10 things I learned when I gave up Facebook

In all the hustle of this modern parenting world, I did what my kids thought was impossible, and I gave up Facebook for Lent.

Pathetic as it was that my 8 and 6-year-olds thought I wasn’t strong enough to stay off Facebook for 46 days. I promised them I would.  To be honest, I was checking it up to 6 or 7 times a day… so my own addiction was scaring me.

My mind had been feeling really cluttered. At the end of the day, I would lie in bed and my heart would race and I couldn’t figure out why. I found myself thinking about things I saw on Facebook (sometimes about friends, sometimes about people I hardly knew) and I would worry.

I found myself yearning for the 80s– the time when I grew up. A simpler time. A less connected time. My mom didn’t have Facebook to distract her. She didn’t pin cupcake recipes on Pinterest. If she wanted to get away from us, she went into her bedroom or went to the bathroom and shut the door or “rested her eyes” on the couch. She read magazines. Real paper magazines. She picked wild blackberries with us. She didn’t have her face buried in a phone. She made phone calls with a corded phone and talked to real people on the other end.

I wanted my kids to remember me doing things with them, not seeing the top of my head as I post their accomplishments on Facebook.

So, here are the things I did when I spent 46 days off Facebook…

I judged myself less. Ok, it’s sad and embarrassing to admit, but I can’t help it. I, unwittingly, compare myself to other people. It’s human nature. I see friends posting pictures of their perfectly primped kids in their name-brand attire and think my kids are raggamuffins. They never match. Their faces are usually dirty and they are usually wearing hand-me-downs. So be it. Without the chance to see other people’s “perfect” kids, I didn’t feel so bad about my own (adorable) dirtballs.

And while I spent less time criticizing myself, I also spent less time thinking about how others were judging me. I was less aware of my own presence outside of my house. The only people’s judgement I needed to worry about were sitting at my kitchen table, and it felt nice.

I took less pictures of my kids. Without my phone constantly in hand, I didn’t have it at the ready to snap their pictures. Without the instinct to post their cute little mugs on Facebook and Instagram, I found myself just being with them instead of capturing what they do (and sharing it with my friends and family). I still took pictures of them, I just didn’t know what to do with them. They sat on my phone. I texted them to my husband. I made them my screen saver. I don’t think there is a whole in the internet where my kids’ pictures used to be.

I got my news from Brian Williams. Sure, I had to wait until 6:30 pm, but if it were newsworthy enough, Brian told me about it. It made me realize how much “news” is really just social media buzz. Brian Williams didn’t tell me what was #trending, he told me what was happening… in our world, not just in my news feed. It really broadened my perspective on the world. I used to feel like Facebook made me feel more connected to people, but instead it makes me feel more isolated and pigeon-holed. Facebook’s new algorithm chooses what and who it wants to show me and as a result, I feel like I am in a box. Staying off of Facebook forced me to seek out my news instead of hearing it 2nd hand (and from the same people). Besides, if something on Facebook were really important (like Grumpy cat turning 2), the Today Show would tell me about it.

Ugh.

I didn’t read more books. I just didn’t. I thought I would have more down time, but it turns out I never trolled Facebook as a singular activity. It was my distraction– my escape. I was never fully focused on Facebook. I did it as a multi-task (if you can call it that.) I justified doing it to take my mind off the mind-numbing thing I was doing (like watching the same Peppa Pig episode). I realized that Facebook only served to numb my mind more. I was never fully focused on either thing, Peppa or Facebook. Without the chance to check Facebook while watching Peppa Pig, I turned off the tv and made the kids play Candy Land instead.

I was less frustrated. I have been writing a lot  about yelling at my kids less. I found that when I wasn’t trying to do 2 things at once, I was less annoyed with my kids. If you haven’t read Orange Rhino, go check her out. She’s amazing. She’s not perfect (just like the rest of us), but she’s trying to yell at her kids less and she’s inspiring as hell. Thanks to her, I’m trying to pay more attention to what frustrates me, and being on Facebook while trying to parent 4 kids is definitely high on my frustration meter!

I had thoughts and I kept them to myself. Usually, when something funny happens, my first thought is to tell it on Facebook. I have an inner-monologue of self-deprecating Facebook posts in my head at any given time. During the first few weeks of my fast, things popped into my head and I itched to do something with them. I couldn’t believe that I had a thought I couldn’t share it with my 560 Facebook friends. After a few weeks, the itch went away. I didn’t feel the need to encapsulate a funny thought or life experience into a Facebook update. My experiences were mine and mine alone. I kept them to myself or occasionally shared them with my husband– if he could ever hear me over the chaos at the dinner table.

Charlie turned 9 and I didn’t publicly wish him a happy birthday on Facebook (which he isn’t on anyway, so it’s really kind of ridiculous). I didn’t lament over “where the time had gone” or tell everyone what a smart, wonderful, thoughtful little boy he is growing into. I had those thoughts. I just told them directly to him, instead of announcing them to the internet.

I thought about autism less. The day Finn was diagnosed with autism, Facebook stopped being fun for me. I started following a bunch of autism bloggers and advocacy discussion pages. Many of them have really helped me understand autism and how to advocate for Finn’s needs, but now 3 years later, I can’t stop reading the discussion pages and bloggers (even though I have a pretty good understanding of Finn’s autism). I see an article or discussion post and I can’t look away. What if it’s something I need to know? Well I just spent 40 days not knowing what the discussion boards were saying, and I think I’m ok. I think Finn’s ok. Instead of thinking I needed to do something “autism specific” (like more OT or horse riding therapy or melatonin for sleep or more organic foods), I just listened and responded to my kid. I focused less on his behavior being a by-product of his autism and more on it being a part of who he is. Every behavior does not need to be shaped and modified. He is a little boy. I’m sick of thinking about him in terms of IEP goals.

I didn’t take 1 selfie. Well, duh. What the heck would I do with a picture of myself? It seems rather redundant. Without the need to share what I am doing with the rest of the world, why would I need to take a picture of myself doing it?

I didn’t take 1 personality quiz. Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, but so many of the posts in my newsfeed were about people taking personality quizzes (“What Gilligan’s Island character are you?” or “What does your music collection say about you?”) I don’t really care. I don’t care if you are Ginger or the Professor. And I don’t really care if having a Biz Markie CD coupled with the Beatles’ White Album makes you an “eclectic dreamer with the propensity to bob your head.”

I felt less important. There’s nothing like a push notification on your iPhone to make you feel like you need to check it immediately. It’s a very inflated sense of importance. What if someone really needed me? What if it weren’t just a comment on a comment I made?

Lives could be hanging in the balance…

I was willing to take that chance.

If you needed me, you had to email me or actually, gasp, call (or text) me on the phone. Not many people did. And I’m ok with that. In this age of instant everything, I am OK with not being right at people’s fingertips. I took the Facebook app off my phone and iPad. Every few weeks, Facebook would send me an email and say, “wait, wait, you missed these posts from your friends…” But, in all, the “quiet” felt really nice. So nice, in fact, I have decided not to reload the apps on my phone and IPad. I am back on Facebook; although I haven’t posted anything. It feels weird to jump back in. So, I think I’m going to stick to checking it on the old-fashioned desktop computer. It’s less accessible that way. Just the way I like it.

On Easter Sunday, I announced that I had made it through Lent without going on Facebook, and Charlie said, “Oh, I forgot that Facebook existed.” I couldn’t think of a better reward for my fast! I think I’ll have to keep it that way.

I want my kids to learn that real friends are the ones you can see in person (at least every once in a while) and family is the most important of all.

Here’s to living a more real life…

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Our whole raggamuffin crew in our unmatching, uncoordinated Easter outfits. Would you expect anything less? By the way, I didn’t post this on Facebook.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “10 things I learned when I gave up Facebook

  1. I love this post! I’ve contemplated deleting the app from my phone. It’s not on our iPad. I post less often than I used to. I miss birthdays. I love how your son forgot Facebook existed. That made me smile. Thanks for sharing this! It’s hard to admit a lot of things to ourselves but even more so in an open forum. I’m glad you did.

  2. “Sick of thinking about him in terms of IEP goals” – YES YES YES!!!! Love your stuff. You are one of the good reasons to keep reading about “autism-related” blogs.

  3. Yes! I love this! I love it so much I want to share it on Fbook! oh wait. . . 🙂 Seriously, thank you. I have the occasional passing thought that I spend too much time on the internets and then…I get distracted by googling something. You’ve inspired me to go on a screen-time diet. Thank you for coming back to web at least long enough to share your post. I needed it.

  4. great blog (as usual) Shan! Pictures are so cute. we had fun on Easter. thanks for sharing your adorable children with us. They are so special to us. We love you all, Dad and Mom xoxo

  5. Congratulations! I gave up computer and phone games and it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I decided not to re-install the apps. It really did make me less distracted with mom and with my kiddos. Great post.

  6. I love this. I have started weaning myself of facebook too. I can’t take seeing the other kids. I just can’t. It hurts too much. I’m also part of Apraxia and Autsim groups and they make me sad half the time. I don’t need any more reasons to be sad right now:-)

  7. What an awesome experience and what interesting results! I took a 10-day hiatus last November from ALL social media. (I connected my post about in the URL feed connected to this comment.) It was liberating! I learned a few things and changed a few ways I interact on social media permanently. I hope you can reap similar benefits! – Visiting from LoveThatMax

  8. Thanks for this post! I am not a parent but have been wrestling with the idea of giving up FB for about a year now. I was not able to adhere to my New Year’s resolution to limit FB to 15 minutes a day; that only lasted about a week. What used to be a fun way to catch up with old friends now seems like a bombardment of advertising, quasi-news, posts telling you what you, “should never say” or “must never do,” and lots of a negativity in general. I want to be a more attentive wife and employee…FB has been a problem for me. You have given me lots of encouragement.

  9. I was not a FB or Twitter junkie, but decided to unpin myself from all social media, including G+, Tw, FB and from commenting on web sites that I read regularly. I feel so much better and do have more time for other things. I challenge anyone to do it for a month, or lent or the summer as I have just done. It will be harder this coming bad weather season, but i will find something else to do.

  10. Good for you! I gave up Facebook once and didn’t miss it, but rejoined for my high school reunion. I’m trying to find a better balance since I use it for my blog and other projects. I’ve found it helps to be deliberate about who you follow and what you read. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  11. I had been thinking about giving up facebook and was doing some research online to see if others had felt the same way I was feeling about facebook lately. I felt it was drawing me in and whenever I got a free moment I was on facebook, and even the moments that I could have been busy doing something much more productive. One afternoon I made cookies and was getting ready to photograph them (for facebook) and my son was standing there waiting patiently and said “mom, can’t I just eat them now, you don’t need another picture of cookies.” I realized then, and even before then really, how dumb the whole thing was and he was right, who cares that I made cookies again. Yes, I would have had 50 likes and 25 comments that said yummy, but did I really need that recognition from others, including strangers that I had never even met before, no I didn’t. Did I really need to see the picture perfect lives of so called friends every day in the news feed, when I knew that there lives were just as crazy at times as my own, only they never would let it show there. Did I really need to “like and share” if I loved my children, mother, or Jesus, and feel guilty if I didn’t. Did I really need to scroll through the news feed daily just to read the same quotes only with a different picture over and over again. Did I really need to know and see what people had for dinner, including myself posting my own dinner perfectly arranged. I came to the conclusion that no, I didn’t. So two weeks ago I clicked the delete my account button and left facebook. It was strange at first, I had spent and invested so much time there, but this second week feels so much better. I don’t log on before work and have to think of something to post, and then check notifications 15 times a day, much easier! I mean how many different ways can you post “Oh no, it’s Monday” or “TGIF!” I think I covered it in the past! It feels good to come home from work, sit awhile and enjoy my afternoon coffee without scrolling through all those posts thinking I had to keep up with it all! And now with the time I was using for facebook, I am getting back to my scrapbooking, reading, and just being present and more pleasant at home, because like you said, it’s frustrating doing two things at once and I really wasn’t paying attention to the most important people which were right here in my house, when I was scrolling on facebook. And none of that on there matters, yes, I do like my friends, but those who want to stay in touch with me can call me or email me, and they know where I live and can visit…if they can break away from facebook long enough, which they probably never will. I thank you for writing this article and helping me to make the right choice to break away from facebook and get my life back. It’s a great feeling and I hope that others are able to do this too!

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