It started with an experimental Facebook vacation that merged into a National Day of Unplugging. Before I knew it, I had recaptured time and energy that I never knew I had. And was left wondering why and when this so-called social media became so pervasive in my life.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a dad who was giving his daughter $200 to take a five-month Facebook vacation. In researching that post I learned that the "Facebook vacation" had become the latest trend in social media, as folks young and old have found themselves taking weeks or even months off from the site. Most Facebook vacationers were looking for better use of their online time and more free time to connect with family, friends and colleagues in real life.
The idea intrigued me. Not because I didn't like Facebook. On the contrary, I've been a fan of the social media site for years and have often advocated its use as a means to reconnect with old friends, schedule party dates with neighbors, brainstorm ideas with like-minded greenies, and share photos with family far and wide. But in recent months I have noticed that because I use the site for all of these reasons and more, I find myself on there ... a lot.
That means that every time I have a work question to throw out to green group members, I wind up getting sucked into personal inbox messages about PTO breakfasts, fourth-grade birthday parties and Girl Scout meetings. And at the end of the day, when I slipped onto Facebook to catch up on status updates and hopefully unwind, I would feel compelled to read up on posts about recycling rates, unhealthy ingredients in food, and the latest dangers to children lurking in our homes.
In short, the multi-use aspect of Facebook that I thought I loved had become my downfall.
I needed a vacation.
So I picked a date and took a plunge, intending to go Facebook-free for one week.
I took the Facebook app off my phone, removed the site from my laptop's shortcuts, and uploaded a Facebook cover photo indicating that I would not be checking in for a while. On the first day, I was appalled at the number of times my hand inadvertently tried to click over to the site on my phone or laptop only to open up a different app or shortcut that had taken its place. Wow, I really did click on this site a lot.
On day two, I had a question about a post that I would normally have thrown out to some green mom friends on Facebook. Without that option, I was stumped for a minute until I realized that I could email one or two green mom friends who I knew would have the answer. I got my answers, and I also caught up on a little one-on-one with both of them, something that wouldn't have happened on the 75-member Facebook group site.
By day four, I realized that my hand no longer searched on auto-pilot for Facebook. Instead of cruising on Facebook when I finished working for the day, I turned the computer off and tuned in to what was going on in my home. This was turning out to be a success.
By the end of the week, I wondered if I really wanted to go back on Facebook at all.
And then came the National Day of Unplugging.
That was last weekend, and while I couldn't do it at the allotted time of Friday-Saturday, I did decide to do my own day of unplugging from Sunday morning to Monday morning. I was already Facebook-free, but now I would go without my phone, laptop, Kindle, iPod and television, too.
I thought the lack of connection would make me stressed, but instead it relaxed me like never before.
As a disclosure, I should note that I was out of town with my entire nuclear family when I conducted my unplugging experiment. My kids were accounted for, and I was already out of the hussle and bustle of my life at home. That helped tremendously, as I don't think I would have been nearly as eager to turn off my phone if my kids had been at school or off with their friends.
I left the laptop, Kindle, and iPod behind, turned off my phone, and unplugged the television. And that's when I found bliss.
Now, not only was there no Facebook to distract me from my life, there were no texts, emails, or phone calls either. It's been a long time since I've had a day like that. Too long.
Don't get me wrong, I love my job, and I love to stay connected to family and friends. But I think that all of the avenues that we have now for "staying connected" have actually pulled us apart from those closest to us. For me, that equated to less time and fewer conversations with my kids.
So here's the deal: I'm back on Facebook, for now. But I still don't have the app on my phone or the shortcut on my laptop. That means that when I do want to check in on the site — maybe once a day, maybe not — I have to consciously make an effort to log in. I have also turned off all but the most important notifications, so that when I do get on there, I can quickly see who has sent me an inbox message or posted on my wall without wading through every message and picture from every friend of a friend.
And I'm making an effort to turn off my phone or leave it behind when I don't need it. In a few weeks, I'll be headed on a real vacation with my family for a week. And thanks to the success of this experiment, I'm planning to leave the gadgets behind and my phone turned off at the bottom of my suitcase.
Unplugged for a week? I can't wait!
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