By Kate Gace Walton
I left Facebook for a few weeks in December. I was tired from a hard year, and I wanted a stretch of relative emptiness in which to regroup. Since returning yesterday, I’ve been asked a few times: “So…how WAS it?” As if I had ventured into the wilderness and tried to survive on insects.
I get it, though. For many of us, Facebook has become, for better or for worse, something of an anchoring force: we check it religiously, we post often, and, if one of our regulars is MIA, we start to wonder what’s wrong.
So, on the off chance my field notes prove helpful to others considering a similar hiatus, here are my observations from the experience:
Things that are hard to do—like writing a book—remain hard, even in the absence of social media distractions. It’s tempting to think you might produce something really good if you just got off Facebook, and you might, but nothing about it will be easy.
What will be easy? Flossing! And personal grooming more generally. My dentist was dead wrong when he chided, “Everyone has time to floss.” But he was kind of right if he meant “Everyone who’s not on Facebook.” In that case, there’s heaps of time! Not only did I floss: I brushed my tongue. I massaged my gums. I gargled. (Basically, my mouth was like, “Who ARE you???”)
And, yes, my mind was quieter. With fewer lives to glimpse, and fewer perspectives to consider, it was definitely easier to be more present in my own life. I listened, spellbound with my husband and children, to three Harry Potter books. I walked in snowy woods and heard the silence. I talked with friends and family about the things I don’t discuss on Facebook, largely because they aren’t mine alone to share.
But my mind was also emptier. I was reading books and watching movies, but, news-and-ideas junkie that I am, I really missed my Facebook “newspaper”: the ten or so articles I read from my feed every morning and would otherwise fail to find. I live on an island. Not a metaphorical island—an actual island. Without far-flung friends of all sorts pushing the pieces that matter to them, it would be easy to lose sight of the sheer diversity, both heartening and horrible, of human experience.
In short, I’m glad to be back. This year, I plan to walk in silence for a while every day. I’ve also resolved to multitask less, giving people, books, and movies more of my undivided attention. And of course I hope to keep flossing. But Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will remain a part of my day. For me, they work.