What Happened When I Tried To Quit Facebook The Week Of The Election

Wellness Wednesdays

The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: A Facebook detox.

This Week’s Participant: Rachel

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Day 1

I woke up this morning and deleted the Facebook app from my phone. This was hard for me to do, because one of the first things I do every morning is get on Facebook. I spend at least 10-20 minutes scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing what the world/my friends have been up to since I went to bed the night before. I tell myself it’s my way of catching up on world events, but really it’s just me stalling so I don’t have to get out of bed. Lately, I’ve noticed that I spend more and more time doing this, not just in the morning, but also if I’m procrastinating on anything else—a tough task at work, a trip to the gym, or folding the laundry.

I chose to participate in this challenge because I thought it would be a great way to eliminate all those spare minutes I waste throughout the day, and increase my productivity. Also, as of today, it is four days until the U.S. presidential election. I’ve contemplated quitting Facebook at many times throughout the last 18 months, but never had the willpower to do it. I’m interested in seeing how this detox will shape the way I view current events in the next week, and I hope it will allow me to focus more on my own reactions to the world around me, and not be shaped by the potentially biased opinions of others.

Day 2

OK, so yesterday was harder than anticipated. It turns out I spend A LOT more time on Facebook at work than I care to admit to anyone, especially myself. Yesterday was Friday, which is typically a quiet day at my office, and I found myself thinking about checking Facebook almost compulsively after every task I completed. Even if it was just typing a two-sentence email to my boss or successfully updating my email signature, it took a lot of self-control to not open Facebook as a reward for checking another small item off my to-do list.

Today, Saturday, was much easier. Like most people on the weekends, I usually try to go out and actually interact with my friends instead of stalking them on cyberspace. One of my besties was having a party in the evening, and as I spent my day grocery shopping and baking goodies for said party, I realized I didn’t miss checking Facebook at all when I got up in the morning. However, as I left the house, it dawned on me that I didn’t have the address for where I was going. Nor did I know the parking situation. The only way I could quickly check this information was–you guessed it—through the Facebook invite. So, yes, I did cave today, but I promise it was only for 30 seconds.

Day 3

Sunday was also difficult. I spent today catching up on chores and housework, as I often do, and I realized again what an epic procrastinator I am. After every little task I completed, whether it was finally washing the dishes or sorting through the mountain of shoes I had heaped on my floor, I was fighting the impulse to check Facebook and distract myself.

I should probably mention that I’m pretty old-school as far as social media goes. Besides Facebook, the only other social media I use is Pinterest, which barely counts as being “social” at all. I stopped using Twitter after college, and I don’t want to get addicted to Snapchat or Instagram, so I don’t have accounts on those sites at all. I also live by myself, and I don’t have a TV. The latter two reasons, I think, are why I depend on Facebook so much. It’s not just for entertainment and current events, but a lifeline to the outside world, especially on boring rainy days when I’m doing housework.

That being said, when I finally did leave my apartment to go on a walk to my favorite coffee shop and read a book for a while, I found I enjoyed the experience so much more. My walk was leisurely instead of rushed (I had saved some time by not checking Facebook), and I was more fully absorbed in my reading without dinging notifications to distract me.

Day 4

Today was the hardest day so far. I thought that without Facebook to distract me, I would get to work early this morning. But instead of actually eating my breakfast in a timely manner, I found myself reading articles from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  I also found myself listening to NPR on my way to work, which is something I don’t usually do. It strikes me that these are probably better ways to get my news, but the articles in my newsfeed that I would usually read are shared from these sources or similar ones. I don’t feel like the information I’m taking in has changed that much, just the way that I’m getting it.

I may have caved on the Facebook urge again sometime mid-afternoon, just to see if I had any important notifications. I didn’t. Unless being tagged in a photo from I trip I took four weeks ago counts as important. Unfortunately, the top story on my feed when I peeked was a friend voicing a complaint about the election, and I was immediately sucked into checking her wall so I could figure out what the drama was all about. After several minutes of scrolling through GIFs and memes, most of them to do with cats or cartoon characters, I realized how ridiculous I was being. I was searching for an almost non-existent argument she had with someone I didn’t even know. Somehow I had survived the past three days without SpongeBob memes and petty arguments, and I’m sorry I broke my streak for even a short while today.

Day 5

Election Day. I really had no idea how difficult this was going to be. I thought the hardest thing I would have to do would be refraining from publicly announcing I was voting (which, there is nothing wrong with BTW! Everyone should be proud that they voted), and then sit on my hands later when the results were announced. I promised myself I’d save the congratulatory post for our first female president until the end of the week.

As the evening wore on, and the results were not what I expected, I found myself more and more depressed. Also, live streaming the news from my laptop in my quiet apartment was just too much to handle. So, like any addict looking for solace, I returned to my drug.

Facebook did not disappoint. I realize now that I have been cultivating a very specific network of friends for a long time. You could argue in many ways that this was why I was so shocked by the election results I was seeing. Yet, it made me feel better to know there were others in the world reacting with the same disbelief, anger, and sadness I was feeling. I needed their support, and I needed to know we could all band together in the hard times to come. I went to bed  in tears around 1 a.m., but I was glad to be reminded that there are intelligent, kind, and compassionate people in the world, and that I know quite a few of them.

Day 6

I woke up this morning and did not want to reach for my phone, to check Facebook or anything else. I managed to fall asleep before the results were officially announced, and I lay in bed for several minutes after my alarm went off, psyching myself up for the information I knew I was going to have to face. First, I checked the News app on my phone. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other major media outlets were predicting exactly what I had feared. I spent the next solid hour crying and reading different newspapers and blogs as I attempted to wrap my mind around what was happening to our country.

Like many Americans, I remained distracted throughout the day. I worked my way through an entire pack of tissues while Hillary gave her concession speech. I then attempted to get some work done while listening to nonstop NPR for the next eight hours. It didn’t go well. But just like after any national tragedy, I couldn’t tear myself away.

And yes, I was on Facebook. I was on Facebook A LOT. Shoutout to all the fabulous writers and editors at Literally, Darling. Their posts and ongoing conversations are a huge part of what got me through the day. I was probably on Facebook more today than I have been in weeks (even before starting this challenge), so I’m afraid that my detox has been derailed. However, I am going to attempt to pull back again tomorrow and preserve some of my sanity during the last day of this challenge.

Day 7

When I decided to unplug from Facebook the week of the presidential election, I had no idea what I was signing up for. I expected this last day to be a happy post. I would celebrate my week of abstinence by logging on and finally posting how excited I was about the election results. That won’t happen now. I also thought going cold turkey would be the only way to avoid temptation, but I hit a low point again this afternoon. To be fair, I did very little scrolling through my newsfeed. I mostly wanted to check in with my fellow kick-ass lady friends and know that I wasn’t alone as I continued to struggle with tears and disbelief.

I’ll be honest, I’ve unfriended or unfollowed almost all of my Republican friends within the last couple of months. Whether or not I regret that is still something I’m grappling with. I did not mean to seal myself off from opposing viewpoints, but to keep myself from lashing out at people I love. Distancing myself has been the only way to preserve my sanity. I can’t tell you if this was the right choice or not, only that it was what I felt I needed to do at the time.

I’ve heard the phrase “echo chamber” used a lot in the last couple of days to describe why many are so shocked with the election results. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is a problem I myself have fallen victim to, and if the last few days have taught me anything, it’s the need to be actively involved with seeking multiple news sources.

That being said, the open and honest messages of my fellow Hillary supporters have been the only thing getting me through the last two days, and I realize I am blessed that those spreading hate are only a very small percent of the people in my life. I plan to approach the next election with a much more thorough approach to my media intake. Whether I’ll even still be on Facebook in four years is hard to say. For now I need, even more than when I started this assignment, to unplug for a while.

Rachel Ginder

Rachel is a bookaholic who dreams of reading for a living, but has recently and quite comfortably settled for working as an editorial assistant at an East Coast university press. She spends her free time writing book reviews and is on a constant quest to find the perfect setting for novel reading. Her current favorite is sitting on a bench at her local park, where she alternates between fantasizing she is either Anita from 101 Dalmatians or Rory from Gilmore Girls. When not pretending she’s a fictional character, she can occasionally be lured indoors with a large cup of chai tea or earl grey (she’s not picky).
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