Bradlaugh put it—continue our march “towards a nobler life.”