the practical buddhist : essentials

7 insights from my month-long facebook fast

On August 1, I’ll sign on to Facebook for the first time in a month. In late June, I made a decision to take a month away from the social media giant simply because it had become an unproductive use of my time as well as a source of frustration.

I’d become frustrated with the incessant blathering and info-graphics that were so lacking in creativity that I wanted to scream.  What began as a tool for keeping in touch with my children, grandchildren, and friends spiraled downward into a plethora of ubiqitous nonsense.

As a result, I made the decision to take a month-long Facebook fast. Some of my friends joked that I’d checked myself into the Mark Zuckerberg Center for Facebook Disorders.

Comments on that particular thread (that I learned of via phone calls and text messages) revealed predictions about me wearing gray crew-neck pullovers while receiving therapy for my problem and my absence being solely responsible for the dip in Facebook stock prices.   😎

The truth about my Facebook fast

While all of this makes for creative Facebook entertainment, it remains far from the truth. The truth is I didn’t feel my Facebook activity was an addiction nor a dependency. But I did feel increasingly bothered by the time I spent there and it seemed specific to Facebook.

Facebook affected me in a negative manner, that much was clear. I needed to understand why.

So I took a break. I uninstalled the Facebook app on my smartphone and committed to not logging on while on my Mac for any reason. I was faithful to this promise and the only time I saw the familiar blue interface was in passing glances at laptops of those sitting in coffee shops. I made Safari my default browser replacing Chrome so I wouldn’t see the number of updates in the toolbar.

And so began the month-long experiment.

What I learned during my Facebook fast

I learned a lot about myself in the process of not being distracted by Facebook. Seven of these personal insights include the following.

  1. I have limited patience for intellectual laziness. While I’m no Hawking or Einstein, I’m an intelligent person and am always seeking to stretch my mind to new ideas and experiences. I have difficulty tolerating drivel from those who resist intellectual growth and instead rely on on false ideas, popular dogma, and illogical positions.
  2. I didn’t miss Facebook as much as I’d anticipated. Sorry, Mark but it’s true. I didn’t miss it very much at all. What this told me was that the content I was used to seeing in my news stream was, for the most part, lacking any real importance. I didn’t miss the endless stream of prayer requests and photos of food. Rude? Maybe, but it remains true.
  3. My true friends are few in number.  Now before you think I’m crying woe is me, the opposite is actually the case. I had more actual face-to-face encounters with more real friends in July that I have in months. Being an introverted and solitary type who is more prone to periods of isolation than frequent social gatherings, these encounters took their toll. At one point I realized that so much human activity was mentally exhausting for me. Fewer friends is a good thing for me. I can only take real people in small doses.
  4. I was more productive in July than I have been in months. I’ve written more often, written better material, was hired for a consulting gig out of town, and reinforced my meditation practice. In fact, I ordered a zafu meditation pillow and mat set just yesterday. Just looking at this lesson is enough to make me want to take another Facebook fast!
  5. I was pissed off less frequently. I mentioned that Facebook had become a source of frustration; the root of this frustration is the material I read that, well…pisses me off. Mainly it has to do with dogma, conservative politics, and other ideas that I find illogical and void of compassion. I still got pissed at people, things, events, and myself on occasion. But the sources of my pissiness didn’t originate from Facebook. It stemmed from real life. What a concept!
  6. I read more often. Time on Facebook is time I’m not reading quality material. I’ve alway been a reader. I realized long after college and graduate school when reading was crammed down my throat, that voluntary reading was how I was going to feed my mind. In my opinion, if you’re not reading quality books (whether they’re digital or physical), you’re not growing. Reading Facebook posts isn’t reading; it’s mind-numbing passivity at it’s worst. I doubt anyone will ever admit on their deathbed that they wish they’d read less or posted more photos of sautéed tofu….said the guy who loves tofu.
  7. I lived more mindfully. This is perhaps the most important insight I experienced during my time away from Facebook.  Mindfulness is the ability to experience the present moment in its fulness. I can practice mindfulness while eating; having coffee, conversing with a friend, while writing, walking, even riding my motorcycle. But I can’t practice mindfulness while reading Facebook. In fact, spending time on Facebook made me less mindful.

For me, living apart from the practice of mindfulness is a life closer to intellectual twerking.

Will I go back to Facebook?

That’s a very good question. Having considered the insights above and the reasons I began interacting on Facebook in the first place, if I return to Facebook my time there will be guided by the following principles:

Value is the key

Add value, receive value. That should be the mantra for Facebook users everywhere. Imagine how your Facebook time might change if you made that your filter.  😎

11 responses to “7 insights from my month-long facebook fast”

  1. Darian says:

    Don’t declutter me!

  2. Susan says:

    Please don’t de-clutter me either Barry. Even though I know I am guilty of posting prayer requests and a few meals. You have actually given me a lot to think about. I might even try a facebook fast myself!

  3. julie says:

    this was fantastic. Very insightful!

  4. Molly Gordon says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Barry. I’ve been wondering about my own activity on Facebook, both the what I take in and what I put out. What occurs to me is that I actually do know in the moment if I am spending my time well. With that in mind, Facebook presents an opportunity to listen to the promptings of wisdom rather than the call of shallow stimulation.

  5. John Scannell says:

    Barry, my friend, you had summed it up perfectly. “Value is the key”.

  6. John Scannell says:

    Barry, my friend, you had summed it up perfectly. “Value is the key”.

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