On Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to pick a vice that would potentially be hard to give up, something I felt I needed to really make a sacrifice. I kind of laugh at the ridiculousness of that now. But let me tell you, I did not imagine how good it would feel, how freeing it would be, and how small a sacrifice it really was.
I felt free from the moment I clicked that button to let it all go. I liken my Facebook addiction to having a job that you absolutely hate, but you can’t bear to hassle with quitting on your own. So you find a reason, ANY reason, to get fired. I just needed a reason to leave – to cut the tie, even temporarily – and Lent was that perfect reason.
My Facebook addiction was strong. I spent so much time on it; my friends’ lives seemed so much more compelling than my own, even though my life freaking rocks. I found friends from the past to reconnect with, found more commonalities with friends in real life, and had great conversations with awesome people on the daily. I looked at pictures, shared memes and stories, overshared status updates ad nauseum, checked in places like anyone cared where I was, and posted a ton of pictures of my life, kids, self, and world for others to “like”. What started as a way to show off my kids to family and friends out of state became a seemingly necessary lifeline to the world. I was getting on my own nerves, but I could not seem to stop the madness myself. I felt compelled, like a drug addict going in for the hit, to scroll, post, share…it had to end. Now.
So, I saw Lent as the chance to end it. With one click, I let go of the little blue box on my home screen that had taken over, and I said goodbye to the “friends” I would miss. I emailed a few people that I don’t talk to regularly in the weeks before Lent to tell them my intentions, and to ask them if they would keep in touch with me during my sabbatical. And then, at midnight on March 5, I clicked the button. Boop. Done. “Do you want to deactivate?” Yes. “Are you sure?” Absolutely.
The days to follow were the best. Immediately, I had no regrets. I realized that my life was my own business, and no one else’s life was my concern. I was free to live without feeling like sharing, without taking pictures to show off my kids and life in all its glory, without wondering how I would phrase something into a clever status update. My words, my experiences, and my life was my own. It felt so stupid that I had to quit something as inane as a social media site to remember that my life was precious and meaningful, but it had to happen that way. It wouldn’t have been such a transformative experience if I hadn’t acknowledged these things as I did.
I’m working on becoming Hands Free as much as possible, as often as I can. As a family, we made up rules for screen time. I go screen free often. I am incorporating a lot of Rachel Stafford’s (Hands Free Mama) experiences and advice into my life. I am reading her book now and taking diligent life notes. It all makes sense – unplug and see the beautiful life that is in front of me. Life happens and is too fleeting and precious to miss. And my life is awesome, without “likes” or “shares.”
In quitting Facebook, I gained a life’s worth of lessons. I unplug. I spend time with people in front of me – not through a screen. I value how things are happening, and my words, thoughts belong to me – I am no longer concerned with how they would sound to someone else to garnish as many “likes” as possible. I am free of the drama, mess, and I realized something huge: friends are the ones who make time to reach out, through whatever means they can, spend time with me, converse with me, keep up with me, or just say, “hi.” Once again, my definitions of “friend” and “friendship” have changed yet again. I have a new appreciation for the friends I hold dear, the ones I talk to once in a while or everyday. It doesn’t matter how it happens; we connect, and that is the key. Real people. Real life. Real experiences. Those things matter. They ask me how my sabbatical is going, and they are shocked when I tell them it is great. They never thought I’d make it, that I couldn’t be without it. I can’t be happier to prove them all wrong.
Armed with this knowledge and all I have gained, I will never be the same. My outlook will never be the same as it was before. I have no intentions to go back to Facebook, and if I do one day, it will be totally different. I will be quiet, an observer. I won’t feel the need to enter every conversation I am invited to enter. I will be small, reserved. Right now, rejoining that world is the absolute furthest thing from my mind. I am too busy enjoying life without it. Facebook is just one more thing. And the last thing I need in my life is another thing. Like an addict, I had to quit cold turkey, rip off the bandage in one pull. And also like an addict, I need to maintain distance in between myself and my distracting, consuming habit. I need to do this to remain clear and free of it. Free of distraction, of consumption, and free to enjoy what matters. I’ve put miles in between myself and Facebook and a beautiful, clear, and fruitful life is springing up in the expanse – growing stronger and more beautiful without unnecessary distractions and nonsense everyday.
Quitting is one of the best things I have done for myself and for my family.
It wasn’t that hard… one click was all it took.
And I will never be the same.