Facebook Hiatus

By Phillip Harrington on 1/20/2013

I dislike commercials. Big whoop, right? Everyone dislikes them. They're loud, there are too many of them, they interrupt the show you're watching.

Here's why I dislike them: emotional whiplash.

When you're watching a show, it puts you in a certain mood, be it funny, serious, sad, mad, or something. When the commercials come on, it's a hodgepodge of ads all thrown in with a different mood for each. There's not much thought on the part of the network other than, "how profitable can we make this show?" - let alone respect for the viewing audience. This brings not only you out of the mood of the show, but there's a different mood for every commercial. You're experiencing a new mood every 30 seconds.

Movie trailers get this right. If you're seeing a comedy, the trailers are for other funny movies. They figure that's what you're interested in. If you're come to see a gripping drama, you're shown previews for other dramatic films. A horror flick with have trailers for other scary movies, and so on.

Experiencing emotional whiplash has been a complaint of mine in regards to commercials for many years. In the past few months, I've come to have this same complaint about Facebook.

So and so got engaged. A link to an article about why people should have AR-15s. Someone else is losing their job. Takei posted a hilarious picture. A dog is lost in Hillsborough county. Here's a suggested post by a page I have zero interest in. Here's a status update by someone I have no idea who they are. So and so likes a page about human trafficking. Does that mean they're against it, or they actually like human trafficking?

The back and forth can be jarring to say the least.

Finally, it's a time sink. I have so many things I'd like to accomplish. I've got several projects and ideas. I've made minimal progress on many, but completed exactly zero.

I'm a web-application developer without a successful web-app. I haven't even had a blog for the last few years! I'm a musician without an album. I'm a drummer without a band (if you're looking for a drummer in the Orlando area, see me after), I'm interested in screenwriting but have no script - let alone a log-line - to show for it. And I'm thirty-eight as I type this. Almost forty.

Recently I was inspired to follow through by two different sources:

1) A blog post by Adam Brault: I quit Twitter for a month and it completely changed my thinking about mostly everything. Adam had a similar experience with his Twitter feed. What I took from this article is there are only so many people you can empathize with in a day. Says Adam,

We've surrendered a massive amount of mental and emotional energy without making the explicit choice to do so — it's simply imposed on us by subscribing to the channel and checking it.

2) The book Personal Development for Smart People (affiliate link) by Steve Pavlina (incidentally, I can't recommend this book highly enough). In the section on Truth - which alone is worth the price of admission - Steve talks about taking a 30-day Media Fast.

I found that when I went 30 days without television, I felt free to focus on more important activities, I spent more time connecting with friends, and I went outside more often.

All of this thinking and inspiration combined finally pushed me over the edge. I'm not taking a complete media fast, but I am taking a Facebook fast. I'll get back more of my time for projects, and I'm making a concerted effort to socialize in person. Incidentally, if you'd like to hang out over coffee, a beer, or take an afternoon in one of the parks, get in touch here.

I had envisioned making a big announcement, giving my Facebook audience time to adjust, lapping up the ego-appeasing, 'no! don't go!' comments like sugar-water. But when I finally pulled the trigger, it wasn't on a whim (since I have been considering it for so long), but it was at the spur of the moment.

I knew that if I simply said, 'no Facebook,' it would be too easy to log back on and get a fix, so one day I decided to delete my account. I chose the "this is temporary" option. I'm wondering if after 30 days, I'll have to desire to come back.

How's it going? It's been five days, so far.

The "not a complete media fast" aspect has so far amounted to me spending more time watching Hulu while playing Counterstrike. Uh, whoops. But that's growing old fast. Already today I'm taking time to set-up a blog I've been planning on for many months. And I have gone outside a little more. I think the desire and momentum to take advantage of the fast will build as the month continues.

Emotionally: I'm lonely. I miss my friends on Facebook. It was my main source of human connection and entertainment. A lot of my friends on there are from places I've lived in the past like California, Arizona, or South Florida. Interacting with them via Facebook was my only connection to them.

As for my friends, only three people have mentioned it to me. My brother was concerned. My mom learned of it from my brother, and said, "I'll miss your posts." Thanks, mom.

Another friend asked who would entertain them now. Um, I'm not your dancing monkey. In time maybe they will learn to entertain themselves. Maybe they'll be inspired by my absence to log-off.

That is, if it had gone the other way - if all of my friends had logged off Facebook - I would have experienced a healthy dose of loneliness and perhaps experienced the same benefits - a desire to do something productive and socialize in person more often. But I couldn't wait for other people to take action.

There are people who's only way of contacting me was through Facebook. I have no idea if they have noticed or are concerned. Maybe they should Google me? I was a little annoyed when I realized that means I can't contact them either, particularly a couple of people I'd like to hang out with, but I'm going to stick to my guns for now.

In the long run, I think both things - boredom and loneliness - are actually good. I've been tempted to log back on a couple of times, but I've been letting the words of Hafiz sink into my soul - words I have ironically posted on Facebook a few times (and incorrectly attributed them to Rumi - d'oh!):

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly
Let it cut more deep
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or divine ingredients can

This will be good. I'm pouting a little that the grownup in the house took away my toy, but I think it will mean I'll grow-up a little as a result. I'll let you know how it goes.

Let me know in the comments how you feel about stepping away from Facebook for a while. Would it be too hard? Does it sound like a relief?

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