With so much communication and business done through Facebook, could you survive without it?
It is Sunday morning, my day to sleep in. After opening my eyes, I roll over and check my phone. Within minutes I’m up, my synapses are firing and I’m entrenched in a lengthy discussion about hotel accommodations in Amsterdam and flexing some problem solving skills. This is a lot before coffee. Damn you, Facebook! It wasn’t like this last week! Last week I was off Facebook and it was a peaceful vacation.
Does anyone remember a time before we communicated on a webpage under a telltale blue stripe? It seems like it was back when Grunge was cool and soy was the answer to everything. There are 10-year olds out there who have never known a world without Facebook; in fact, I’ve seen now 10 year olds grow up on Facebook. Animals have been adopted and put down… People have gotten engaged and broken up then engaged to other people… I’ve had so much encouragement fed to me in the form of memes that I think Morgan Freeman knows everything about everything. But then there’s the other side, the work side where it isn’t all cat videos and baby photos, the side that demands a lot of time and takes a lot of attention to maintain. As an artist, label owner and self-proclaimed Facebook over-poster, I needed a break to reset. I needed to stop waking up to umpteen notifications with things to do. I had to step away from the guilt of not responding because I just didn’t have time. I took a whole week off, Sunday 8pm until Sunday 8pm.
Let me explain first that Facebook is a prime location where I work. Even at my secular job, I am making Facebook posts, curating content and thinking about engagement. It boggles my mind how much it’s grown since I signed up in 2007. It was like an open pasture then, a free-for-all. We all had fewer than 100 friends who really were our friends and used the search bar to see what people from high school were doing, years later. Those were the good old days when you wrote a passive aggressive status and the person you were tossing shade on got it. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have people on my list I have no idea who they are, how they found me, why they care – I can only hope it’s for the music. I’ve read so much about social media strategies; I can’t just drop a random post on my page. My messages pile up unread because, on a 24 hour clock, people are always awake somewhere needing something. I’m included in that by always sending Facebook messages for releases and posts in our label’s private group. I’m on the asking side as much as the asked.
When is too much, too much?
There’s a label owner out there I’ve always respected. Like clockwork, he checks his messages in the morning and often in the evening. You know you will rarely hear from him at certain times of the day. He is living his ‘real life’, I surmise. His public is ‘trained’ to know when to expect an answer. I’ve never been able to be that disciplined. The moment a notification goes off, I have to check. If I can’t be disturbed, I put my phone in a different room. My attention span is that of a gnat, Facebook is my kryptonite. How did I get decide to do a week off? I did it for this article. I needed SOMETHING as incentive to make it through, for willpower. I needed to throw a wrench in the spokes of my social media habits.
What were the rules?
Rules were simple. Zero Facebook. Nothing. I was allowed my email, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn – but limited my time on them. Plus, I am more of a silent observer on those sites because I feel old and don’t know what I’m doing. I wondered if I should say I am leaving FB or just sign off and I chose the latter. The people I work with knew what I was doing and anyone else of importance had my email or phone number. My secular job supported this endeavor and didn’t give me Facebook work. I was set to sign out.
Here’s my daily diary of the week:
Sunday 8:00 pm – It’s go-time! The Facebook app is now gone from my phone and all cookies have been deleted so I don’t accidentally (or out of habit) press ‘F’ in the search bar and open it. Mental note: my laptop may still have a FB window open. I will not look; I’ll close all windows and hope for the best.
Monday 7:27 pm – It was weird not checking my phone first thing after the alarm went off. Twice I hit ‘F’ in the search bar throughout the day. I noticed how conditioned I am to check FB on my phone the second my mind gets bored or disengaged with what I’m doing. Despite thinking of a million things I should have done before logging out last night, I felt focused at work. It’s ok, it’s all good. It will still be there next week. It was refreshing to not have a constant vibration coming from my bag too. Maybe the notifications are the distractions and not the site?
Tuesday 8:36 pm – Today I unplugged the Internet before turning on my laptop to avoid any connection to FB. I deleted all the history that had ‘that’ colour of blue. I didn’t miss it as much today, but did accidentally press the ‘F’ in the search bar out of habit. Nothing logged in. I’m wondering what I’m missing as far as business communications but know people have my email if they need me. I was early for yoga and already Zen.
Wednesday 9:27 pm – I didn’t realize how quiet and centered things were without constantly checking notifications. I got my work done in a fraction of the time and had a nap. It’s been feeling really good not to check my phone first thing in the morning and opening my emails when I’m ready. I checked out LinkedIn and noticed all the changes and found it to be a more intellectual content sharing platform.
Thursday 8:20 pm – I’ve gravitated towards Instagram and have published my first note on Linkedin. My work is done early again and I handle label business through email. A friend texts out of the blue and invites me to go see a Cirque du Soleil show and I accept enthusiastically! Afterwards she tells me she tagged me there and I don’t even care – “Tag what? Tag huh?” I’m still in awe over the flying people.
Saturday 3:45 pm – Last night was date night with my man, uninterrupted by notifications from our phones. My phone’s battery died, in fact, and I slept in. This tuning things out business is really working. Granted, I feel disconnected in some ways but I see now what I can do to make life work with FB again. Like any long-term relationship, you figure out ways to make it work… Compromise, say. I’m ready for compromise.
Sigh. Now I am back on the other side. A week after logging back in and it is like everything I learned went out the window because the demands of communication management overwhelm me. I drowned in Facebook fodder within the first day back.
Here are some post-Facebook-breakup thoughts:
Turn off notifications
Upon logging in, the notifications and messages were many but I noticed much of it wasn’t at all relevant or important to my life. For the messages, it’s always easy to skim over the spam. This made me conclude that having notifications go off on my phone is part of the problem. Such irrelevant tags distract me from intense life moments. Without flashing notifications, I’ve been able to balance when I go in to check Facebook.
It’s all an illusion
Another thing I realized while off FB for the week was that social media is very superficial. We all show the best moments of our lives or candy-coat crappy things. It’s an illusion. Stepping away from the illusion and knowing less about the lives of others actually put me at peace. I didn’t spend my time scrolling; I spent my time working on things in my own life. In fact, I almost finished a track. What I post on Facebook reflects who I am, yes, but it’s all still an illusion because I rarely post negative things and we all are wise to the fact that life isn’t perfect. Sometimes we forget that when all we see are “happy shiny people holding hands”.
It’s all in balance. Finding the balance is the hard part because some of us are more social than others. Some of us love to interact online. But ask yourself, what are you missing that is happening right in front of you, real time? Learning I could pretty much get a track done in a week without the distraction of Facebook, I know I missed the boat a few times making memes or flowery reflection posts.
Not everything has to be done on Facebook
Whatsapp is perfect for texting and international communication. You may find you speak to people in person more often by using an app like this. People on the other side of the world can reach you as if they were up the street.
Email, handle business things through email so you have an easy reference trail for information you’re looking for, links, downloads, whatever. It’s so much easier than scrolling through a week’s worth of conversation on Messenger.
Instagram lets you express without stress with a visual aid. I love Instagram and still feel liberated to post at will on my personal page. Snapchat, honestly, I was born too early for that one, I think. LinkedIn, it’s a very intelligent site and I look forward to seeing it’s new updates unfold, hoping it isn’t Facebook 2.0.
Social media. It’s here to stay. You can fight it or embrace it but it’s not going away. We’re learning how to use it, how it affects us, it’s benefits and pitfalls. It’s used for good and for evil. It all boils down to how YOU want to use it. For me, I know I need it. For the music business, it’s a great tool for artists, labels and promoters to connect. But my break up with Facebook taught me I can make out just fine if it crashed tomorrow. If you’re being affected by Facebook more than you’d like, I am sure there’s a support group on the site somewhere, maybe a trillion, but the best advice I can give you is just log out for a bit.
It feels good, like it’s 1993 again.