Last week I did something I haven’t done since 2007, I took a week long break from Facebook and Instagram. I have been an enthusiastic user of social networks and ever since I signed up on Facebook in 2007 and a few years later on Instagram, I have connected to both daily. After getting a smartphone, I started to spend more and more time clued to my phone browsing the infamous social media feeds. Now after having a kid, the free time has become more and more precious and I wouldn’t want to waste it by consuming other people’s lives, whereas I could be doing something more useful or especially more relaxing to me. And naturally I would like to set a good example my kid, not spending too much time clued to a screen. It’s already enough to have my phone usually close by to take photos and to keep contact with family and real life friends.
What I love about social media is that have gotten great ideas, inspiration and tips through it, from many smart and funny people I follow. If I haven’t appreciated someone’s posts, I have simply hidden this person. The best part of especially Facebook is, that I have gotten back in touch with people from all over the world and also easily kept contact with friends from home after moving abroad. But I have also just killed countless hours of time browsing the feeds for no apparent reason, in a bus, in a waiting line, even at work between tasks. I have stalked people, followed their lives even if they are not particularity close to me. I have felt jealous at times, seeing what other people are doing while I’m sitting home on a Friday night, even if it was my choice to take it easy. I have shared important moments of my life with all my 600 Facebook friends and monitored closely the amount of likes. In the past I have also shared each and every student party and others have shared too – this is the very reason that my tagged photos are visible only to me.
My social media use paradoxically maybe even increased after having a baby. Being far from family and friends in the same situation (except a couple of wonderful mamas here :*), I started to browse the Facebook mama groups, a very dangerous field. First the Finnish breastfeeding support group, then baby lead weaning support group (well this was not a success, we were so afraid the little buddy will choke that he’s still eating purées.) Then I started to follow English speaking mama groups in Paris region, this has been an amazing support but weirdly addictive. I ended up browsing these groups hectically first during my maternity leave and even after getting back to the office.
So I decided that it’s time for a rehab, thinking that it must be hard to spend a week away. Well turned out that it wasn’t that hard at all. I uninstalled Facebook and Instagram from my phone and social media blackout started. I kept Linkedin, but I rarely go there outside office hours. In the end didn’t even notice the week pass (having a baby and working might have something to do with this), and I didn’t really miss the social networks. I think it’s more of a habit actually, to fill the empty moments. Well, I did have a need to fiddle with my phone, so I ended up reading more news and sending more private messages via Whatsapp and Messenger to people that matter. Not a bad development at all! I did miss Instagram a couple of times, first when it was snowing in Paris (in March!) and I wanted to share the news to get some sympathy. Quite a many times I took a phone in my hand just to remember I had deleted those applications and then put it down again.
When the experiment ended on Thursday night I went to check my Facebook feed and was kind of disappointed, too many notifications for nothing that really mattered. I was very happy to see my closest friends’ holiday pictures though (keep on posting!). I still haven’t installed Facebook or Instagram on my phone. I think I will end up installing the applications back, but will try to limit their use.
By coincidence my Facebook strike started just before the news came out that Facebook apps have gathered information about us and the data have been sold to third parties. This is not really surprising, but it made me think again what I want to share and with who. I did checked my privacy setting page and found out that I have been stupid to sign up on certain web pages with my Facebook account just out of laziness..
I’m likely to remain an avid user of social media, it is just very useful for communication, but I will try to take more time offline. For my serenity’s sake and to concentrate more on the present moment, instead of trying to capture it to share it with hundreds of other people.