I’m currently on Day Nine of my Lenten Challenge. Nine days without using Facebook or Twitter. I wanted to share a little bit about how that’s been going.
First, Twitter. This one has been easier to give up. Not many of my close friends use Twitter, and most of the ones that do also duplicate their posts on Facebook. So I’m not missing a lot of valuable content. Sure, I’m missing out on a lot of conversations I might have missed otherwise, but most of them don’t really concern me, and are nothing that I really need to spend my time thinking about. The thing I’ve missed most about Twitter is the ability to easily contact some of the brands that I use every day, for example Roku and Comcast. These days, Twitter is one of the best ways to get support for products and services. I’ve also missed Twitter’s ability to bring people over to read my blog entries. Although we do offer an RSS feed of our blog entries, many people have abandoned RSS newsreaders these days in favor of gathering their news from Twitter. If I’m not posting updates on Twitter, then many people probably don’t know that I’m blogging. Yes, I do know that many of my friends from Build Guild have daily conversations on Twitter, and although I’m probably missing out on some of that, I’ll be looking forward to seeing them even more at next month’s event.
Second, Facebook. This one has been harder. More of my close friends and family are on Facebook. Rebecca and I and our friends and family rely more on Facebook to share family news and information. So I’m definitely missing the ability to stay up to date on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. To be fair, I did keep two Facebook features active – I’m a member of the Ericsson’s baby updates group, and I elected to continue receiving updates from that group since I really did want to know when their baby was born and what his name was (welcome, Levi!). I also get messages sent to a Facebook group for the young married couples group I’m involved with at Dane Street. I’ll also look over Rebecca’s shoulder if she wants to show me something specific on Facebook. But other than that, I haven’t visited the Facebook site on my own.
So far, I think the biggest benefit this challenge has had has been the reduction of distraction in my daily life. I already have enough to handle, with my responsibilities at work and at home. I already have social groups to interact with in a face-to-face setting at work, at home, and at church. Throw into the mix scanning updates from hundreds of people dozens of times per day, and I’d be getting far more input than I can really handle. Sure, I might get an endorphin boost from scanning all of that news, and it may create a feeling of excitement, but after that, it’s a bit of a letdown. I feel mentally quieter, and I feel that I’m able to give more attention to my immediate responsibilities: my work during the day, and my family on the evenings and weekends. I’m still searching for more ways to enhance the time that I have taken back from Twitter and Facebook, although I think the biggest realization has been that there is plenty for me to do already, if I’d just stop and take notice of it.
Rebecca has pointed out to me that giving something up entirely, especially something that isn’t required for survival, is much, much easier than doing it in moderation. It’s easy for me to simply say that I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter entirely. It makes decisions much simpler. Do I check Facebook or Twitter now? No. How about later? No. However, I do think that it’s a good starting point to clear the decks and make a fresh start after the Lenten challenge. At that point, the new challenge will be how to reintegrate these media into my life in a meaningful and balanced way. I hope to be more intentional about how I use them, and I’ll definitely have to exercise more self-control and discretion.
I also think that I’ll probably end up unfollowing some people on Twitter and unfriending some people on Facebook. Not because I dislike these people, but because I simply feel the need to focus more on the people who are really more a part of my daily life. I am a bit worried about doing this, however, because it seems that people have really started to believe that followership on Twitter or friendship on Facebook are as weighty and important as real-life friendships. I think this point is still up for debate, and the way people use social media is constantly evolving. But for my own personal usage, I’d rather start to see Facebook and Twitter more as extensions of real-life, face-to-face friendships, something that is added on to what I’ve already experienced and cultivated. I realize that for people who have been raised on Facebook, there may be less of a distinction there – you probably don’t have many friends who you met in real life first, and didn’t friend on Facebook until after you got to know them. You probably friended them on Facebook as soon as you met them, and it’s been one and the same ever since. And in the past two years or so, there are quite a few people who I’ve met in real life for the first time, only to add them to Facebook shortly after. Perhaps I’ll try to delay the friending process until I’ve had some more time to get to know them. Who knows, I may even end up adding some new people to my network – people who I’ve known for a while but haven’t connected with online.
I still have 36 more days to go in this challenge. Quite a long time, to be sure. Perhaps my feelings will change during that time. Maybe I’ll have more revelations, or try some new things. Maybe I’ll change my opinions or backtrack on some of the grandiose statements I made above. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this Lenten season brings.
I’d love to hear from my readers. Are you fasting from anything for Lent? Do you have any thoughts on my challenge? Do you miss me on Facebook and Twitter? 🙂