It's been a long time coming but I've finally decided to take a facebook sabbatical. While I haven't entirely decided to remove my personal profile and de-activate my account, I will not be visiting my page or any one else's for a good long while.
Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends, especially those that are long-distance. My friends kept asking me to join and that is ultimately why I joined, so I could catch up with my hometown friends from Canada. I really enjoyed seeing new photos of their babies, their wedding photos after the big day in which I had celebrated with them as well as new home purchases, updates about their day and a quick way to send and receive emails.
So, you might be wondering with all of these positives- Why am I taking a long break from this ever-popular social networking site? The answer is four-fold. Here are the reasons for my decision.
Firstly, although it's a great tool, facebook is also a huge time sink. I've said that so many times before but haven't taken any action with the exception of a one-week voluntary vacation from it a few months ago. When I have extra time, what begins as a 5 minute login to respond to a message in my inbox turns into an hour of reading wall posts or the news feed to catch up on daily happenings and browsing through photos online. That is a whole hour I could be spending on other important things that help me make the most of my day.
My second reason is because I don't feel that facebook truly lets me get to know my friends in a deeper way. It's so easy to post a quick wall comment here or post an album of photos there. However, it takes more time, energy, patience and love to meet people face-to-face, and really spend time with them, really hear what is on their heart, get to know them and be present. Facebook is just another tool in our fast-paced world that lets us think we are accomplishing more or staying in better touch, when in actuality it has provided the exact opposite (for me).
Thirdly, because of the nature of facebook and its features, anyone can read anything that you've typed on someone's wall, comments you've left about a photo and complete strangers can get access to photos of you through another friends album in which you've been tagged (if they haven't properly set up their privacy settings). I know this because I've had access to other people's photos in this manner, which immediately raised red flags. I am not a fan of the lack of privacy which is out of my control.
Lastly, I don't think that facebook helps me contribute to becoming a better person or friend. We've all heard that the written word can easily become misconstrued or received incorrectly and I believe that it's true. I find that it would be easy for a friend or friends of friends or even complete strangers to judge you and sum up your life and who you are based on your wall, your friends' comments and most of all, your photos. This has never happened to me (that I'm aware of) but I want to be mindful of it. In some ways facebook lets you be a voyeur into other people's lives, focusing too much on what they are doing instead of focusing on yourself. I've also come across many posts and walls filled with boasting, complaining and also harsh words about others (celebrities, family or friends) too. Once information is out in cyberspace, it cannot be reclaimed..
Often times, such posts or distateful photos have changed my view or level of respect for someone, however it is important to remember that facebook isn't the be all, end all. I owe it to myself and my freinds to spend more 'real' time with them and less time learning about them via the web. Of course I visit with many regularly and phone calls are a good substitute for my non-local friends but I believe this will allow me to listen more intently too, because their stories won't be second hand news that I already read about in last week's wall post.
Please know that I don't judge anyone for using Facebook, this is just my personal decision. I have defined my priorities and this is something I need to do to re-balance and get more out of my life so that I can be the person I want to be and reach all of my 2010 goals too. I will keep you posted on my journey and let you know what I was able to accomplish with my 'extra' time and if/how it has improved my life in any way. I believe that one full month away (to start) will be a huge eye-opener into how much time I was actually wasting, similar to the way that creating a budget and reviewing past expenses does for the finances.
Have any of you moved away from facebook or social networking sites? What was your motivation? How did it help or change your life? I'd love to hear your stories.