What I Noticed After Fasting From Facebook

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Some time last year, I did a week-long purposeful fast from everything online (except for e-mail), and as I went through the week, I wrote down the things I was noticing. Recently I found that list and thought I’d share it with you.

Here’s what I noticed:

Almost instantaneously:
I’m alone with my thoughts again.
I’m able to THINK, free from distraction.

I have so much more time for ordinary things… paying bills, writing a thoughtful e-mail rather than only “to-the-point” e-mails.

IT IS HARD to do *some* things online (e-mail, etc) but not get sucked into more (blogging/FB/etc.)

My spirit is more sensitive to the Holy Spirit when I’m not under constant distraction.

IT IS EASY to find time for Bible Study.

My attention span is severely diminished since starting Facebook.

My book reading is severely diminished since starting Facebook.

I’m enjoying “found time.”

Eventually: Reading books again, having a regular quiet time again, writing letters by hand.

I have more ENERGY.

 

Reading back through that list, I’m struck with one question:

WHY NOT GIVE UP FACEBOOK ALL THE TIME?

Those seem like REALLY excellent benefits. Don’t they?! Every single thing on the list is a GREAT thing. So why not give it up all the time?

Nonetheless, Facebook is not something I’m willing to completely get rid of.

At least not yet. Even though we sometimes do extreme things when we believe God is leading us, in things like this, I’m much more of a wait… learn… pursue moderation sort of gal.

There are reasons why I got on Facebook. And although they’ve evolved over the years… they haven’t ultimately gone away:

  1. When I got on Facebook, I lived far away from extended family, so Facebook was a way for me to share photos and basic life news. That is still the case. I use my personal page as a way to share things that are personal for me– sometimes pictures, sometimes thoughts & ideas. But I’m currently using my personal FB page in that same, basic way.
  2. When I got on Facebook, I saw it as a way to have adult-level conversations from time to time, while still (primarily) being a mom in my home. That is still the case, although one thing that has changed is that back then, I was moving (on average) every year. Thus, my community was shifting, or changing entirely, every few years. Now, we are settled in one place, and I’m finding that my best conversations happen in real life, with the people here around me who know me and my life.
  3. When I started my Facebook author page, it was a way to share articles I’ve written, and articles I’ve read. This furthers an ongoing-conversation about ideas with the specific people who have opted into that conversation. I don’t want to spam personal acquaintances, my school teachers, relatives, or old high school buddies with my thought process about following God as a Christian woman. The author page was — and STILL IS — my way to let people opt into that conversation.
  4. When I got on Facebook, I saw it as an opportunity to regularly keep up with people I care about. This is the one thing that’s changed for me. I have found that Facebook turns into a problem area if/when I start acting as if irregular & far-off relationships can be daily/regular ones. To combat this faulty thinking, I unfollowed everyone, so that when I use Facebook to catch up on someone, it is much more like an occasional “check-in” to peek on that person’s life. When I do that, I’ll often scroll for quite some time, “like” and comment on several items on their wall, before moving on. I get a picture of that person’s life, and (because I’m leaving comments & evidence), they know I’ve spent time thinking about them and catching up. It feels more special to me– like a quick chat I’ve intentionally had with that person. A little less like consumption, and a little more like connection. 

THE PROS & CONS OF UNFOLLOWING

So I recently quit “following” people on Facebook, and that has been freeing.

PROS:

  • I feel less pressure to know everything. If someone tells me something, I can be surprised without feeling guilt. The truth is: I can’t know everything about everyone anyway. My life and my brain doesn’t have room for all that information. Unfollowing was a good way to openly admit that.
  • My mind is more free. I am not seeing people’s random life details. In any other century, I would not know these things about most people. I like the freedom that comes with not seeing all my friends’ random daily happenings. Yeah, I miss some mildly- or wildly- funny stuff sometimes, but my mind and heart are freer for the people right here in front of me.
  • I feel more freedom to engage in the process of inquiry and discovery with friends. When you aren’t connecting with a friend on Facebook, conversation doesn’t just start and stop with, “did you see the pictures from…” or, “did you see that comment about….”

BUT there is a downside too.

CONS:

  • I miss hearing big news at the time “everyone else” does. When a friend gets engaged, or when a friend gets diagnosed with cancer, if you’re not actively tuned in on Facebook, you can miss hearing about it, or seem insensitive without even realizing it. For me, this is worth the other “PROS”, but it is a cost of choosing to unfollow.

 

IN THE COMMENTS:

Have you ever fasted from Facebook? Or significantly changed your usage habits?

If so, what did you do, and what did you learn?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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9 Responses

  1. Jenni says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Jess. Social media is such a difficult thing to regulate in my own life. After my son was a couple months old and I found myself staring at the screen waaaay too much, I told my husband I was ready to delete my Facebook account. He encouraged me to wait and think about it longer. I ended up realizing I could use it to share resources/thoughts/scriptures with other believers and also bring the Gospel into my nonbeliever friends’ news feeds. Without my Facebook account, I’m not sure I would have ever found your blog! I believe it was God’s doing so he could have used any means, not just Facebook, to make it happen but that is how it unfolded for me. I’ve been greatly enriched by having John Piper, HeartCry Missionary Society, and others in my newsfeed. By removing all but a couple friends from my newsfeed, it’s less of a mind-trasher when I do open Facebook and more of a way to get ahold of resources from many different ministries.

  2. Nina says:

    This is so interesting, considering I recently started unfollowing almost everyone (except close family) on facebook! Now when I go to facebook it seems really boring, and if I particularly want to know something about someone I have to look them up and look at their page. Makes it more intentional. I’m glad others have done the unfollowing thing too, I felt a bit weird. But I was just spending too much time mindlessly scrolling. I’m hoping this will help me become more intentional and less addicted. Always enjoy your posts! Thanks from Queensland, Australia. :)

  3. Diana says:

    Loved your post!! I’m really enjoying reading about your Facebook journey. In so many ways it mirrors my own.

    As I’ve already written, I’ve been off of Facebook for several years now, and I hope never to go back. There were many pros about Facebook, but the cons were just overwhelming.

    An interesting thing about the one con that you mentioned about being off of Facebook – that you miss out on news – was hard to get used to, but I’ve actually found it to be one of the biggest blessings. Being out of touch with minute-by-minute life updates has meant regaining the joy of catching up with people – of chatting, hearing what’s going on, receiving Christmas letters and learning how people have been, getting back into letter-writing – it’s been a huge blessing.

    And for the people of whom I no longer receive news, I have learned that I have to acknowledge that some relationships are just good and dead, and it’s okay (even beneficial) to move on rather than spending time reading and thinking about the details of people with whom I have no relationship.

    Regarding your point about finding moderation: I just read an interesting book (I think it was “Better Than Before” – awesome book!!) about habit formation, and the author differentiated between people who do better with moderation, and people who do better with going cold turkey. I’m definitely one who does better with none than some, because for me, some quickly becomes LOTS – or else the constant draw is a continual and exhausting battle that I’d rather not have to fight.

    I did feel that I had a ministry on Facebook, reaching out to people with the comments and articles I posted – but that ministry caused me to neglect my primary ministry, my family.

    Thank you so much for posting your thoughts on this – it’s amazing how practically every word you write is something I’ve also learned in this area. You’re helping me to articulate things that I didn’t even realize! :)

    Diana

    • Jess Connell says:

      Wow, I just read that book — through the Fall and into the New Year… and YES, I’m a moderation person, rather than a quit-cold-turkey person. That book is a wonderfully insightful glimpse into how we all process habits and experiences differently. I really learned a lot from it and think it may be one I go back and re-read from time to time, as it was an easy but beneficial read.

      • Diana says:

        Yes!! I loved that book!! Soooooo helpful in understanding one’s self and how people are truly different, and why the same approach doesn’t work for everyone. It’s definitely a read-again book! :)

  4. Betty says:

    I have fasted from facebook several times. I found the same benefits you did, plus my house was cleaner! Yet, I want to keep in touch with family and share things I learn, plus I’m in charge of our church’s facebook page, so I can’t completely quit. I am working towards just checking in once a day, and unfollowing enough people that that can be done fairly quickly. It’s a hard part of modern times.

  5. Frances says:

    After your previous post about unfollowing most people, I thought I’d try it. It has been the best social media decision I’ve made. I still follow people I see on a regular basis (every week) because I actually do talk to them in real life and maintain real friendships with them.

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