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by Tara West on 12th November 2012
It was 8pm on a Sunday night. It could have been any old Sunday night. Nothing was new or out of the ordinary. As usual, I was scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone. For some reason, it struck me that I spend an excessive amount of time on Facebook, but I couldn’t actually explain what I got out of it.
I didn’t particularly enjoy just mindlessly scrolling through other people’s updates, so why was I on there? I then began to wonder what my life would be like without Facebook. Even just for a short period of time. Before I’d really thought it through, I had visited the Settings page and found myself clicking ‘DEACTIVATE ACCOUNT’…
I decided that I was going to challenge myself to delete the account for at least seven days to see what effect it had, and whether I would then be able to answer my question; what do I get out of Facebook?
I didn’t initially do this for a blog post, but I thought it might make an interesting read and I wondered if others have similar experiences with Facebook as I do. So here it is; ‘A Diary of my Life Minus Facebook.’
When my Facebook habit started…
You might be reading this thinking ‘that’s no big deal’, and that you could easily give up Facebook. That might be so, but personally this actually was a little bit of a challenge for me because I would say that I’m not far off being a Facebook addict. Or at least it’s fair to say I have a serious Facebook habit. I’m not in need of counselling or anything, but this social network is taking up a sizable chunk of my time and I’d like to know why.
I joined Facebook in 2007 before moving to Bournemouth, because the people I was going to be moving in with were also on Facebook. At the time, that was the only reason I joined and I could never have imagined how much I would later use this social network.
I’m a very active Facebook user and before this ‘experiment’ I posted a status around four times a week, which is quite a lot! I don’t think I was ever one of those users who shared mundane news about my lunch or what my mum had bought at Tesco, and generally my status’s always got a few ‘likes’, so I’m hoping I wasn’t simply flooding other people’s news streams with rubbish.
Immediately after I deactivated my account I felt a strange sense of achievement like I was
beating an actual addiction, as ridiculous as it sounds. I imagine it to be the way a smoker feels the first four hours after they’ve decided to quit. It’s all fun and games now because I’ve not had time to realise it’s gone yet.
Usually when I wake up, the first thing I do is check my emails, my horoscope (don’t judge me – people have believed in stranger things) and then Facebook. Today I went to do this as usual but obviously without being able to check Facebook. It’s a bit frustrating but I can’t imagine anything much has changed since I last was on there so I’m not too worried.
I wondered if the photos from my night out on Saturday have been uploaded, and hope there’s no awful ones! This makes me realise that one of the reasons I use Facebook is to have control and to know what’s being posted about me. It’s a kind of online F.O.M.O (Fear of Missing Out).
While drying my hair this morning, I found myself automatically opening the Facebook app on my phone. This is typical, mindless multitasking for me and I realise the fact that I didn’t even think about it shows checking Facebook is actually a habit and not something I consciously ‘choose’ to do a lot of the time.
During the day I found myself looking at Pinterest a lot more. I also added a few more people on Instagram. I haven’t spent that much more time on Twitter yet though, so I don’t feel like I’ve substituted anything in place of Facebook.
I went to the pub after work with some fellow Koozai’s today and I noticed I felt compelled to check-in on Facebook to share where I was. I considered using FourSquare for a minute (which I do occasionally use) but it then struck me that the friends I care about aren’t actually on Foursquare so there wasn’t much point. This made me realise one of the reasons I use Facebook over other social networks is because most of my friends are on it. This is probably one of the main reasons I don’t really use Google Plus that much either!
Day two without my fix and I still checked my emails and horoscope as usual this morning. I didn’t check Facebook this time, although it briefly crossed my mind. I don’t think about it much beyond that moment.
I was working on a personal development project at work today so time has flown by (time flies when you’re having more fun than usual). I haven’t thought about Facebook once! It just goes to show that Facebook is a tool I use to procrastinate.
This makes me wonder if I permanently gave up Facebook, would I become more focused for longer periods of time, rather than looking for a quick distraction occasionally to break up my concentration. On the other hand it’s quite possible that I’d still need the occasional break and I would just find myself procrastinating in different ways, like making a cup of tea.
Lunch time at work feels a bit empty without Facebook, but I find myself getting a bit more involved with the lunchtime banter. Could it be that not having Facebook does actually make us more sociable in real life?
Day three in the no-Facebook experiment saw me actually really miss the network. This time it was not out of habit, but for real tangible reasons I could describe.
I saw an article my friend would have loved to read and I would normally have just sent it to her via Facebook, but I couldn’t. It was then I realised I don’t have her email address either. It turns out I genuinely do use Facebook to share information, not just to be nosey.
My latest Koozai video went live today and I’d usually share it with my friends on Facebook. It’s frustrating that I can’t but I still promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn like I usually would.
One of my friends tried to arrange a birthday event on Facebook using the group message function and they had to notify me by sending a message to our mutual friend who I share a flat with. They said it’s strange they can’t find me and jokingly asked if I’d deleted them! This made me realise Facebook is actually a really good platform for group communication because everyone can see each others responses to messages.
When I got home from work today I put my laptop on to do some work, and found myself opening up Chrome only to automatically start typing ‘www.fac’, without even thinking. Chome auto-completed the URL for me and before I knew it I was visiting Facebook and being asked to sign up. Even my internet browser is encouraging me to be on Facebook!
I’m a bit brain-dead after a solid day and evening of work staring at a screen, and when I finally decide to stop working I find myself wanting to see what’s going on in Facebook land as a bit of a de-stress release.
The longer I go without Facebook, the easier it seems to get. I’ve started using Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter a lot more today. Could it be that I’m substituting these for Facebook? I don’t think so as I don’t really use them in the same way.
When I’ve ‘tweeted’ today I noticed it’s a bit weird that unless you get a reply to your tweet (which is much less often than you might get a Facebook comment), it’s hard to tell how people are taking your contribution to the Twittersphere. I wonder if anyone has even seen my tweet. It’s weird because on Facebook I would usually have a few ‘likes’ or comments. For me personally, there is more interaction on Facebook than on Twitter. It could also be due to the fact that only a small number of my close friends are on Twitter, so there are simply less people to interact with.
Once again it’s when I stop for lunch that my mind wonders what everyone has been up to on Facebook.
Just when I thought I was getting stronger, I found myself still opening the Facebook app out of habit today.
I’m getting a bit fed up of the experiment now as my mind wonders to what everyone’s weekend plans are. I’m heading away for the weekend so I’d like to tell the world about my exciting plans but I can’t. I tweet about them instead but it just doesn’t give me the same kind of satisfaction.
Today I really notice a feeling of isolation due to not having Facebook. Perhaps this is simply due to it being the start of the weekend, rather than it being the 5th day without my fix.
I’m feeling much more cheery today and I tweet and Instagram photos of my weekend away. Twitter also felt much more welcoming today as the friends I was going away with and visiting for the weekend are also on Twitter, so there is some interaction within my tweets.
It also strikes me when using Twitter that all my tweets are public. I know I can make my tweets private if I wanted to but there aren’t any custom settings so that I can control the levels of privacy. For example in my Facebook account I share everything with my close friends, and slightly less with others.
A friend text me today to ask where I had gone as I wasn’t on Facebook. It is strange to think that people actually noticed I wasn’t on there.
Well, technically still Saturday night. As I’m on my way home from a night out with friends in the wee hours of the morning I reactivate my account. I did make it seven days without my fix, even though this means it wasn’t quite seven complete days.
The first thing I do is post about my weekend and check-in. I soon have a comment and a few likes, which is strangely lovely to see. The feeling of interaction and knowing how others are responding to updates is something which Facebook has trained us to look for and it’s certainly something I’ve missed while using Twitter and other platforms instead.
During Sunday I find myself checking Facebook only once or twice and it’s a strangely disappointing to see that nothing has really changed.
Now it’s back in my life:
Initially I didn’t use Facebook as much following my seven day deactivation, although admittedly I do look at it around three times a day still.
I’ve found it very strange posting updates now, as I’ve almost got out of the habit of doing it. I think a lot more about what others might think of the things I post and I almost feel a bit awkward posting things now. I seem to only post on Facebook around once a week now.
I use Twitter a lot more than I ever did before my deactivation but my use of Instgram and Pinterest is back to normal levels.
What I’ve learned:
I’ve realised I could easily stop using Facebook if I wanted to, but one of the main overriding reasons I don’t is because all my friends are on it. Until there is another social network which all my friends are on, I don’t think I’m likely to give it up. Facebook definitely has its uses and although not using it was a challenge, it didn’t really change much about my life.
Tara West is an experienced SEO and PPC specialist at Koozai, with particular expertise within AdWords PPC and Remarketing. She has worked on a wide variety of verticals, from plumbing and travel to fashion and beauty.