That is what it felt like to sign off of Facebook.
I felt like I was saying goodbye to my friends. Like I was cutting myself off from them. By logging off, I was knowingly choosing to be out of the loop, to no longer be involved in their lives.
This, of course, is ridiculous. Most days, I’d scroll through the endless News Feed to read how someone had a hard morning with their kids, or was excited to try a new restaurant, or had read a silly fake news article. Not exactly the kind of sharing that makes me feel like a close, trusted friend.
But the fear of Missing Out was so great that I would continually check that endless stream of status updates and links. On the computer. On the phone. During the kids’ nap time. While in the drive thru. In the kitchen while cooking dinner. Just before going to sleep. As soon as I awoke. At family gatherings. At stop lights.
No. Not okay.
Two days ago, I read an article titled, “Could you give up Facebook for 99 days?” The article introduced the “99 Days of Freedom” experiment, and I was intrigued. Basically, it is a challenge for Facebook users to sign off of the website for 99 days. The press release says the experiment is designed to determine how life without Facebook impacts user happiness.
Whatever the outcome, I knew it was time for me to log off. Following the instructions of the “99 Days” folks, I changed my Facebook profile photo to their image. They also ask that you provide a link to your own personalized countdown clock. But before posting the clock, I wrote this personal message to my friends:
Friends, it is time that Facebook and I took some time away from each other.
I love Facebook. I really do. When you’ve lived in as many places as I have, and made close friends with people that live all over the world, a platform like this is an awesome way to keep in touch. I can share photos and videos of my silly life with you. I can share my random thoughts with anyone that might be interested. I can link to stories or articles that resonate with me, in the hopes that it can speak to you, too. And I have a window into your life, where I can see whatever you choose to share with me.
It can also make it easier for me to sit on the sidelines of my life. My default coping mechanism is to duck and cover, doing the mental equivalent of pulling the covers over my head when I fear a monster is in the room. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and pretty significant insecurities for a very long time. Editing one’s online persona is pretty easy to do on a site like this, but those of you that know me well and love me anyway won’t be surprised at all by me sharing this. I struggle with investing in face-to-face relationships when I’m in the dark hole, and for that reason and others, I am walking away for a while. I have pondered this quite a lot recently, and when I heard of the “99 Days of Freedom Experiment,” I knew it was right up my alley.
I’m not going to lie, I have tried this before and failed. It is hard for someone that feels desperately lonely to disassociate from the place where she feels the most connected to dear friends that live at a distance. I’m posting this long-winded message partly for the accountability, because I should be offline until mid-October if things go as planned. But, I’d also appreciate the chance to communicate with you in other ways until then.
I will still be available through Facebook Messenger and Chat, and I will continue to manage a page that I have been helping with as a volunteer. My contact info is available in the “About” section of my Timeline. And, while I’m really, really hoping this isn’t the case, if any emergencies or traumatic events happen in my family, I’ll be back immediately. I’ve learned from previous situations that I rely on this support system more than you could imagine.
That was yesterday. Sadly, I’ve missed Facebook. A lot. I’ve had a random thought enter my mind and thought, “Damn, that would have made a good status update.” I cheated three times yesterday and looked to see if anyone had made any encouraging comments on my note. (Answer: a couple of people had written, but I was disappointed there weren’t more comments.)
I also received a few personal messages from friends that could relate to the emotional struggles I laid bare. I connected more with those friends in those private notes than I had in months of observing their lives on the site. And I found myself being far less distracted with my children through the day. I took the time to complete tasks that are usually glossed over because I’ve wasted time online. While snuggling with the youngest two kids and singing songs with them at bedtime, I realized how disconnecting from the online world had enabled me to connect with the priceless world around me.
I have no idea what the next three months will bring (THREE MONTHS??!?), but I’m willing to give it a go.