If you're on social media long enough, you have probably noticed one of two things occur with some regularity:
- Someone publicly states they are leaving facebook - although it could be any platform - and deactivating their account
- Or, they simply stop posting anything and are lost in the digital abyss
In my case, I am leaving facebook, but it's not quite in the way you might expect.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my resolution to change my social media habits. So far I think I've been doing better. But I want to keep going. I want to make sure that I'm in control of my social media habits, not the other way around.
When it comes to facebook, I'm not deactivating my account. I'm not taking an extended leave of absence. In fact, I may be more active than before (aren't you excited?). What I'm doing may be harder than just deactivating my account:
I have decided to stay off of facebook -- on my phone.
I've turned off the notifications. I've taken the app off my phone's main screen. I'm going straight cold-turkey. No more facebook on the phone.
Even though facebook usage is on the decline, especially in the younger generations, this may prove to be a revolutionary decision. Drinking craft beer, growing a beard, wearing flannel, and going gluten-free are counter-cultural fads of yesterday. Removing oneself from the constant stream of social consciousness, albeit in a small way, is a true counter-cultural idea, akin to what it was like getting rid of TV in 1995.
Taking such a drastic step is not done hastily. I've recently been contemplating just how disconnected and empty I feel when I begin mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed with a few random minutes to waste here-or-there at work, in the check-out line, at a red light, in an elevator, or anywhere else that I might otherwise be forced to exchange awkward glances and some pleasantries with a stranger. Just whip out the ol' smartphone, start scrolling, and it all goes away. It is a curious paradox that being social can be so anti-social in the same act.
Far worse are those situations when I've been too preoccupied with something on facebook to be present in my life at home or with friends. Yes, I've done it; I'm sure we've all done it. As my kids get older, I definitely don't want to miss those small moments which turn into cherished memories later in life. I surely don't want my kids to remember dad as being on his phone all the time. And my relationship with my wife? I can't even begin to estimate how much time we've spent together, not talking or enjoying each other's company, but on our respective devices, you guessed it - scrolling through facebook.
Frankly, it's not healthy and I don't like it, not to mention the science out there warning of the dangers of too much social media exposure. I can't remember exactly how long, but for some time I've made a conscious effort to avoid the urge to pull out my phone in many situations because I want to be more present in life. I want to take those few minutes and enjoy being alive, not checking-in on someone else's life. I want to enjoy the sun, the wind, the smells, the sounds of life. I want to be social as I am; not through a virtual me. I want to enjoy the steady stream of my own thoughts, of my own consciousness; not the world's.
It's going to be a difficult transition. I will probably allow myself to post the occasional picture from my phone (because how else could I ever post a picture?). I'll probably even allow myself to do the occasional "I just need to look it up on facebook" search from my phone. But generally speaking my facebook interaction will be limited to the time that I'm actually at a computer, and even then I will be attempting to limit it.
I'm not going away. I'm not leaving the social media universe (believe me, twitter is staying right where it is). I've just decided to act on what you're feeling: I need a break from the constant noise, and this is one way I can free myself from the constant distraction.