I recently took a sabbatical from Facebook because I was one of those people who succumbed to the irresistible desire to check my phone every fleeting moment of free time.
Thus I spent about 2 weeks deactivated from Facebook, only reactivating so I could log into sites I had already authorized with Facebook (I wish I could’ve completely disconnected, but hey, I live in Silicon Valley… of course I have some accounts connected to Facebook). At first I instinctively still took my phone out of my pocket on any downtime and looked in dismay, both introspectively at how horrible a habit this was and at the Facebook-missing grid of apps.
But after a few days, something just clicked. I coined the term, “Sage-mode” to equate the freeness of thought that overtook me. No more looking down, I looked forward. And I wasn’t looking at another projected screen (I see you, Google Glass); I was looking at things in front of me (wow! crazy right?). And sometimes that was my computer screen, but there were no Facebook tabs open, and I didn’t Ctrl-T to the tab with a blue icon or Cmd-T and type ‘fa’-tab-enter. I read things, and slowly increased my attention span from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. Then further. I could actually get through an entire ‘long-read’ without shifting my attention once. I could sit through a performance and never take out my phone, even during intermissions. I could read books with undivided attention and laugh inside when I noticed my friends checking their phones in some conversation-downtime.
In some ways, I guess I was suffering from some sort of “Facebook envy” that Margaret Duffy from the University of Missouri examines in her Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is Facebooking depressing?. It’s hard to grasp still, since it’s such an ingrained feeling, but trust me and my friends who I ranted to at 4am on multiple occasions on some diluted thoughts on how things are bad and I am lonely. I didn’t actively feel jealous towards each and every person I saw, but more a longing for things that I saw disconnected from myself. Especially being off from school for the year, seeing all my friends doing college-esque things and accomplishing incredible feats - well, I wanted to be a part of that, to be there with and for them, and to see things first-hand. However, I couldn’t and I can’t. It took me a while to internalize that. That’s the envy. I’ve meditated more, learned to worry about myself a bit more, and others a bit less. These mindsets seem to be learned by pretty much everybody at some point, except for the to-be-taken-lightly people who seem like they never grow out of this comparison-based, self-conscious mindset (do they exist at older ages?). The trend of these mindsets, sadly, I believe is increasing as people’s engagement increases with an influx of new points of comparison through all-access passes to other people’s lives and accomplishments. What’s the rush? People move at different paces, and even more so: in different paths.
As I’ve eased myself back into using Facebook - it is potentially a useful tool - I’ve done a few things to ensure I use it as a useful tool. I’ve unfriended over 700 people, who I will probably never talk to again (and if I do, then I’ll just add them back). I’ve unfollowed all of the trashy posts/posters I see whenever I see them on my feed (slowly, but surely, I’ll eradicate them all). I’ve begun to like pages of publications that I read anyways so I’ll receive a stream of meaningful articles on top of the posts from my more immediate friends. Not going to lie, I’ve kept a few people I don’t talk to at the moment, but that’s because I feel I will in some near future.
I try to only text/message people objectively and save meaningful conversation for in-person or calls or video chats. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and that’s alright.
Maybe it’s just a matter of growing out of the competitive nature that high school or society imposed on me or growing out of naive tendencies in general. Or maybe Facebook was the primary culprit. Maybe (probably) both. I’m sure others were never and never will be as ingrained in social media as I was a month ago, my actions on Facebook were petty and unnecessary, and I should have just been able to break a habit of envy and depression through simple self-control. But overall, my eradication of Facebook distractions and getting more time to have legitimate me-time lifted my growing depression. My attention span is recuperating from my Facebook-generation syndrome. I’m trying to focus on things I find more meaning in, like reading and writing and experimenting new hobbies and work. I’m not checking Facebook in another tab as I read this now.