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Confessions of a Facebook Addict: Seven Days Without my Fix

Tara West

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’d imagine my Facebook profile is average for my demographic (mid-twenties female). I’ve got 407 Facebook friends, 1,119 photos and 434 ‘liked’ pages:

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.

Monday:

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!

Tuesday:

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?

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday:

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.

Friday:

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.

Saturday:

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.

Sunday:

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:

  • Facebook gives me control over checking what’s online about me
  • Not being on Facebook gives me F.O.M.O (Fear of Missing Out)
  • I don’t think I can substitute other social media platforms for Facebook because of the following reasons:
    - Most of my friends are on Facebook and not on other networks
    - Most other networks lack validation or interaction for me and my circle of friends
    - I like the way Facebook likes and comments give you an insight into what others think of the content you post
    - I like the customised privacy settings on Facebook
  • I use Facebook a lot to procrastinate, but if I didn’t have Facebook I would simply find other procrastination activities like making a cup of tea instead
  • Sometimes not having Facebook makes me more sociable in real life situations
  • I miss Facebook more when my life gets a bit more interesting because I want to share what I’m up to
  • I use Facebook for sharing articles and online content instead of other platforms like email
  • I use Facebook for organising and being part of group activities and if I’m not on it I miss out on information
  • I use Facebook as a de-stressing activity
  • People actually noticed when I left Facebook, which I thought was strange as I didn’t think anyone would

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

Tara West

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.

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14 Comments

  • Kumail Hemani 12th November 2012

    Good post Tara! I like the conversational view and I agree with everything you said. I also don’t find Facebook is about addiction, it is a best way to connect with friends: to know about them, to share everything interesting and to to get reasonable interaction timely :)

    Reply to this comment

    • Tara West

      Tara West 13th November 2012

      Hi Kumail, timeliness of friends responses on Facebook isn’t something I’d actively considered but you are right, this is another aspect which keeps me using the social network. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply to this comment

  • Amy Fowler 13th November 2012

    400 odd friends sounds like a lot to me. I’m the same ‘demographic’ as you, and I’m sure I don’t know many people with those sorts of numbers. 100 to 200 seems more common. But maybe that’s just my friends. How many of those 400 odd do you actually talk to or spend time with?

    I also think it’s a bit sad that so many people seek validation through people liking and commenting on their statuses. I know it’s kinda nice when people do, but in reality it means nothing.

    Whenever I think I’m spending too much time on something, I ask myself if, when I’m on my deathbed, will I look back and be glad I did this. Might be a bit morbid, but it really does make you reevaluate how you spend your time.

    Reply to this comment

    • Tara West

      Tara West 13th November 2012

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t actively speak to everyone that I’m Facebook friends with on a regular basis. I’ve called them ‘Facebook friends’ because the nature of these friendships isn’t quite the same as friendships in real life. Personally I have a rule that I’m only facebook friends with people where if I was to walk past them in the street, I would say hi! But then I do like to talk quite a lot and meet new people often so perhaps my number of Facebook friends is higher than average.

      It is really stange how people have come to seek validation through Facebook likes and this is one area that really fascinates me. It seems like many people really do imply meaning to it & because ‘meaning’ is subjective & something which we imply, Facebook likes effectively do have meaning to some people and therefore they might get a sense of validation from it. I’d love to do an experiment to explore people’s opinions of ‘likes’ because even though on the surface many people say they ‘mean nothing’ they still admit (as you did) that it’s nice to get them!

      As I concluded in my post, Facebook is definitely something I can live without and I won’t be on my death bed thinking about it! But this doesn’t change the fact that when I’m bored on the train, in the waiting room at the doctors, watching Sunday night TV, or drying my hair, I will continue to use it to fill my time :)

      Reply to this comment

      • Amy Fowler 13th November 2012

        Fair enough; if you’re literally using it to fill gaps in time when you have nothing better to do, then you’re probably okay.

        Sadly, there’s a lot of people who spend much of their evenings fixed to a computer/phone/ipad screen, and judging their worth in accordance with how many people click ‘like’ on the photo of their dinner they’ve just uploaded.

        It does make me quite sad, even scares me a little, that people place so much worth on the mostly hollow interactions they engage in through social networks.

        I think because of our age, we’ve managed to escape the full throttle of Facebook, but I think a lot of those who are growing up with it may be in trouble. I do get the feeling that too much time on Facebook affects people’s ability to socialise and form relationships in the real world.

        Going off on a bit of a tangent now so just to finish: I didn’t mean that too much Facebook time might mean you actually think about it on your deathbed. I meant that if you’re ever questioning the amount of time you spend on something, you should ask yourself how you’d feel about spending your time this way when you’re on your deathbed. Would you be glad you did it? Wished you spent more time doing it? Or would you wish you used this time doing something else?

        I just feel that thinking like this helps to put into perspective what’s really important to us. And surely nobody would say that their relationships on Facebook, their likes and their comments, are what’s really important.

  • Tara West

    Tara West 13th November 2012

    I also enjoy having a look thourgh Facbeook and keeping in touch with my friends on there though – I’d say my use is roughly about 80% prcrascination / boredom and 20% chosing to actively use it because I want to.

    I agree that younger generations are much more likely to find themselves placing much more emphasis on the value Facebook interactions, and that is a great example of technology changing the lifestyles of different generations. My Nan probably thought the same abut me and sending text messages!

    I’m not sure it affects ability to socialise in the real world but rather willingness to socialise in the real world. I found that when I didn’t have Facebook I was more inclined to join in with the banter at lunch times a bit more than usual. It may affect ability in younger generations who grow up with Facebook from an early age and do not experience life without Facebook. On the other hand it might simply enhance their social experiences. I remember going to school and socialising with friends there and then coming home and talking to those same friends on MSN messenger which could be considered an equivalent Facebook of the time. I don’t think that affected my ability to socialise but rather enhanced it.

    Most people will admit it’s quite nice to get Facebook likes on a status, so even though they might not be the most import thing in their lives, it’s still a part of their lives that they value to some extent. How important that is to an individual is another experiment all together :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Vicky Jarman 13th November 2012

    Hi Tara,

    Great post. With work I’m responsible for updating and maintaining our facebook page so it takes up a huge portion of my day. As a result I’m known amongst my friends as a bit of a facebook junkie.

    I agreed with pretty much all you said, it would be a tough habit to break but more than that it would reshape how I communicate with my friends – something I don’t think I would be happy doing.

    Facebook is by far the most interactive sm (atleast for the moment, google+ offers as much but with fewer ppl) and I do think it’s rewarding when you get the likes and comments. I notice this most for work, on twitter we have more connections but a RT or reply requires quite a high level of commitment where as a like is pretty passive.

    Think it might be a while until the masses are willing to give up on facebook!

    Reply to this comment

  • Tara West

    Tara West 13th November 2012

    Hey Vicky, thanks for the comment :) Very true, it’s nice and easy to click ‘like’. When I’m on twitter I always wish there was just a ‘like’ button!

    Reply to this comment

  • Emma Still 15th November 2012

    Hi Tara!

    Nice post, here. I was so intrigued when I came across this post because I took a similar challenge at the end of September, but cut myself off from ALL textual communication, not just Facebook! Much like yourself, I found myself replacing those typical and almost automatic habits of opening up Facebook/Twitter with other things like Pinterest.

    You summed it up perfectly when mentioning the ‘fear of missing out’. That’s exactly how I felt too! It’ so hard to willingly alienate yourself, but so good and healthy to take a well-deserved break. This is one of the reasons I think a lot of people take vacations nowadays, too. It’s nice to get away from it all for a little while, and nice to see someone else took a challenge too!

    Here’s my experience if you care to read :) http://emmastill.com/a-week-without-textual-communication/

    Reply to this comment

    • Tara West

      Tara West 15th November 2012

      Thanks for the comment Emma, I really liked reading your post, it sounds like we had a similar experience! That’s very true I think the best bit about a holiday is turning my phone off and being cut off for a little bit! Sometimes we are just a bit too connected but don’t realise it until we give it up :)

      Reply to this comment

  • Jason Smith 20th November 2012

    Very interesting and insightful. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply to this comment

  • Emily Bateman 26th November 2012

    Hi Tara,

    Great post here and enjoyed the conversational style. I agree with your findings and also find myself absentmindedly typing in “www.fac..” into my browser when my initial intention was to check my emails!

    I manage multiple company Facebook accounts, therefore I do spend a lot of time on social media platforms, yet still find it a great tool to unwind after a long day. Being able to approve new photos on my wall, share content and check in to places have also become very habitual.

    A few years ago I tried a similar experiment, where I deactivated my account for 2 weeks. After two weeks, I had friends telling me, “I knew you would return!”.

    It turned out that Facebook automatically reactivated my account. Like you say, until there is an alternative platform where all my friends are, Facebook is where I will be! :)

    Reply to this comment

  • kman 13th January 2013

    Good article. I feel like I would miss out on opportunities to see and stay in touch with old friends which I don’t think was really possible 10 years ago (unless your are rich with an unlimited travel budget). I’m not a huge phone guy which also inhibits my ability to stay in touch. I enjoy and thrive off personal interactions for the most part.

    Facebook can be really unhealthy but with a basic understanding of it’s use’s it can be good for you.

    Don’t let it replace your personal intereactions with people lest thy be alienated by society. :)

    that’s my 3 pennies…..

    Reply to this comment

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