Facebook. It pervades our society. It is the ultimate time waster for many. It has its positives, but I argue it often robs us of time we could spend doing something much more constructive. With this in mind, I gave myself a challenge recently. I went facebook free for a week! And that week was peaceful and relatively regret-free.
For a while leading up to my decision, I was displeased with the amount of time I spend dilly dallying, most of it wasting time on the Internet with time on facebook as the biggest culprit. Most of my dilly dallying time came when my wife and daughters were asleep, which is my me-time, time that could have been much more productive. I regularly went to bed thinking, “I should have done this,” or “This would have been a better use of my time.” I felt like it was time to stop going to bed with regret after facebook, sports news, or other trivial things on the Internet sucked me in. I decided it was time for more discipline and that going a week without facebook would be a step to “recovery.” There was no passion, love or hate with my decision, just hope that it would set me on a path of more disciplined use of time, and it succeeded.
At first, it was difficult knowing that I could get on facebook at any time with my smartphone in my pocket (I didn’t even think of deleting my facebook app then, but I have since). I quickly deleted any facebook notifications that came on my phone. My wife showed me a few things on her facebook – a few landmark happenings with family and friends. I didn’t feel I was backsliding by doing this because it wasn’t me logging in and viewing it. I was just an observer to someone else’s page.
That week I felt a sense of freedom. I felt like I was being unshackled from a mild Internet addiction. In addition to going without facebook, I also went without looking at sports news. That helped tremendously, too. I felt more focused on real life instead of virtual life. I honestly felt more bullish about life as I was not comparing my life to the lives of friends who are taking cruises to the Bahamas or week-long vacations to Maui – things I could not afford at this point. I got more stuff done at night like grading, reading for pleasure and writing for pleasure. I went to bed without regret, which was the best payoff of all.
I reflected that week on how I could make my facebook time less of a time-waster and more of an enricher. I decided instead of exclusively scrolling through my news feed, I would treat facebook as an avenue to check up on long-lost friends and family members I haven’t heard from in a while. I felt like if I used it that way, I would feel less guilty about my time on facebook. I was right. When I returned to facebook after that week, that’s how I used it. I sent messages to friends I hadn’t heard from in a while, some of whom are in the throes of job searches or moves. I looked at pictures from friends who hardly post on their timelines. Even doing this, I limited my time on it to less than 30 minutes a day.
That experiment taught me, reconfirmed to me really, that time online without a purpose is time wasted. Now, I have a written list (or list in my mind) of what I want to accomplish every night when on the computer and I stick to it. Life feels more fulfilling that way. Me time is important and I feel there should be much more too it than surfing the Internet or watching Netflix. Instead of getting on facebook once or twice a day, I’m getting on once or twice a week. Without wasting time online, life is more purposeful and peaceful. Reading a book or writing something before retiring for the night leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and ultimately, more fulfillment.