3 Things I Learned by Giving Up Facebook

1. The anxiety and anger really did dissipate.

I chose to give up Facebook for Lent. (Read about why here.)

In those 40+ days, the internal traffic really did die down. I was able to think more clearly, spend my time more wisely, and not get too “riled up” when I read the news.

While social media can be a driving force for good, I found it calming and peaceful to not be sucked into others’ drama every day.

When President Trump and his administration said or did something stupid (which happened multiple times during this period), I could simply read an article about it from a respected publication, rather than hearing people I know blindly defend the lies and rhetoric. When a friend took a controversial stance on a particular religious practice, I didn’t see the 200+ comments and thereby saved myself some angst and major head shaking.

2. I found myself more socially isolated than I had expected.

While the peace mentioned above was great, I found a negative side that was stronger than I had expected.

I felt the sting of loneliness.

I found myself in an echo chamber of my own thoughts.

Yes, I have friends. My whole social life doesn’t revolve around an online service. I have an amazing wife who I can count on for informed and stimulating discussion. I actually reached out to friends and spent more intentional time with them face-to-face. (See point 3 below.)

But even with this, I found that the absence of Facebook left a gap―both relationally and intellectually.

Relationally, I missed the connection that Facebook facilitates with friends who are far away, who I can’t interact with on a daily basis.

Intellectually, the results were even more surprising. The echo chamber is real. I developed a habit of checking news sites more often than I had before, simply because articles weren’t being shoved in my face all day on Facebook. This is ostensibly a good thing, but it is easy to only go to news sources which tend to already share my slant. (For instance, there’s no way I’m going to voluntarily submit myself to scrolling through pages of Breitbart articles simply for the sake of getting a differing perspective…)

(Side note: I found a cool email newsletter called PolarNews which sends you daily recaps of news stories with articles from vastly different perspectives.)

During my absence, I missed the productive conversation that Facebook can facilitate. I missed not seeing the encouraging news stories that don’t always get picked up by national or local news. I missed hearing the thoughts of my friends, even those with whom I have major worldview differences.

This is what drove me back to Facebook. It wasn’t loneliness; it was that I missed having real conversations with real people concerning subjects that I care about, even if those people are far away, disagree with me, or are simply busy enough that a face-to-face conversation may be put off in perpetuity.

3. I spent some face-to-face time with people I might not have otherwise.

Due to the isolation mentioned above, I took the time to seek out my local friends to hang out IRL. (That’s in real life in case you need a refresher in internet abbreviations.) I called my brother and talked on the phone, instead of just shooting a text.

The lack of the virtual relational connection led me to initiate more physical time together with friends than I might have otherwise.

So I learned these 3 valuable things from giving up Facebook for Lent.

In the future, I am going to:

  1. Not let the “drama” of the digital world stir up my inner being so much that I am disturbed and angry.
  2. Instead let discussions with friends on Facebook critique, hone, and develop my worldview so that I am not stuck in an echo chamber of my own thoughts.
  3. Be as intentional about face-to-face relationships as I was when I was “forced” into it through the lack of social media.

This is part 11 of a 52-week writing challenge in which I am participating. Thanks for reading!