When I decided to detox from Facebook for two weeks, I wasn’t entirely sure what would happen. I didn’t anticipate any life-changing disasters, but I also wondered if I was making a mistake by entering the stone age of social lives. I’ve been an avid Facebooker since it was first introduced to my school in 2004, and I was worried: Would my life be the same without a social network?
The short answer to this question is yes; it is indeed possible to live without Facebook. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s (gasp) actually kind of rewarding.
But truth be told, it was really hard to quit—almost embarrassingly so, for reasons I didn’t foresee. After taking some time to think about my cleanse, here’s my rundown of the best and worst of taking a Facebook break.
The Good: Independent Living
Remember years ago, when it was normal to make decisions without referring to a gaggle of friends and family? That’s what life is like when you sign off of Facebook. Whether you’re deciding on a new outfit or a birthday gift for your boyfriend, you’re suddenly making all kinds of decisions without anyone else weighing in. It’s a little weird—but it’s also empowering. The more I was forced to make decisions on my own, the more I enjoyed the sense of independence it provided. I quickly transitioned from feeling skeptical of my own judgment to really enjoying doing things with more privacy (it almost felt like I had super powers to do things in secret!).
The Bad: Personal Assistant Required
I haven’t had a legitimate calendar in about a decade—I depend almost completely on websites and digital devices to run my life. So when I broke up with Facebook, I suddenly lost access to the events and birthday updates that help me stay on top of my schedule. In the span of two weeks, I missed a friend’s birthday, a family get-together, and a lunch with friends. I know, I know, there are phones and there are other ways to stay in touch, but that requires a different kind of effort than most of us are accustomed to using.
The Good: Getting Personal
When I took a break from Facebooking, I missed hearing what friends were up to—but only to an extent. It was really nice to have a reprieve from constantly seeing who checked in at the gym, who got a haircut, and what the weather was like across the world. It’s not that I don’t love hearing from friends, but I started to realize that much of what we were communicating was trivial, and that, frankly, I didn’t care about it. Now I know that makes me sound like a jerk, but the thing is, when I couldn’t depend on Facebook to stay in touch with other people, I started emailing or calling them. This direct, one-on-one communication was way more personal than just scanning a status update.
The Bad: Missed Connections
Part of the reason Facebook has grown into a global networking giant is because it’s fast, easy, and effective. It fills a big need in our fast-paced society by creating a sense of intimacy despite great physical distances. When I left the site, it was harder to connect with people—you just can’t call everyone every night—and I felt left out a lot (and then I felt silly for feeling left out in the first place). What was everyone up to? Was I missing out on any big moments? Half the time I hear about weddings or other big events, it’s through Facebook, and not having that connectivity was hard.
The Good: Oh Hello, Free Time
If I had to calculate how much time I was spending on Facebook each day, it wouldn’t add up to much, but when I considered what it totaled over a week or a month, it was pretty scary. This website was sucking away more time than I devoted to many other, far more worthy areas of my life. When I realized I was spending more time on Facebook than I was on volunteer projects or even reading, I knew a change was probably in order.
It also dawned on me that without Facebook, I spent way less time glued to my cell phone. Instead of checking in to report my activities, I just enjoyed life, for me and no one else. After just a few days off the wagon, I found I was already feeling better about how I was using my time.
The Bad: Relax and Refocus
With Facebook at our fingertips, it’s easy to kill time and stay occupied whenever there’s a lull in the action. Before my cleanse, I often found myself checking my newsfeed in between meetings, while waiting before appointments, and—let’s be honest—any time I was sitting still. When I stopped visiting the site, I found myself feeling bored any time I was alone without plans. My natural reaction was to want to check in with people—but I wasn’t able to without logging in. Without Facebook, I missed having an easy way to stay entertained.
If I had to name the single most important thing I learned from cleansing myself of Facebook, it’s that the world really has evolved to depend on technology, even for simple interactions. I didn’t specifically miss any one thing about Facebook, I mostly just missed the ease of all the functions it provides.
Of course, we could all still survive with ease if we eliminated many modern-day conveniences—Facebook included. The true challenge lies in cutting ourselves off from something that everyone else still depends on. It’s a bit like trying to start the Atkins Diet in the midst of a pizza party. It just isn’t practical.
Does everyone need to be on Facebook to flourish in today’s society? Absolutely not. But I think the more important question is whether there’s a way to balance Facebook into our lives without letting it run them.