Notes From a Facebook Sabbatical

18 Sep

And, we’re back. My apologies for not posting in so long. Between mid-August and mid-September, the entire What’s Up Smiley office (myself, 3 Moleskines, pair of dancing shoes) took a sabbatical from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—to get my introvert on, and write the second draft of my book. So, while I missed one wedding, one engagement, 13 inspiring TED talks, 92 YouTube cat videos, 213 Buzzfeed gif-montages, and thousands of pictures of what my friends were eating for brunch; I was able to write 35,000 words (about 95 pages) and give my second draft to my editor, on deadline, with five minutes to spare.

A few things I learned from my Facebook sabbatical—that I will continue to remind myself from time to time, now that I’ve returned to the Blue-and-white Menace.

1.  Facebook is addictive  

Facebook is a drug. It’s not easy to go without Facebook—it’s almost as hard as going without coffee. The first few days I was off, I caught myself clicking on my Facebook bookmark tab, without even realizing it. It had become second nature for me to “check my Facebook,” whenever I opened my computer. I deleted Facebook from my bookmarks tab, so I wasn’t tempted to check my News Feed.

I got the sense that Facebook knew I was trying to get off—it started sending me daily email notifications of “what I was missing”—which I had to turn off. On Day 4, after staring at blank tab for 30 seconds, I realized that the only reason I had even opened my computer was to look at Facebook, and I closed my laptop, and picked up a book to read.

2.  Avoiding Facebook added 2-4 hours to my day

During the month of July, I ran a crowdfunding campaign for my book, relying heavily on Facebook to spread the word about my project. I probably had the Facebook tab open on my computer for about 10 hours a day for nearly four weeks straight; the site was the single largest driver of traffic to my Indiegogo, and a main reason my campaign was successful. However, in August, after my campaign was over, I still found myself on Facebook for over 4 hours a day—except now I wasn’t running a campaign, I was just avoiding the one thing I knew I needed to be doing: actually writing my book.

I used the time I wasn’t spending on Facebook (or consuming the infinite number of blog posts, photos, articles, and videos, I click on via my News Feed), to write.

3.  I felt happier off Facebook

I’d like to pretend that I don’t check my Facebook after I post something to see how many likes it got, but I do. I’d also like to pretend that it doesn’t faze me when I see other people doing cool things on Facebook or Instagram, but it does. My first reaction is, “I’m happy for my friends—that’s so awesome they’re at the beach.” But there is an indirect effect, as well, and maybe it’s just me (but from conversations with numerous friends, I know it isn’t): I get jealous or start doubting my own decisions—“I wish I was at the beach today…” Regardless of the science behind Facebook-induced FOMO; not having to think at all about whether to post something on Facebook, what to post, how people react to my post, and how I react to their posts, is a liberating sensation—you feel empowered to enjoy whatever it is you are doing, wherever you are.

4.  I was more focused, confident, and productive, sans-Facebook

This feeling of being present during my Facebook sabbatical was most noticeable during my writing process this past month. In August, I would alternate between writing a few paragraphs and checking my News Feed—realize that someone had just written an article about exactly what my book was about—in words far more eloquent than I had—and I would feel worthless and self-critical, and think to myself: why am I even bothering writing this stupid book

Instead, during my Facebook sabbatical, I would focus on the task at hand: writing a chapter or a section of a chapter, and without distractions or comparisons, I would judge my day based on the quality of what I wrote, not the quality of what other people were writing for their projects. My own creativity, not my News Feed, became my priority.

5.  Facebook is all about balance

Lord knows, I have posted more than my fair share of captivating New York Times articles, as well as inane YouTube videos, and Seinfeld quotes, but there is nothing happening on Facebook that is more interesting than what’s happening in real life. Over the past four weeks, I spent time with my family, danced with old friends, and had lengthy phone calls with people I hadn’t talked to in months.

Social media is an incredible tool to get the word out about a project, cause, or event (and self-publishing my book would likely be impossible without it), but every now and then—especially during the creative process—it is worth taking a short vacation from listening to what the world is saying, to listen to yourself.  

Smiley's Moleskines   

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8 Responses to “Notes From a Facebook Sabbatical”

  1. chrcowan September 18, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    agreed.

  2. Molly Winston September 18, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Great article! Sounds like something I could afford to give a shot!

    • whatsupsmiley September 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks Molly! Hope you’re well. Definitely try it for a week sometime…

  3. kristendynamite September 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Word. I quit facebook for a year back, back when I was 25 and going through a bit of a crisis (you might be familiar with this feeling?) and it helped SO much. Now I’m more addicted than ever to it, as a fellow blogger. Maybe it’s time for another minifeed break…

    • whatsupsmiley September 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Yes yes Kristen! It’s a fully necessary tool for the work we do…Important to step back (especially when writing or working on a personal project– otherwise the rest of the world drowns out your voice..). I’m going to think now in terms of ON/OFF times– ie, I’ll be on when I need to share a post or an idea or “sell” my book, and then off when I need to create/write/think/recharge… Hugs to you!

  4. Morgan Siem September 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this incredibly helpful insight, Smiley. I am taking a lot of this to heart. I know that my addiction has gotten a bit out of hand and is getting in the way of other things in my life. Congrats!

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