July 2016

30 Days without Facebook

Author: Courtney Hampson

Today, Facebook made me cry. I read something. It hit me square between the eyes. It upset me. Then, just to torture myself, I read it again and again and wondered why someone would post that. Why others would like or comment on it. And then I wondered why does this bother me so darn much? I let it ruin my day.

Social media can be cruel. (That’s where the invitation to my twenty-fifth high school reunion appeared. Some things you just don’t want to remember.) But, even crueler is our reliance on this tool that likely does more evil than good. Let’s just say if social media was a super hero, he’d be one of the bad guys.

My addiction to everything instant got so bad, that I would be walking the dog, scrolling through Facebook, and bumping into tree branches. And that is no way to go through life. Scratched face. Confused dog. So, I challenged myself to take 30 days off—to sign off of Facebook and not sign back on for 30 days. This is how it went down.

Day 1. I didn’t start my hiatus today, because I am running a half marathon and want to be able to post pictures (13.1 miles is a big deal).

Day 2. I didn’t start my break today either, because I am still reading all of the congratulatory comments from my half marathon post yesterday. I’m pathetic.

Day 3. This morning I board a boat, which transports me to one of my favorite destinations: Little Saint Simons Island. Once there, I immediately check out the view from my favorite tree swing. And then I take a picture of that swing and post it on Facebook. Old habits die hard. But, I rebound quickly, hopping on a bike and riding two miles to the other side of the island. I sit on the beach and start a book, and don’t tell anyone what I am reading.

Day 4. I have six notifications showing on my Facebook app, but I don’t click the button. Instead I enjoy an incredibly indulgent outdoor shower (I would give up Facebook forever for an outdoor shower) followed by a lazy breakfast. And then I sit in a swing, overlooking the marsh. And I do nothing, until I take my bike back to the beach and do nothing there too. I enjoy my dinner instead of taking pictures of it. And I slow dance on a porch to the sound of crickets.

Day 5. Today, I stretch my legs in a boat and let the wind wash my face. I pay attention to the oak limbs, and tides, marsh grass, and birds. And no one is the wiser. I am, in essence, on a deserted island with only a couple dozen others. We share our meals together, family style. The people watching is epic, and for the first time in a long time I have conversations, uninterrupted by the ding of my phone. (I didn’t bring my phone with me to the table.)

Day 6. I’m still sober, and it feels pretty good. I am beginning to get a deep satisfaction from seeing the notification number grow and my desire to tap it wane.

Day 9. If I checked Facebook at work, which of course I don’t, today might be the day that I realize how much more I get done when that blue tab isn’t at the top of my screen.

Day 13. Forty-five notifications, and a horrible night’s sleep. Instead of going to the glowing light, I grab a book from my nightstand, and I read. I realize that reading used to be one of my favorite things to do. I would read a book a week. It calmed me. I haven’t finished a book yet this year. That changes today, along with my commitment that I am no longer downloading books. I am reading books, printed on paper. Ever more.

Day 14. I have a fabulous dinner at The Florence in Savannah and don’t post any pictures of my food. Instead, I enjoy the conversation and actually notice the sunset and the shadow that the building cast across our outdoor table. I watch the glow of the candlelight instead of my phone, have a conversation with the waitress and the couple dining with their dog at the next table.

Day 15. Receive the alert that I have 63 FB notifications. Oh well. Today I go for a run, walk the dog, go shopping and take two naps. I go to my sister’s house for my nieces’ birthday dinner. And, if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t even know it.

Day 16. I renew my Vanity Fair subscription, and subscribe to the Sunday NY Times. I feel smarter already.

Day 18. I take my dog Blue to the vet this morning. While waiting, I actually talk to multiple human beings. Later, I sit on the beach, in the late afternoon sun, for two hours. And nobody knows about it. There is temptation though, due to the man who is wearing his underwear as a bathing suit, at whom I can’t stop staring. The old me would have taken a picture and hashtagged the heck out of that (#myeyesmyeyes).

Day 19. My sister almost forced me to Facebook today, something about a grown-up’s Easter Beer Hunt. I hold my ground.

Day 22. I have noticed over the last few days that, despite the fact that I do not have Facebook notifications turned on, I have started getting e-mail notifications about friends’ status updates. Sneaky (read: creepy) stuff. Zuckerberg trying to lure me back online.

Day 25. I spend the day at River Ridge Academy’s Career Day. I present a dozen times to audiences ranging from first to eighth graders. It is an interesting challenge to think about how to connect with everyone, six years old to tweens. So I tell stories, and it works. And I realize how lucky I am that I get to do what I do. I have an opportunity every day, through work, to connect with people authentically, and not from behind a screen.

Day 29. I receive my first Sunday Times today. I sit by the fire pit with my morning coffee, my fingers smudged black with just a few stories under my belt. I read the Travel section word-for-word. And the Book Review. I almost get through an entire story on Trump, stopping at some point to reflect on the fact that I haven’t seen any uneducated or poorly-thought-out political commentary in almost a month.

Day 30. I keep thinking about the positive uses for social media and wonder if they outweigh the utter suck of time and misery to which the platform contributes.

Now what?
It has taken me 60 days to get back to this story. The reason for my delay in finishing is that I didn’t have an ending (and my editor prefers when I have one of those). In the interim, I have been back on Facebook, but with much less frequency. Now that I see how much time I wasted and how many wonderful, peaceful moments I enjoyed without it, I find myself getting angry with myself when I log on, especially at those moments when I should be doing something more productive.

But, back to that time suck that I was pondering on day 30, and ever since. It’s finally come full circle. A couple of days ago, I was a guest on Conviction Radio’s podcast (you can find it on Sound Cloud), hosted by Craig Hysell, owner of Conviction Training Facility and Jake Walsh, founder of Honor Our Heroes Foundation. Each week, the duo discuss a variety of topics on finding balance in life, across work, personal and fitness. Over the course of our 92-minute (we went a tad over) chat, we circled around the idea of communication multiple times. More important, we honed in on how poorly we communicate.

I blame it partially on the “fleeting moment media” that is constantly serving us information across multiple channels. And because of how we’re being served that information, we have, unfortunately, become a society that is now sending information in the same way. We rely on texting and social media to communicate these fleeting moment ideas that have no actual breadth or depth. A picture. A smiley face. A meme. The voice that social media affords us is mind-blowing. You can say anything you want, anytime, and have an audience without ever having to look them in the eye.

I blame the rest on us. Face-to-face conversation has become a lost art. Likewise, we hold our phones in our hands all day, yet we rarely use them for their initially intended use: to hear someone’s voice. The devices and platforms that were created to help us connect have, in fact, disconnected us. When we strip eye contact, space, touch, and every other non-verbal cue from our “conversations,” we are missing the message. Ninety-three percent of our communication is non-verbal. That means right now you are only seven percent aware of how much this really drives me crazy. It also means that we are missing the best parts of life.

When we rely on our devices and social media to be our channel, we not only miss the message, but we miss those magic moments that can only happen in person. The spark the first time “the one” touches your hand. The smile that slowly becomes a smirk. The twinkle in her eye when you say, “I love you.” The warmth when he places his hand on the small of your back. How an argument can instantly be neutralized by a kiss. We’re missing it all, because we’re too busy sharing false moments instead of having any real moments at all. 

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