So as I wrote about on New Years day https://digitalbydefault.com/2011/01/01/farewell-to-facebook/ I decided to take a month off from Facebook. The biggest reason if I’m honest was just to see if I could! I’ve always been a heavy user of both Facebook and Twitter and since getting an iPhone my time on both had increased even more. Not to mention I had developed a bit of a Foursquare habit as well. It just seemed to be a good time to test out whether I’d be able to do it and also just to break the habit and take a clearer look at my usage when I returned to it.
In the end I was off Facebook for 29 days (and I also totally deleted my Foursquare account as an aside). I returned 2 days earlier than planned but I think I was offline long enough to prove a point (and much longer than anyone believed I could be!).
I found the first week or so of not using Facebook a little disorientating and isolating. I know it isn’t that long ago that noone had heard of Facebook but the fact is so many of my personal relationships are now entirely entangled with the social network that it becomes considerably more complicated to find ways to stay in the loop from outside that world. I also discovered I had entirely outsourced things like remembering birthdays to Facebook (I missed at least two close friends birthdays in January by a couple of days each time). Over the course of the month my phone actually started to make and receive calls (almost unheard of til then!), the amount of texts I sent skyrocketed and I dusted off a few email accounts for people as well. This meant I was starting to feel less out of the loop but it does require you to be considerably more proactive than the drip feed of information via Fb and also removes the spontaneous conversations that often spring up around status updates. Being proactive isn’t exactly a strength of mine so it is probably a big part of why I was so fond of using Facebook in this way.
One thing I did realise quite early was that it was a really quite small amount of people I missed on Facebook – and almost without fail they were people I (still) had good friendships with offline but didn’t see as often as I’d like. Like most folk I have a mix of school, uni, work and misc ‘friends’ and apart from the very early days I’ve tried to keep it to people I am or have been genuinely friends with. Occasionally this has slipped but I’ve tried to keep the numbers down over the years. Despite this it was clear that actually I could happily live without about 2/3s of the updates I was getting so I have immediately taken the opportunity to trim things back – I haven’t ‘un-friended’ people as of yet – but just taken the opportunity to ‘hide’ various updates from my stream to see how this goes.
Another change is that I won’t be replacing the Facebook iPhone app I deleted. I think the fact it is so convenient makes it too easy to keep checking and updating so if for some reason I *really* need to check Facebook when I’m out and about I’ll use the perfectly good mobile version of their site – which takes a little longer but hopefully the extra hassle will mean I do *really* need to check something rather than just kill time. I want to work harder at giving my attention to the people I’m out with rather than drifting off online whenever the conversation isn’t to my liking!
I still have alot of concerns about the privacy issues etc – and the Facebook Places stuff does seem scary as did the fact they came close to releasing addresses and phone numbers – but I think the fact I read about and hear about these things and the work arounds to lock things down each time means I can ensure at least my little corner of Fb can look after their privacy.
All-in-all I’m glad I took the break and I think my new approach to it will mean it is less intrusive in my life but remains a useful connection for me to a large part of my social circle – and for most of them the web is Facebook, the BBC, Sky Sports and the odd gambling site 🙂
[The experience with Facebook also led to me taking a hard look at my Twitter usage as well – in the end I unfollowed 400ish people and am still thinking about how to further reduce the ‘noise’..]