Last night I ended my 17 days of not looking at facebook, and I feel pretty good about it. Initially I had only intended a week, but at the end of that week I got nervous about logging back on to a flood of notifications (since I have set up post notifications for at least 20 people, most of whom are very active) and didn't feel like logging on. So I decided to see how long it took before I had more desire than anxiety, which was another 10 days.
It was actually quite difficult for me for the first week or so. At first it was simply the habit, without which I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Then I started to feel adrift and disconnected. When I shared this on snapchat and someone asked me why I thought I was feeling that way, I realized that facebook had become my central location on the internet, in the way that livejournal used to be for me.
By central location I mean it's the place where everyone I know has an account (or at least 99% of people I know) where I can go to be around people I like without spending a bunch of effort. It feels very not-static and I think that makes it seem like people are more present. Since there is a fairly constant flow of updates, I could go there and feel like someone was talking to me, without feeling like I had to talk back or else hurt their feelings. I turned to facebook whenever I got lonely or had a moment of high stress that I wanted distraction from. But the updates were largely impersonal or superficial, and they didn't nourish me.
It became this button I pushed to try and get food, which dispensed one cracker every 40 pushes. That's how it became addictive and just really bad for me. I remember reading about how randomly dispensed rewards are more effective when training a pet than giving a treat every single time. And I don't know if that is true in general, but it is true for me -- the times when I don't get the reward I try again more quickly and with more investment in the outcome, because I need to get proof that the reward is not gone forever, that I CAN make it happen.
I really don't want to get back in the habit of opening my phone and refreshing or scrolling through facebook all the time. I bookmarked most of the people whose updates I subscribed to, and when I am next on my computer I will delete my notifications. Instead of reading notifications I'll just manually check the people I care most about -- I'll miss some things but that sacrifice will be worth the time I get back. I won't be able to check everyone, since some of the people I like the most post a lot of links and videos which are very bad for my ADHD and I'm just gonna have to go without.
My thinking patterns themselves change when I am not falling into that reloading-addiction loop. I think this is why even though this past week was draining to the utmost, I wrote several posts! Instead of scrolling through facebook, I checked my lj flist, and when I didn't feel like reading, I easily shifted gears to writing. Moving from reading LJ to writing is easy because my lj friends inspire me with their openness and meaningful sharing and I feel nourished, but moving from scrolling facebook to writing almost never happens, because I just get more intimacy-hungry and start looking for some other form of distraction.
Since I couldn't check responses or reactions to my microblog-type posts, I didn't feel like posting to facebook so that urge all shifted to snapchat, which has actually become really important to me. I have a daily reminder to post a snap -- an alarm that opens up the app. It helps me to take more photos and to think more about recording bits of my life. I have a few people who send me their photos directly, which I enjoy very much since otherwise I would miss them half of the time. I really like having more daily contact with people whose very existence makes me happy. I really like sharing tiny immediate moments. I save every snap I make as long as I don't forget, so it works as a daily record.
My takeaway from 2.5 weeks away from facebook is that it's really only good for me if I use it to share. It's not good for me to ever check my news feed, even the stripped-down one, because it sets off my ADHD and like 90% of people post almost zero original content. It was how I was getting my news and my awareness of what's going on, but I'm gonna have to rely on work for that instead (luckily someone usually sends out a company-wide alert when there is some evil legislation in the works as far as health and access goes) or maybe subscribe to some pages that only send out notifications of things to resist.
Basically my relationship with facebook has changed radically in the past few weeks and I'm feeling happy and hopeful about shifting my habits and investing where I actually want to! Which is mostly LJ, right now.