One month ago today I started my own personal social experiment. Admittedly not world-changing, I took a break from Facebook, leaving only my Material Whirl FB page active. I did it for the sake of my health and sanity and so I could write more.
So, today my FB holiday is over and I'm back on familiar soil. I've had a good time to think things over and need to have a serious chat with the big bad boy in blue.
On reflection, it's been a funny old month.
Days 1 - 4
I pressed 'Post' on 'FACEBOOK, I AM BREAKING UP WITH YOU. (FOR A BIT)', updated my status, logged off and flopped back in my chair with a deep exhalation of breath. It felt like I had been in a riotous house party with chatty people filling every room and excessively loud music - and then telling everyone to GET OUT NOW and slamming the door shut and leaning against it. Silence.
One hour in, I was itchy and attempted to persuade my husband, Alex, to let me peek at my FB page on his iPhone. 'No' said Alex. 'Please?' I said casually. 'No' said Alex firmly. 'It's only one look and it's you looking, not me!' I said in a slightly high-pitched voice. 'No' he said and calmly left the room.
To satisfy my compulsion, I tweeted a photo of my Crystal Palace FC mug to celebrate Palace's brilliant win over Everton. It felt half-arsed.
Waking up on Day 1 was weird. I looked out of the window instead of my iPad. I would love to fib and say I read my book on the commute to work, but I didn't. I just stared vacantly out of the window with severe brain freeze and suspected FB detox headache.
I considered the FB-free Easter weekend ahead, jam-packed with fun plans and wondered how difficult it would be not to broadcast these plans exclusively-as-they-happened. I then asked myself truthfully whether to 'share' was in fact to 'show off a bit'. Myself said this was a bit true.
While Alex was in the shower on Day 4, I grabbed his iPhone and momentarily looked at my FB page via his account, just to see if anyone had commented on my final post, keeping one eye on the door. I felt dirty. I would like to apologise to Alex for being a sneaky pants as he learns of this moment of weakness for the first time.
Days 5 - 12
Driving my car with Kisstory blaring from the radio on Day 5, and overwhelmed by the sheer nostalgia of hearing Usher, Eve and Nelly feat. Nynsc (Girlfriend - tune!) and feeling 23 again, I felt an urge to share my love of old skool R'n'B with the FB world. Then I remembered that I had no data left, and also that I was driving and therefore this would be illegal. Thus, rescued from temptation by an inadequate mobile phone tariff.
On Day 9, I had a great Saturday sesh at the gym and was pleased that I couldn't post a status about working out - dull, boring and let's face it, a teeny bit smug. Instead, on the train home I peered under my sunglasses at the Newsfeed on the girl's phone next to me. It satisfied my craving, despite not having the foggiest idea who she, or any of her mates, were. (Great news about John's new job though!).
Epic social events took place that previously would have been giddily shared on FB. Like a great big boozy lunch in Putney with the gang on Day 11, the perfect opportunity to Check In, take bucket loads of photos, tag like mad. Instead I sat back, enjoyed five brilliant FB-free hours and got pickled without telling everyone about it and incessantly checking for likes and seeing affirmation. Even when my friend left with a Mini Mushroom Wireless Bluetooth speaker stuck to his head and played music to our fellow pub goers as we exited. Instead I tweeted thanks to the pub and got a lovely reply back.
Day 12, disaster. I am notified that my tweets are automatically set up to show on FB and have filled up my page - gah! Despite my best efforts I worry people would assume I had fallen off the wagon. I hadn't, honestly, I was still stone cold FB-sober.
Days 13 - 18
By Day 13 I had become fully acquainted with my Material Whirl FB page and was giving it all my loving; it felt great to avoid distraction and spend time focusing on the thing I really love. My FACEBOOK, I AM BREAKING UP WITH YOU. (FOR A BIT) post was seen by 1,548 people. Crikey.
An incident on Day 15 reminded me that FB provides an excellent platform to express disgust for the general public. A grown man next to me on the train openly picked his nose, both nostrils, while casually reading the Evening Standard, and as I disembarked he, ahem, passed wind. Loudly. Rendering me momentarily speechless, instead of grabbing my iPhone and moaning about what I'd seen / heard I had no choice but to keep that beauty to myself.
During this period, Hotmail acted as FB's nasty accomplice. It sneakily told me I was tagged in photos and mentioned in statuses and stuff. FB was pulling out all the stops to woo me back.
It nearly worked. On Day 18 I couldn't resist its charms, and peeked over Alex's shoulder to see what the Newsfeed was telling me. It told me selfies, mostly, and a Suggested Post featuring a picture of a dog laying next to a soldier in Afghanistan and rallying to 'get 90k likes!'. 'Oh, sod off' I thought and immediately switched off with no desire to poke around any further. Progress.
Days 18 - 23
On Day 18 I went out with a good friend in Shoreditch and went in 'cold' instead of looking at her FB page in advance and getting up to speed on her life. It was really refreshing to drink sparkly pink rosé while listening intently and getting all the goss there and then. It was a lovely night and I didn't even look at my iPhone when in the loo.
I wondered what Alex was up to on FB on Day 20. Often we're like ships in the night and I realised I missed his laugh-out-loud statuses and liberal swearing aimed at Sam Allardyce, David Cameron and Sky Sports.
However, I was definitely feeling lighter in the head, less irritable and more focused. I was determinedly reading 'Get Things Done' and highlighting important sections like a proper diligent student (geek) instead of having one eye on the book and the other on FB.
By Day 23, I was sleeping a bit better and not feeling FB-lagged. Twitter continued to be hilarious with things like #RuinAMovieQuote.
I hadn't thought about FB in a good few days. Not once.
Days 24 - 30
You know when you read about detoxes in magazines? It's all I FELT AWFUL AT FIRST, WITH A TERRIBLE HEADACHE AND EXHAUSTED AND THEN A FEW DAYS IN I FELT GREAT AND MY SKIN SHONE AND I'VE GIVEN UP EVERYTHING AND WILL LIVE ON CARROT JUICE FOREVER etc. Usually such annoying pretension makes me want to throw up but I can honestly say in the final stages of my FB detox I definitely felt a shift.
By Day 26, I was focused, alert, and kind of ready to take on the world. I experienced some setbacks in my personal life during this period, but it felt appropriate not to share them publicly and keep it only with family and close friends without baring my soul to the world.
It struck me on Day 28 that me and Material Whirl had become best buds with Twitter this past month. Highlights include ASOS retweeting this fashion post and a personal mention, connecting with Walthamstow's Little Free Libraries scheme and the Crystal Palace FC female mascot retweeting a fashion photo.
On my last day, Day 30, I realised I didn't miss FB AT ALL. Not one little bit. I reflected on what I had achieved since we temporarily had a break. It's not groundbreaking, but it's a start:
- Wrote 5 blog posts and shared 15 new things on my Material Whirl FB page
- Read one book, started Everyday Sexism and bought Apple Tree Yard ready to devour
- Took up lovely yoga again and became a stretching devotee
- Felt a bit more 'on it' and focused at work, finding it easier to concentrate
- Slept better without going to bed with a jittery, full-to-the-brim mind or my iPhone in hand. My mind felt 'sharper' and I remembered important things. Like names and dates and high street fashion launches.
I'm not fully converted to a FB-free existence and I don't think Zuckerberg has spawned the devil (although the rubbish adverts and sexist stuff is still utter shit). Its concept was great (and innocent enough) but it's been adapted for our own wicked needs and thus we are partly to blame for the pernicious effect.
FB has some good points - connecting families, highlighting inspirational, amazing people like Stephen Sutton and sharing happy things but overall, I feel less burdened and my head is aired out. I am more focused and driven to achieve my goals rather than be derailed or distracted by others - or disheartened when the old green-eyed monster kicked in.
My little experiment hasn't changed my life but it has been insightful. Although it would be unnecessary to delete my account, I am no longer reliant or, to be honest, that interested in it.
So, Facebook. Now that we're talking again… can we just be friends?