I have officially been off Facebook for a month.
It happened in stages, of course, this social media “detox.”
I’ve never been a consistent social media consumer/user. I resisted joining for many years, and then was off for a number of years after I eventually gave in (again). But when, beginning in 2015, I had to manage my then-new employer’s social media presence, I had to re-join Facebook. I can’t blame work for allowing my nafs to take over; I always had it within me. But I had, until then, learned to keep it at bay.
Like all vices, however, unless you are actively resisting, it’s one slippery slope after another. I joined Instagram right after I got married. And then Twitter for a minute. I wrote a couple of articles for “news sites” that I now regret writing. I was slowly becoming a person that upon reflection I didn’t want to be.
Considering Mr. Rafia’s valid reasons for deleting his Instagram account a couple of months later, I soon followed. Now, I only take photos to provide physical evidence to my parents that I am alive and well. Or, if I need to remember something (I don’t always have a notebook with me. I prefer to keep my bag as small as it can be. I’d like it to be smaller actually, but I need my taharat bottle with me at all times. Only fellow Muslims will understand).
Only one thing remained.
This past Ramadan was a good time to get off of Facebook. I no longer had any institutional justification for my presence. I was merely lurking, stalking friends (current and former!), and then feeling bad about my life.
Why was I doing this to myself?
So, I deleted it again for the third time.
At first, I didn’t know what to do. I discovered how much time I really wasted, endlessly scrolling through my feed. What should I do instead? Exercise? Read a book? Write? No more excuses! Although with the former, I still manage to find reasons.
Now, I’m not saying we should become automatons and leave no time for leisure or entertainment. I have my cows and my cake. But I do think that some leisurely activities are pernicious. For me at least, it was social media. It was not connecting me to others. It was making me a purveyor and emitter of jealousy. It was more negative than positive.
Not being on Facebook has opened up my time and space to: a) actually connect with people in real life, or via phone for those who I don’t live close to, and b) seek information that was formerly not even on my radar. Metaphorically speaking, I’m done with not only preaching to the choir, but singing in it.
I agree with Jaron Lanier that people should at least try to be off social media for a few months to decide whether they are better off with or without it. I myself might decide later that I want to rejoin. But at this stage of my life, I am happy with my decisions. I’m not really missing out on anything. Sure, I still deal with thoughts of being a loser — but having 600 Facebook friends didn’t change anything. In a weird way, I’ve grown some confidence in my self. I no longer seek validation from others as much as I used to. I don’t feel the pressure to look a certain way or write on a certain topic (or multiple topics in one post if I feel so inclined!). I don’t have to use buzz words to get people’s attention. I don’t have to impress anybody.
And yet, I am still blogging. In fact, I’m blogging with even more interest and zeal. I think the nature of this particular blog has changed though. I no longer feel the need to add “appealing” photos to accompany my posts. I also don’t care if my posts are longer than the recommended word limit. More significantly, I no longer care to grow my reading audience to everyone I have ever talked to. In many ways, I feel as if I’ve returned to my blogging roots.
Is blogging considered social media? I guess it depends on how far back you want to go. If indeed it is, perhaps I’m making a claim that is not entirely accurate. To further complicate my claim: I still use GoodReads to keep track of my expanding reading list. And, I accepted a few LinkedIn requests this morning, even though I don’t really use the site as it was intended.
Maybe in this digital age of ours, it’s not possible to be a complete Luddite. But I don’t think their fears were entirely unfounded. All I know is that we all have to examine the status quo. We can’t take it for granted. If you decide to do something, know why you are doing it.
To anyone reading and willing to respond: Do you have social media limits? Why or why not?