Confessions of an addict: A month without Facebook

I’ve been off Facebook for a month. The difference in me is incredible.

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I acknowledged I had a serious problem when I caught myself doing this:

Checking Facebook. Folding a jumper. Checking Facebook. Putting the kettle on. Checking Facebook. Folding another jumper. Checking Facebook. Making tea. Checking Facebook. Getting up. Checking Facebook. Sitting back down again. Checking Facebook. Getting up, then sitting back down again to check that one last thing on Facebook.

Two hours had gone by. I had neither put my washing away or drunk my tea. Two whole hours. I felt defeated and anxious.  I couldn’t complete any simple tasks without fidgeting or getting distracted. I felt pathetic.

So I took action. I’ve been off Facebook for a month and this is what happened:

  • I feel calm & centered. I’m sleeping really well.
  • I read a whole book. A whole book!
  • The pain has gone. For over a year I’ve had pain at the back of my jaw and a feeling of pressure in my ears, and temporary loss of hearing quality like when you’re on the Jubilee Line.  This came and went at various points in the day. At first I thought it was something in the air-conditioning at work making me ill. Then I realised it was anxiety related. But now it’s gone. Nothing all month.
  • I’ve done the filing I’ve been wanting to do for two years.
  • I’ve had lovely, slow catch ups with friends which didn’t feel taxing.
  • I’ve been less irritable and stressed at work.
  • The anxiety has gone. I’ve had a whole month without anxiety. I haven’t had “an episode” –  where I fall into a dark hole for a few days – all month. My problems haven’t gone away, but everything seems so…manageable.
  • I’ve read so many articles and made so many notes on activism, art,  creative ideas and collaborative work that I’ve lost count.
  • I’ve written this blog.

This of course illustrates correlation, not causation. I haven’t run a controlled experiment. But in Daniel Levitin’s Organized Mind I read that obsessively checking email, Facebook and Twitter constitutes a neurological disorder. And that was enough for me to try and kick the habit.

When I tell people Facebook makes me ill, I get one of two reactions: Laughter, like I’ve reached a weak punchline, or a pause then “me too”.

Not everyone who uses Facebook is an addict. Just as not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic. But with more than a third of the UK population visiting Facebook every day, what percentage of those have symptoms like mine? How many people would struggle to log off for a week? A day?

When a rise in the number of people with an addiction becomes evident, we have a social problem. A political problem. Begging questions of causes and symptoms. And of effects of society and how we relate to each other in our daily lives.

At the top of this blog I say I’ve been off Facebook for a month. I lied. I’ve been on for a total of 10 minutes over two sessions, 12 days apart. I’m learning how to use it for my needs. To find out about events and keep in touch with a few people too difficult to contact with other means.

Next week: Facebook on a leash – How to liberate yourself from obsessive checking.

Had a similar experience? Let me know.

You are not alone.

 

 

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