A few days ago I made the decision to go on a Facebook detox and give it up for one week. My daily word count targets are always on the optimistic side, but I was concerned at how little I had accomplished, given I was writing full time. Since the Brexit vote, Facebook was not the nicest place to be, as people vented their frustrations with regards the result. While I’m not a fully fledged Buddhist, I value the Buddhist outlook on life and try to keep mine as stress-free as possible. It seems a bit of a contradiction, given I’m constantly harnessing my inner dark side to come up with increasingly wicked plots for my book.
Deactivated My Account
So I deactivated my account by going on to my privacy settings. It was surprisingly easy to do, although Facebook didn’t want to lose me, and promptly showed me pictures of all the people who would miss me, should I leave! I ticked the box to say I would be back in seven days and pressed the button. Throughout the day, I found myself picking up my phone to check social media, only to remember it had been deactivated. I never realised just how much of a habit it’s become. It was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I checked at night. Not good. What surprised me the most was the amount of free time I had when I gave it up. I dictated 5,000 words of my newest thriller in one day. With my evening free, I played a game of snakes and ladders with my ten-year-old son. We had a laugh, and yes, I made sure he won.
The next evening I realised that I had gone all day without checking social media. But Facebook was not prepared to let me go. Despite requesting I be left alone for seven days, I constantly received notifications welcoming me back. This was because when I downloaded other apps, such as Spotify and Goodreads, I took the ‘easy’ option of logging in with my Facebook details. Now I see why this is a recommended method of signing in, because any kind of log-in triggers a welcome back email, and activates your account. I gave up de-activating it after several attempts, because despite trying to log on separately, it just kept welcoming me back. Apart from a couple of visits, I managed to stay away for another day. I watched this video, which made the need to separate Facebook from family life even more important.
Now I’m not saying that social media is a terrible thing, but there comes a point when you have to step back. I’m incredibly grateful for Facebook, it’s facilitated new friendships, helped me keep in touch with family overseas, made me laugh, made me cry, and even helped sell my books. But you know what? People don’t mind if you don’t reply straight away. Nobody expects you to be at their beck and call. Today I realised I don’t have to impose a full-on ban. I just need to treat Facebook as I would any other friend, someone I enjoy spending a certain amount of time with – but not in a weird, stalkerish way that means checking what they are doing every second of every day!
Helen Cadbury, an author friend, put it very well in a recent blog post. You can see her post by clicking here. She said:
“It’s very easy to spend hours on Facebook: hanging out, chatting, seeing what people are up to. If I was my boss (which of course I am) I’d be horrified at the ease with which I wander out of the office, into the pub, the marketplace and the back alleys of the virtual world.”
So I’ve tentatively returned to Facebook, albeit for much shorter visits than before. Staying away has taught me some valuable lessons. Maybe you should give it a try too. Just come back and let me know how you got on.