Thursday, March 29, 2012

Facebook Fasting, Followers, and Friendships

I apologize for another alliterative title, but these things just come to me in that between sleep and awake place. And I love alliterations. Anyway...

The inspiration/idea for this post came from Jill the Great and I thank her for the suggestion, for supporting my love of cats with her own, and for being a welcomed PenPal. :)

If you have recently tried to search for me on Facebook and found me to be missing, I'm not blocking you, I promise. As I've previously mentioned, I gave up Facebook for Lent. For those of you who are not familiar with what Lent means beyond the fact that it comes after Mardi Gras and people usually give something up, allow me to explain (and try not to bore you; please continue reading). In the simplest terms, Lent is a season of fasting and reflection that lasts the 40+ days between Mardi Gras (in the church world, referred to as Shrove Tuesday) and Easter (which isn't just about chocolate bunnies). This church season is observed each year and signifies the days leading up to Christ's death (Good Friday) and his resurrection (Easter). Faithful Lenten observers will use this time for prayer and introspection, and often either take on a discipline (reading the Bible each day, walking, etc) and/or a Lenten sacrifice. Many people give up sweets, or eggs, or bread or chocolate, all of which I've done in previous years. The year before last, I gave up alcohol. Those of you closest to me during that period know that this was a really good idea. Last year, it was sweets. I know I said Easter is more than just bunnies and candies, but I gorged myself on jellybeans last Easter. Jellybeans are my weakness.

I love the colors of Easter! stock.xchng 
Since I've been better about eating and exercising anyway, I decided to challenge myself to something else. I'm not even ashamed to admit I was addicted to Facebook. I, like millions of other users driven by Maslow's smartly determined need to belong, am drawn to it's omni-presence like a moth to flame. After e-mail, it's my first click and despite hours of screen time for my job, it was often the first thing I logged onto upon returning home from work. It's everywhere, even accessible on my phone. I delighted in reading and commenting on statuses, viewing and sharing photos and posting articles to spark discussions. Thankfully, I never played any of those ridiculous games (except Words With Friends, from my phone app). Facebook keeps people connected; indeed it has kept me tethered to friends and family scattered across the country, which is largely the basis of it's appeal for me. It was starting to become so life-consuming, and I was [needlessly, as it turns out] so dependent on it for that feeling of connectedness. I knew it was what I needed to give up for my Lenten sacrifice.

I know you're all dying to know what it's been like. Initially, it was liberating. Amazingly liberating. Like pulling up the anchor and setting the boat free (apparently, it has allowed me to wax poetic as well). Suddenly, I'm not logged in, latched on, or hooked in (the Matrix?). I didn't have to waste my coffee-drinking hour at work scrolling through statuses. Detaching myself from the minute details of everyone's lives was actually really easy. A large portion of my FB "friends" were people I sort of know, or went to high school with, or are friends of friends, so I found it easy to let them go. My new found time has allowed me to focus on other things. I think I've written my best posts during my FB hiatus and I've read more books. Giving up Facebook has really liberated my time. I've filled the void with actual conversations ( even on the phone, actually talking, not just texting), reading excellent books, taking walks with Ethan and keeping up with current events more than I ever have. I've shared meals with friends and fun nights out and shopping trips and gotten to know people better. Rarely, during any of this did I think "I wish I could post about this on Facebook." The experience is enough.

Been doing lots of reading. Catching Fire and pudding!

I will admit I am starting to miss it a little. Lately, I've been starting to think "what have I missed?" Has someone announced an engagement or pregnancy? Who's been accepted to grad school? What are people saying about our political climate? There's a disconnected feeling. But, from who? I've still managed to talk to my nearest and dearest friends (whom, as it turns out, aren't as FB obsessed and post-crazy as I and others are) and I don't feel any less socially fulfilled. Sure, there are acquaintances I miss hearing from and learning about and I have far fewer Twitter followers than I had FB friends, but the Facebook fast has not been as unbearable as I thought it might become. What I'm realizing is, I miss it the most when I'm bored. Everyone knows FB is one of the best ways to beat boredom, at least until it becomes boring itself. But, without it, I've had to find other ways to entertain myself. It's been a great time, figuring out things to do. It's definitely lessened my screen-time and absolutely enriched my life.

Lent is a time of reflection and spirituality, and while it doesn't seem like giving up Facebook could be a spiritually enriching moment in my life, I assure you it has been. I've had more time to think, to pray, to search for a new church home all without comment from others. Ethan and I have been in the midst of planning our wedding ceremony, which has included meetings with my priest, a brief Bible study and an examination of our relationship. Facebook pales in comparison to those Saturday afternoons with Father Jim and Ethan, talking about God and our love for one another. I went to church at Trinity on Sunday and enjoyed it immensely; especially coming home and not logging on to Facebook, but instead relishing in my spiritual fullness by filling my stomach. It's been quite wonderful.

Twitter has been fun; my 60 followers seem minor compared to my 500+ Facebook "friends" and has allowed me to feel somewhat connected (I couldn't give up ALL social networking). I've got regulars with whom we tweet back and forth, mostly about our cats (shout out to my cat chat loves!) and reading tweets from celebs I like. Don't tell FB, but I think I like Twitter more. Maybe it's not hip to read all the time and take walks instead of post. But it's pretty much more fun. And while I'm sure I'll log back on to Facebook from time to time, to connect with family and friends I don't see as often, I know my FB time will be much more limited. The people I most want to stay in touch with, have put themselves in touch in other ways; these, I have learned, are my truest friends. If Facebook shut down tomorrow for everyone, they are the ones with whom I know our connection wouldn't skip a beat. Perhaps that has been the best part of logging off.

No comments:

Post a Comment