Not until a few years ago did I partake in my first Lent. My naive little ill-informed self always thought Lent was for Catholics, until I started regularly going to church in 2013 and learned otherwise. There are many Lenten rules, but one commonly known one is to give up something for 40 days. This year I chose to give up Starbucks and loud belching in front of my family (it’s a bad habit that needs to extend beyond 40 days). A few years ago, I gave up Facebook and was pleasantly surprised how much I learned and how much time was saved.
Here are 10 observations from the year I gave up Facebook for Lent:
1. I surprisingly didn’t miss it.
Before I took the Facebook app off my iPhone I thought it was going to be really hard not to think about. I thought I’d crave it, constantly wonder what others were posting, wonder what articles I was missing and what celebrity gossip I’d be unaware of, but I didn’t. It was as though the days of pre-Facebook instantly came back to me and there was no desire to know what everyone’s lives were about. It was very liberating.
2. My fingers have memory/instincts.
Even though I didn’t miss it, my right index finger apparently did. After I removed the Facebook app, all my other apps moved over a space to where Facebook once was, so my weather app lay in its place. The first few days after getting out of my mail or some other app, my finger instantly clicked on the weather. Every time I was on my phone! Pure instinct. I remember many times pre-Lent where I’d get on my phone to do something specific and a half hour later after getting off Facebook, I’d realize I never did the thing I got on there to do! I now know it was frying my brain and taking away importance from the things I actually needed to accomplish. Actually, I knew that at the time, but I was in denial.
3. My second day of no Facebook I got a “where are you” email from Facebook.
TWO. DAYS. It let me know how many messages and notifications I had as well as naming a few random people who had posted something during that time. Do they really need to reach out after only two days? And what’s worse is I had never gotten this email before, which sadly proved I was on it every day. I continued getting those emails on a daily basis. It annoyed me so much that it actually validified my chosen ban. It wasn’t persuasive at all, which I think was their motive.
4. On night seven without Facebook, I actually dreamt about logging in.
But even in my dream, I was able to avoid the temptation. However, I do believe I woke up immediately after, which is usually the case with nightmares.
5. I focused more on my life instead of getting wrapped up in other people’s lives.
I kept up with our parents and closest friends via phone, text, email and in person, as one should. All those other “friends” were just background noise that I really shouldn’t have been concerned about. The first thing I did when I got back on Facebook was a big purge. I chose to have my real family and friends and people I have current things in common with see my posts and pictures. I did miss sharing the latest cute things my kid said or did, or sharing pictures of fun days and events, but in the end, most of the people that really cared about them got them in other ways. I’m sure no one else missed them.
6. I’m a procrastinator and my biggest vice was Facebook.
Whether it was in my car to keep myself from getting home as soon, on the couch to keep myself from going to bed, or in the bed to keep myself from going to sleep, I always thought I needed to see the latest posts before I did my next thing. That was so ridiculous and obnoxious! No I didn’t! At night, after my daughter was asleep, I usually had a list of things that either needed to get done or stuff I just wanted to do in my down time. Many times though, pre-Lent, I’d first sit on the couch, open up Facebook and before I knew it I had been on there for one to two hours having accomplished nothing. Then, I’d drag my pathetic self with half-closed eyes up to bed hating myself.
Once the ban started, I found myself still using my phone in other ways to procrastinate: looking something up online, checking weather for the next day five times a day (it can’t change that much!), checking my empty Amazon cart for no reason, deleting junk mail, looking up famous people on IMDB or job searching even though I wasn’t looking for a job. One time, I went to Wikipedia to learn about some serial killers. What the heck?! It was like I didn’t know how to put my phone down. As I started to get bored by all of these useless time-spenders and couldn’t yet go back to Facebook, I started putting my phone down more and actually accomplishing things that needed to get done, including sleep.
7. This whole Lent thing was new to me at the time.
I knew what it was, but I had never participated, so I wasn’t aware of all the rules. Apparently on Sundays you’re allowed to partake in your banished temptation. I had started Lent thinking I couldn’t look at Facebook for 40 straight days. And even when I learned this little tidbit, I had no desire to log on simply because it was Sunday. It actually kind of disgusted me thinking about it. Almost like if I got on, it would be a chore rather than something I’d want to do. I foresaw a new and improved Jamie waiting at the end of the Lent tunnel who looked at Facebook on a much more restricted level. A Facebook diet, if you will, with small healthy courses.
8. We cut the cord on cable the same day I removed Facebook from my life.
It’s true what they say. Just like when you keep snacks out of your house so you don’t eat them, it’s easier to avoid social media when it’s not available. Pre-Lent I had a growing list of things to do and the list kept growing due to not crossing items off. That list had a lot more horizontal lines on it by Easter.
9. Did I mention I had started a hard-core diet and exercise regimen two weeks before Lent ended that year?
After my first week of this diet, I lost five pounds and a total of three inches. My life was spiraling into control! Imagine that! Removing social media can add control to one’s life!
10. It gave me more time to think about what I want out of life.
I went to bed more often at the same time as my husband, which is never bad for a marriage. And I wasn’t comparing my life to other people’s lives. It allowed stupid envy to escape my body and to enjoy what I have.
This year, my husband banned Facebook for Lent and he’s thinking about just getting rid of it altogether. He has learned that he doesn’t miss it either and I have loved seeing him on it less as well. And while I resumed the platform after that 2015 Lent, I have definitely changed some of my habits and spend less time on it than I did seven years ago. I’m sure having two additional kids plays a part in that as well.
I do think Facebook has been a wonderful invention that allows people to keep in touch who wouldn’t otherwise, has helped businesses, and groups of people get their names in public to become known and successful. However, it’s also a curse because literally billions of people have diverted their focus from their own lives onto other people’s lives. It’s made bullying easier, it’s caused countless infidelities, it’s increased jealousy, it’s wasted hours of time. It’s sickening to think — on a global level — how much could have been accomplished over the past 18 years since Facebook started. If you were to take the total hours spent on Facebook multiplied by each of the three billion Facebook members, you’d have hundreds of billions of hours that we as a planet have limited ourselves from actually learning, teaching, inventing, helping, volunteering, figuring out our lives, spending time with others, working, playing with our kids, meditating, being spiritual and doing the things we love. I definitely miss the days before Facebook entered my life. But it’s also become a way of life that is hard to avoid.