The Facebook Fast


For Lent, I decided to go without Facebook.

I don’t think I’m an addict, but I definitely spend a fair bit of time on that social network. In the spirit of sacrifice and self-denial, I thought, why not give up Facebook for a while?

Stopping Facebook use was easy.

I deleted the Facebook app from my mobile devices. I logged out of Facebook from all browsers, and I removed Facebook from my start pages list.

At first, I thought, that was that.

After a few days, I also disabled my auto-posts from Twitter to Facebook. If I wasn’t going to check Facebook updates, I was not going to update either, even if it was automated.

Also, there were exceptions. I posted to my workplace’s Facebook page, but that was mostly a matter of Buffering posts.

At first, it was not that hard living without Facebook. There was a lot to fill the gap.

On mobile and while commuting, there was Twitter, Instagram, games and podcasts. During lunch breaks, I occasionally used Flipboard to catch up with news.

Sometimes I would click on links in Twitter or other sources which lead to content in Facebook. (The links were disguised by URL shortening services.) If I couldn’t see the content without logging in to Facebook, I didn’t.

Aside: Perhaps content creators should host their content elsewhere and use Facebook as a feed.

The hardest times were when I took part in events with friends. e.g. NTU Bike Rally. Everyone would be sharing photos with others on Facebook. I had to be content with posting on my photos on Flickr. The lack of Facebook activity gave me time to write the previous blog post.

Also, when at gatherings, friends referred to things that were shared on Facebook. The compulsion to log in came up, if only momentarily.

What else did I miss?

Updates from friends, both close friends and not so close friends. It was not so bad if a group of friends was in an active WhatsApp or LINE group, but it was easy to lose touch with individual friends who I only meet with once in a while.

For example, a friend in Australia became a dad – congrats, Justin! – and I only found out because I recalled that his wife should have been due, and I messaged him on Google Hangouts.

Conversely, I could not update friends on what was going on in my life. Or at least, not being on Facebook means that I had to do it through other means.

I also missed being on top of news. Ok, I didn’t really miss it. It’s just felt unusual that I was not. I was either blissfully unaware or came to know of certain stories late. That said, I read the papers as always. So, while I was updated, I was not very current. Also, I don’t like relying on SPH and MediaCorp to be my filter for news.

What was good about giving up Facebook?

I think I was more at peace.

Twitter and Instagram are very different beasts from Facebook. It is harder to wade into an argument on those platforms.

I didn’t miss much of the caustic nastiness that anyone would come across in Facebook. But I didn’t fully realise this until I was back on Facebook.

Within a day or two of returning to Facebook, there were rants and raves, and I felt this great urge to wade into the fray.

I did respond to a rant that was based on an erroneous assumption, but I managed to stay out of most arguments. It’s just ranting. Replying to or countering those rants just gets you nowhere. I’ve got better things to do.

Will I do a Facebook fast again?

Yes, maybe.

From a spiritual standpoint, I should have made better use of the time freed up from not being on Facebook. Perhaps pray during the time I would have been on Facebook. Or a least have some quiet time.

Also, if I were to do this again, I’d be more mindful about my friends IRL. Perhaps call or email them, catch up instead of totally going dark during Facebook-fasting.

I may go one step further too – no social media.

No Facebook. No Twitter, and no Instagram. (Considering I took three or four tries to really get into Instagram, I’m surprised by how much I use it now. Anyway…)

That’s something to consider in the future.

By the time Easter was coming around, I was sort of looking forward to rejoining Facebook.

Now that I am back on Facebook, I’ve done a few things.

I’ve reduced the number and types of notifications that I get. (I had already made it such that Facebook notifications on my phone are the badge app icon – the number in the top corner – only for several years.)

I didn’t add Facebook back to my desktop and laptop browser start pages.

I largely keep Facebook-browsing to my mobile now.

Finally, I plan to go on another Facebook friends culling exercise soon…