What I’m Learning from my Facebook Addiction
My last Facebook post was on July 14, now just 15 days ago. I decided to take one month away from it to help myself reset my mind and priorities. So after 15 days, do I miss it? Here’s what 15 days without Facebook have taught me so far:
1. I was addicted.
First thing I noticed the first couple of days is how many times I caught myself automatically trying to go to Facebook whenever I turned on my computer at work or picked up my cell phone. Without thinking, my first instinct was to open Facebook. I would catch myself, though. I had to literally be conscious of when I picked up my phone or got on my computer and started that second-nature movement of going to Facebook. It was really kind of eye-opening how addicted I was, but that’s the reason I did this.
2. I didn’t really know why I was addicted.
Noticing that I was that programmed to immediately go to Facebook was startling. The thing that startled me even more, though, was the fact that when I thought about it, I couldn’t even define what it was that was so addicting. Why did I need to go to Facebook? What was it that I had such a hard time letting go of? I can’t even really say that I figured that one out, but I have some ideas. The first thing that I thought of is, well, we’re social creatures. We are designed to live socially. In community with other people. It’s a natural tendency to want to be connected to other people. But that couldn’t be it, I thought. That couldn’t be the only thing causing me to need this thing so much. The other thing that I thought of was this – we live in a world that has become so connected all the time, right? But it’s not through personal, face-to-face interactions. It’s through technology. Through social media. And that connection through social media has created for our relationships a bit of a social deficiency when it comes to our inter-personal skills. Boils down to this for me: we have become so good at interacting through social media – not just Facebook, but Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, etc – that we now harbor a sort of fear of true personal interactions. Not like a “Oh I’m so scared” fear, but more like a “this is really uncomfortable, I’m not sure I like this” kind of fear. Online, I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want and not really see the repercussions of those statements. But in person, things are real. Things are personal, immediate, and, yes, uncomfortable. I think these are the things that pushed me to Facebook so often and, hence, the reasons I needed it so immediately and often.
3. So what, did that make me a bad person?
Well, yes and no. No, it didn’t make me a bad person in the sense of my intrinsic human nature, I didn’t desire to hurt people, I didn’t desire bad things. But yes, it did make me a bad person in the sense that I had become socially crippled by immediately turning to social media to get my human interaction for the day. By doing so, I became glued to my computer and my phone, often ignoring the people immediately around me, like my wife and my kids. I would be sitting on my couch after dinner, TV on (why I don’t know because I wasn’t watching it), wife at the other end of the couch on her phone, me on my phone, kids playing on the floor – we had four human beings within feet of each other and the only two interacting with real, immediately tangible people were the kids! I realized that by being so involved in my technology, my addiction, I was unintentionally ignoring my basic human need for human interaction with the humans that were right in front of me! That was what made me, not a bad person, but a person making seriously stupid and bad decisions.
4. Did I need Facebook?
Was there some sort of need to be on it? Did it fulfill any purpose in my life? Well, honestly YES. There were some facets of my life that I felt Facebook did some good in. Facebook did allow me to keep up with some family in other parts of the country that I am unable to talk with regularly. It did allow me to share some of the positive things I saw/read/watched online. Those are the times I felt Facebook did serve a purpose. Otherwise, NO. There was nothing absolutely imperative that I was getting from it. I was getting along just fine without it. In fact, I think I’ve been getting along better without it. I’ve been able to take that time that I was on the couch ignoring my kids, and turn it into time that I interact with them. I play with them. Or, I just watch them, which has turned out to be just as important to me.
So after 15 days, this is where I’m at. I actually am enjoying not needing to check my feed so often. I’m actually enjoying being a little more unplugged. It’s a bit of a freeing feeling. I’m not going to sit here and say that this in any way holds a candle to say drug addiction or alcoholism, but I will sit here and say that it is an addiction. And it does do damage, below-the-surface as it may be. And I do believe that more people could do with less Facebook and more person-to-person interaction. It has helped me re-focus on the more important things a little bit more. Is it going to save the world? No. But it might save a relationship. It might save a child from feeling neglected. It might save someone from being socially awkward. And that’s a good thing too.