About 7 weeks ago, I took a break from Facebook. I had been noticing that I would pick up my phone and check Facebook compulsively even when I didn’t really want to. It was a habit and it didn’t feel good. I wanted to pause and see what would happen if I committed to changing my behavior for an extended amount of time.
It’s been an interesting experience. I will share with you here some of what I noticed about the benefits and challenges. I encourage anyone who spends a lot of time on their electronics to consider taking a break from time to time. Our world has changed significantly in recent years due to technology. It’s not always for the better and we truly have a choice about how we use it. If you like, join me for Screen-Free Week, April 29 - May 5. I’ll write more about it at the bottom of the page.
When I started my Facebook fast, I was initially worried that I would miss it and feel some kind of loss. Instead, I felt a sense of freedom. I had been preoccupied with this social media platform even when I wasn’t actively engaged in it. Throughout my day, I was thinking about what to post, which pictures to share, what kind of insightful, witty, and heartfelt words I could string together that would result in engagement from others.
As soon as I was no longer on the platform, I felt a sense of relief and a break from the internal pressure I had been feeling. There was a sense of something having been lifted; I felt lighter and freer.
Most of the time what I actually was looking for when I posted something or scrolled through my newsfeed was simple connection with another human being. At times, I did feel that. When someone from another state shared something personal and I saw it and could respond, I felt touched and grateful that we could connect even though we were far away.
The thing is, though, that was probably only 5-10% of the time. The rest of the time I was searching for that feeling of connection. This search fed the feeling of addiction; it felt like if I could simply keep looking on Facebook long enough, I would find what I needed.
The truth is I did and do need connection. It is also true that there are many other places to meet that need. In fact, it is generally more fulfilling and satisfying to connect with someone in person or over the phone than through words or images on a screen.
As I began this time away from social media, I encouraged myself to reach out to friends and family in other ways. For example, I remembered my joy of sending things in the mail and wrote post cards and letters. I also made more of an effort to make plans to be with people during my free time. This was important and helped me continue to feel connected to the world around me, instead of isolating.
The Next Addiction
One of the challenges I faced was that sometimes I simply replaced one addiction for another. Oftentimes at the end of the day, I am tired and looking for a way to wind down and take a break from my brain and the stressors of life. I want a distraction.
I noticed I would still pick up my phone during these times. I would check my email. Play a game. Watch videos on YouTube. The behavior was similar. I would get lost in something on a tiny screen. I would see myself getting sucked in and still not put down my phone. Then I would be disappointed that I was going to bed late or didn’t do something else I had planned to do with my time.
This last observation is my main reason for wanting to participate in Screen-Free Week at the beginning of May. I recently learned about this annual event and was excited to try it. From my experience of giving up Facebook, I know taking a break from addictive technology can be beneficial, feel like a relief and give me back something of myself.
According to the Screen-Free Week website, it started as TV Turnoff week in 1994 and has evolved over the years. While there is an emphasis on children and the benefit of creative play without screens, anyone can participate. Also, the focus is on “entertainment screens,” so using screens for schoolwork and jobs is allowed.
I’ll end by inviting you to reflect on how you use technology in your life. When does it benefit you? When does it take something away? As always, it’s not about judgment or right and wrong. Being aware of what we do and why we do it leads to understanding ourselves better, which gives us information as we make decisions about our lives and how we want to live.
Katherine Grigg, MPC, RSMT has a Master of Pastoral Counseling and is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist. She sees clients in Lenox, Massachusetts and over phone/video chat. Her approach has roots in somatics, body psychotherapy, spirituality and mindful movement. She specializes in working with women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Contact her for more information.