I recently completed a “Facebook Free” month.
Why did I do it? (Sidenote, I’m finding myself asking why a lot more recently, personally and at work. Not sure why, but it’s a good thing!) I had read several articles, such as this one, that led to my questioning of the social network.
Leading up to the Facebook break, I noticed I was feeling a lot of jealousy, something extremely abnormal for me for me to feel. I’ve always been the kind of emphatic person who celebrates my friends’ joys and mourns their pains.
I knew I had a problem when two things happened. First of all, I was feeling jealous of people for things I don’t want in my life right now. Maybe I was actually just jealous of the attention they were getting. Maybe living in a new place with few friends I was longing for the approval I once received from close friends. Secondly, in a more specific experience, I had just returned from a trip to Las Vegas, completely paid for by work, and I found myself being jealous of a friend posting vacation photos. That, I believe, was the point I realized I needed to step back and adjust my perspective.
Additionally, one of the other hardest things on Facebook for me was seeing my Nashville friends post about the place I call home. I still miss that city with my entire heart, and some days it can be painful to be reminded of what I long for. Enough depressing stuff, though.
I used Instagram fairly often before disconnecting, but I definitely used it more while I was off Facebook. I still had that desire (that social media fulfills) to share with my friends the most exciting things happening in my life. I used to check Instagram maybe once a day, but I was finding myself caring a lot more about what pictures my friends were posting. I still wanted to be connected to the people I care about who live hundreds of miles away; the most important thing that social media provides us.
There was actually a valuable marketing lesson I learned. I had to get on Facebook a couple of times for work-related tasks and it was hard to see those little red flags. Confession: a few times I did click on the flags to see what my notifications were, but then I realized I couldn’t interact with these people who were liking or commenting on my content. It made me feel like a jerk to not respond and at least say thank you! In the worst case, one of my friends who lives in DC saw a picture when I was visiting, and asked if I was there. I didn’t get to respond until a few weeks later. Yikes. Hope he didn’t want to grab coffee…
Now how this ties into marketing – because I had my Instagram linked to Facebook, my new pictures were uploaded. Much like a company often will do, I was sending one-way communication. Without responding to comments it felt so impersonal, like I was posting all these pictures saying “look at me, look at me! I don’t care about you.” I definitely am going to use this experience to be a better, more relational marketer in the future (not that I didn’t care about consumer relationships before, I just see the need even more clearly now.)
Several times I thought of something funny that would have made a good status update, but tough luck, I couldn’t post it. Is the world or my life any worse off because I didn’t have a chance to say something funny? Of course not. However, if I quit posting on Facebook forever, would I be missing out on opportunities to stay in touch with old friends? I truly believe so.
In the end, I didn’t miss seeing vacation photos from people I took a few classes with in college, or that a person I used to be close to got engaged to some guy I never met. What I truly missed during the month is seeing things that my good friends had going on in their lives. I was missing out on important things for people I cared about. I was missing a chance to share the highlights in my life as well.
My final verdict: I’m not going to delete my Facebook account. I don’t think it’s a good idea to just completely ignore Facebook, but it is definitely healthy to check less often, so that instead of focusing on what I don’t have in my life, I can focus on the amazing things that actually are happening to me. I sometimes mindlessly check Facebook when I am bored, so I like the idea of logging out whenever I finish checking, therefore the next time I want to check, I have to sign in, requiring a more conscious effort. Like I mentioned, missing out on what my good friends were doing is a bummer, so maybe I’ll make a list with my top 20 or so friends, and generally just check those updates. This experience was a good one I highly recommend, because it definitely helped me get my warped perspective straightened out.
Bonus tip: Don’t go on Facebook hiatus during a month when you’re going on vacation or doing anything interesting.