In modern society the importance of Social Media is ever growing. A strong desire to be constantly connected with everyone we love make us check our social accounts every few minutes. Every new “tweet” or “like” gives us a little pleasure, it reassures us that we are part of something, that someone, somewhere, is thinking about us. I must admit that I wasn’t different from everybody else: I kept checking my smartphone every few minutes hoping for some notification, the last thing I did before going to bed was to check my Facebook account and this was also one of the first things I did in the morning.
Anyway I thought, and I still think, that there was something wrong about this phenomenom, I really believed that something could have been done, that life was still possible without social media.
When you get to the point where everyone cares about his “social life” more than about his “real life” maybe it’s the time to take a step back. When you realise that you can’t focus on your work for more that 5 minutes because your phone is always ringing and even if you try not to bother it the desire to know who sent you a notification is so strong that prevents you to anything else, you should understand that something has to be done.
Of course everyone lives this situation in a different way and of course there are still people who manage to live without Social Networks, but we can’t deny that they completely changed our society and the way we look toward life.
Why this decision?
I didn’t use social media that much, I just had a Facebook account with about 250 friends and I usually checked it around 2 or 3 times a day. I didn’t spend hours every day updating my status or posting my photos but still I felt that I needed to take a step back, I wanted to free myself from this chain. So on May 2014 I decided to suspend my account for a period of 30 days, no exception, to see if I could manage to live without it. The main reasons that brought me to this decision are:
- Distinguish real life from Social Networks. Obviously what we write or say on the web has some consequences even on our real life, we can’t deny it. The problem anyway comes when people start to think that if they don’t matter in some social network than they don’t matter in life, that having a lot of social friends is the only difference between a successful person and an average one. Our reputation on the web is not the right way to evaluate ourselves, when we have a problem or we want to talk about something we shouldn’t just ask the web, we have plenty of people around us, why don’t just ask them? The screen protect us, we feel safe when we are typing on our keyboard, but nothing can replace a face to face conversation;
- Be the living proof that it is possible to live without it. When I fist started to think about leaving Facebook many friends told me that it was not possible to live without it in 2014, that it was a precious source of information and that, since many people use it in order to organise parties or other social events, leaving Facebook would have made me an outcast. Well this didn’t really scared me, I am sure that if someone really wants to get in touch with you, he will find some way to do it. Moreover Facebook’s invites re not the kind of invites I’m looking forward to receive. My friends wanted me to change my decision, but in fact they pushed me the opposite direction: after their words I was even more motivated, I wanted to show them that it was possible;
- Free my mind from garbage. What we find on social networks is not gold, nor silver. Most of the times it’s just garbage: people talking about the weather, complaining about train’s delays, trying to sell you anything. And as we fill our minds with all these things we forget about what really matters, we forget what we are actually doing, why we are doing it and what we are looking for. Continuously shifting our attention from our job to social media and vice-versa is not a good idea: we are never fully focused and as a result we do everything in an average way, we do everything the fastest way possible, we care less about the quality of our work;
- Rediscover a more natural way of living. If you ask a Facebook user what he used to do in the time he now spends on Facebook he will not be able to answer. I wasn’t either. Social media are developed in order to be highly addictive, once you log in you don’t want to leave the website, when you log out, your mind wants you to log back, there is no escape to this rule. As a result every social media is time consuming, you can stay logged for hours without being aware of it. But they give you absolutely nothing for your time, they just want you since nowadays web traffic is money and money is what they are looking for. By giving up Facebook you gain a lot of free time, time that you can use for more natural and entertaining activities.
The month without Facebook
I won’t tell you that it was easy, it wasn’t at all. Especially at the beginning. In the first days I had a constant desire to go on the Facebook web page and to log in, just for a few moments, but I didn’t give up, I kept struggling, my goal was so clear and I couldn’t accept to lose. Many times I’ve found my self on the login page without being aware of it and than I went back to my work, one night I even dreamed about logging in and then I woke up, scared. I progressively became aware of many subconscious pattern I had: for me facebook was just a way to evade reality, I used it to fill free time, to shift my mind when I was in a bad mood, to distract myself when I couldn’t go on with my work.
Anyway, after the first week things worked better and then after about 20 days every desire to use such website were totally gone, I felt great and I could even find moments in the day when I didn’t know what to do. The time once I spent on Facebook was now totally mine and I could use it to do things I really loved. I started doing daily exercises and some meditation, everything was great!
What I’ve learned
Facebook is a drug, face it. Once I got rid of it I felt completely different, it was like living a fresh new life. Once I used to know about people life by reading their post, now I ask them when we meet, it’s completely different: it’s more exciting, more interesting, more natural.
After 30 days I’ve also figured out that every content provided by Facebook was harmful for my mental sanity, that the content of that social media left my nothing but a sense of sadness and lack. In my opinion it’s possible to distinguish its content in four categories:
- Advertising. Our life is already full of advertising, there is no need to fill even our free time with this kind of content.
- Person type A. This kind of user is always complaining about everything: weather, school, his job, politics, sport, etc.. he can’t see a single positive thing in his life and therefore he uses the web like a manifesto of his sadness. When you read his posts you feel sorry for him, as a compassionate human being you can’t read something sad and feel happy. If you are so unlucky to find 10 posts of this kind of people in a row your day is probably marked;
- Person type B. This is the opposite of the type A: he posts only good things, pictures of parties, people always smiling, he empathises his luck, his life. When you face this type of content you might initially feel well but then you realise that not everything in your life is so happy, that your parties are not so entertaining, that maybe you lack something to have a happy life. But this is not true, what you see about this people is just a brief part of their life, the part they want to show. To see the whole person, to really understand someone you need to know him in real life, to spend time with him. Facebook gives you a fake image of people and this should’t be enough for you;
- Funny pictures and videos. These can be funny, I must admit, but they can be found in many different places. Moreover you can’t decide that you want just the fun, it’s either all or nothing. If you decide to look at the funny pictures you have to watch also the advertising and the posts of people type A and B. My suggestion: if you want some fun look somewhere else.
In mid June (after about 50 days from the start of the experiment) I needed to get in touch with some friends and logging in Facebook was the only way to do it. I thought that after all that time I was healed, that just a few logs every week wouldn’t have harmed myself. Sadly after a week all the old patterns started all over again: I wanted to log in more often than planned, I filled every free time with the social network and I became more frustrated than ever. I couldn’t accept this, so I shared e-mail and phone number with the friends I needed to talk to and I suspended my account once again. If I will ever need to get in touch with someone else I will re-open the account, ask for his phone number and close it again. That thing is too addictive for me.
Update: on October 2014 I moved abroad to complete my studies. After a first period when I kept my account closed I decided to re-open it again. It was a really hard decision, but I must admit that having a facebook account can be usefull when you are not in your country. Moreover I would like to add that I no longer experience the complusive desire to check my account: I simply see it as a tool to get in touch with certain people or to get updated about events/meetings. My guess is that the long period without facebook have made me reflect upon the condraddictions of modern society so that I have realised that what matters is not the image we project through the social media, but the person we really are inside.