In a world seemingly controlled by status updates, hashtags, and (most notably) likes, a daring gal (A.K.A. me) did the unthinkable and deactivated her Facebook account for exactly one week. Now, in comparison to my melodramatic opener, the experience of this mini pseudo-social experiment was surprisingly uneventful, but nevertheless thought-provoking. However, before I get into my incohesive mess of revelations, let me provide you with a brief background.
I wouldn’t consider myself a person completely dependent on and engrossed in social media, though I probably do care more about the number of likes I receive than I would like to admit. I check my Facebook account quite regularly, around 3 times a day, typically just browsing through my news feed quickly on my phone. During the week that I deactivated my Facebook account, I still used other forms of social media, like Instagram or Snapchat. But what sets Facebook apart is the variety of information contained in one website: statuses, pictures, messaging. I didn’t expect much to change – a few untagged photos and overlooked birthday notifications at most.
What I discovered about not my generation or community, but about myself can be best described in just a few simple events:
Day One, 10:00 P.M.: I officially deactivate my Facebook and continue on with my life.
Day One, 10:08 P.M.: I catch myself entering “facebook” into my browser, almost subconsciously.
Eight whole minutes. Undoubtedly one of the most interesting discoveries I made was how strong of a habitual hold one website could have over me. It occurred to me then how routine-filled and stringent my everyday life was. In a rather pathetic way, having the opportunity to break otherwise unnoticed habits was slightly invigorating. Throughout the week, I had more time, and I went to sleep earlier. Granted, there were no revolutionary changes, but the lack of never-ending, off-topic group chat messages and ability to stalk the profile pictures of people I’ll most likely never meet definitely saved me a solid half hour a day. Online, I see pictures of the latest sports event, or I read someone’s status ranting about a common injustice, or someone I don’t talk to chats me for homework and I’m forced to get up and retrieve my planner. All of these little interactions are fine– but frankly, I just don’t care about them. Yet I see, read, and do these things anyway simply because they are right in front of my face. Not having a Facebook eliminated the time I spent thinking about people that are absolutely irrelevant to my life. However, while invigorating, this change was still not exactly ground-breaking.
I have no deep conclusion about how I was able to focus more on the “who” and “what” in my reality instead of on a screen because I honestly didn’t notice much of a change. It is important to note what an effective tool of communication Facebook can be. From an online JP used-bookselling community to pages dedicated to updating members of certain clubs or extracurriculars, the network is of course useful and informational. However, not being updated on the latest prices for that gently used “Five Steps to a Five” book I’ve been coveting wasn’t the reason I missed my Facebook. Instead, what I missed was seeing all the pictures posted from activities I was involved in, and all the discussions in group chats. I felt, to a certain extent, out of the loop. So much happens when just about everyone has a Facebook–you miss out on invitations and inside jokes and being able to keep up with people you don’t see often. Those aspects of Facebook are worth more than a few minutes of sleep. You could argue that the only reason I enjoy my account is because everyone else has one, and you would be absolutely correct.
The influence of having a Facebook profile is totally relative; it depends on who you are. When everyone around you has one, you really might just be missing out. Deactivating my account was not really worth it–but then again, I still wouldn’t classify myself as an Internet addict. Perhaps if you are one, a break is needed. I can’t say whether everyone absolutely needs Facebook, or even whether or not I absolutely need it. What I do know is that I enjoy Facebook and will continue to use the service just as it should be: in healthy moderation. After all, it’s just another account on another website.