5 Lessons I Learned During my Facebook Fast
My life is very full. I’m a busy person. Among classes, workshops, seminars, retreats and teacher training, I’ve often got “too much on my plate”. Lately, I have found it very difficult to focus on any one thing at a time. This wreaks havoc on my productivity. Since I have a lot to do, this is a real bummer. I know, I know—I teach this mindfulness stuff, so you may be surprised to hear that it is my struggle too. Don’t be. I believe that we teach what we most need to learn—that’s why we are drawn to it.
An additional component of this is that I’m facing a lot of transitions right now—My daughter’s high school graduation, preparing to be an empty nester, getting ready to lead my first Yoga retreat, selling my house to move into a smaller space as just two of us will be full-time occupants of the “nest”. So, even more balls to juggle.
In an attempt to bring back some focus to my life, I decided to take a “Facebook fast” for a few days. This came to be as an offshoot of another program I am doing—an Ayurvedic based “cleanse”—I hate that word, and don’t really believe in cleanses—but this is a program simply to bring some balance back into my life and I just love the group that does it—more on that in the next blog. I knew I was spending too much time both posting on FB and scrolling through friends posts and pictures and opinions and articles. I knew it would be challenging—but didn’t realize what else it would reveal. Here’s what I learned:
- Time-sucking habits can sneak up on us and really impact where we put our attention. After a very few minutes, I realize that I am more or less constantly on FB. It has become a true companion throughout my day. If I have a free moment, I check my phone. If I’ve posted something, I constantly check for comments. When I get in my car, I sometimes do a quick check. If I’m waiting in line, I check. Right before I get out of my car, I check. I did not realize how much I was connected to FB. Very rarely was I looking for something specific—just checking to see if anything interesting had popped up. When did this happen? When did I become so distract-able? When did I stop valuing what I need to do and replace that with an insatiable interest for some high school acquaintance’s vacation pictures?
- Facebook helps us feel connected to a large network of friends and family. With FB, we’ve become accustomed to knowing more about our friends’ and families’ lives. I really like that and look forward to hearing what everyone else is doing. I can cover more ground with a quick check of FB than I could if I were calling one friend at a time. The quality of the interaction is completely different—there is no interaction—however, more friends and family are top of mind than in the old days. I don’t like that FB takes the place of real interactions, but I do like seeing everyone more.
Facebook is also a great way for me to promote my classes and workshops, and learn about events that are happening. And that’s great too. Constant posting and checking, however, is not helping anyone.
- Distraction leads to more distraction, and then more distraction. During the time of my “fast”, which lasted only 3 days, I was able to see that the FB habit had spread. I also finally noticed that I don’t just check FB on my phone, I constantly check for e-mails. Again, not necessarily looking for something specific, although sometimes I am. Just a trained habit, reinforced by doing this over and over for who knows how long. And then I lament that I don’t have time to work on my newsletter or make dinner or create more workshops. The distractions are taking over!
- FB is the greatest procrastination vehicle of our time. As a teacher, consultant and business owner, I have a great many things to do each day. Some of them, such as teaching a class, are quite concrete—I go in, teach my class and then I leave. I am accountable to the studios and offices where I teach, and to my students. Other things, like planning workshops and classes, creating a web-based program and writing the book I’ve been talking about for years, are more nebulous. And I’m only accountable to myself. So if something gets pushed a day or week or month or year, no one knows…except for me. And all of those nebulous projects are challenging and scary and they move me out of my comfort zone. So much easier to check FB.
- With awareness, I can take action and create change. People have been asking me how my little FB experiment is going, and I share my challenges with them. I’ve gotten a lot of great suggestions, most of which can be found in the “Mindful Time Management” class that I teach—or at least they will be now! I can leave my phone in the other room so I don’t get tempted to reach for it. I can remove FB from my phone entirely. I can check once a week or once a day—whatever I decide—I just need to set some boundaries. I can create more focus for the tasks that are more important. For this blog I set a timer—I had a couple of 45 minute openings in my day today, and, rather than fritter that time away, I set the timer and wrote until I heard the alarm. It took me two time slots to write this blog. I feel clear and focused, and more motivated than I have in some time.
So that’s my story. My time is almost up, so I am not going to over-think this before I post it. For me this is a fresh start, and it will take some time. There will be frustrating and backsliding along the way. I value my time and myself enough to keep pushing through, not letting the distractions win. In our culture, with all of the interesting things out there, it’s not easy. But I can do it. If I don’t wish you a happy birthday or “like” your picture on the day that you post it, please know that I still care about you and look forward to seeing you on FB, and more importantly, connecting one-on-one for some high-quality interaction.
If this resonates with you, please share your experience. Would love for us all to interact in that way and learn from each other!