On December 31st of 2017, I proposed as a New Year’s resolution to stay off Facebook for a year. I didn’t really make an announcement about it, which resulted in people sending me messages periodically to see if I was still alive. Now, an entire year later, I am writing to describe my experience because I believe there is a lot to learn about social isolation.
We now live in an era where we are so well connected that we can send a message to someone across the world and get a response within seconds. And truth be told, I feel like must of us take that for granted. Despite having the resources to send messages, images, and videos to nearly anyone in the world, we seem to be more isolated than ever before. For example, research shows that depression and accidents related to depression rose by well over twenty-four percent between 1992 and 2014. Now, it is important to note that the study did not blame the rise of social media for such increases, but rather the health of the economy. However, one cannot ignore the fact that this was also the time frame where communication methods evolved. In fact, the very first text message was sent on December 3rd, 1992.
So why would anyone consciously get off the grid, per se? To me, it was more of a fun experiment to simply find out if I could even do it. I realized that I was addicted to the application. Refreshing the page to see any of my “friends” had posted a funny status, or see how many likes my “witty” comments had received. It’s hard to know at what point in time I started to use Facebook for human validation, rather than for communication. Going online to find deep quotes or humorous images just to get likes from someone. Because to me, there was nothing better than hearing the peculiar sound of a notification on Facebook. I lived for that sound because it meant interaction. It meant that someone liked, or at the very least acknowledged, my presence. Pathetic, right?
An entire has year has gone by, while in social isolation (mostly). The thing about Facebook is that in its own way, it was a vice. I was addicted to it, in a similar manner that someone is addicted to playing video games, or smoking. I told myself that I could stop whenever I wanted to, and at first, it proved to be more difficult than that. Because social acceptance is something we all desire, even if we deny it. It’s similar to gambling at slot machines. You know it’s easy to stop, but with ever so many different possibilities of getting lucky, you tend to continue and use the machines. We want to be entertained. Even if it means playing the penny slot machines. You know the chances of winning are low, and even if you win, you’re not winning a lot. Yet, we glue ourselves for hours at a time just to see the different combinations that the machine can possibly make in the hopes of striking the perfect outcome. It was at the point in time that I knew something had to change.
The first step was to acknowledge something was wrong. You know, the first step to recovery is to recognize that you have a problem. It is easier said than done. Because from my perspective, I was not addicted to Facebook. I mean, how can you even be addicted to something that you cannot even touch, smell, or taste? Not only that but how bad can it really be? After all, if I truly were addicted, would that not mean that my life was in shambles? Because I was still able to go to work, perform my duties, hang out with my friends, and so on. Everything was under control. Not only that, but I never spent hours behind the screen just strolling aimlessly. At the most, I would only do it for five to ten minutes at a time, and only when I had nothing else to do. So what is really harm?
From up close, it may seem harmless to spend five to ten minutes on your phone. But as you may recall from one of my previous articles, What’s Holding You Back, changes in life typically never happen all at once. They are created by many small actions that compound and grow with the passage of time. For example, if you were to go to the gym today, and workout for 20 minutes, you would not walk out with perfectly defined abs. Or if you walked into McDonald’s and ate a large burger and fries combo, you would not immediately see an accumulation of fat around your waist. But go to the gym daily, and before you know it, you’ll be in better shape rocking that washboard abdomen. That’s how internet addiction works. It’s not that you spend hours at once behind the screen, but rather, many small amounts, throughout the day. I noticed that I would use Facebook once every hour for no more than five to ten minutes. Which meant that if I were asleep for eight hours, I would check my phone at least sixteen times a day. That means that I would have wasted roughly 80 to 160 minutes daily just aimlessly scrolling through Facebook. In the course of a week, that amounted 1,1120 minutes (18:30 hours) that were wasted.
It was that mentality that leads to the following; something had to change. Because if I had spent an additional 18 hours a week working on something productive, like advertising for my business, or reading about ways to increase sales or attract new customers, I would have learned what I now know, a lot sooner. Or better yet, I would be in whole different place by now.
But let’s make one thing clear. This is not Facebook’s fault. It was entirely my own. For letting myself get caught up in what seemed to be human interaction. As a business owner, my dissociation from the digital world was only personal. I knew that in order to survive and continue making a living, I had to leave my business up in the digital world. I could not just remove myself and business from the internet. It is just not how things work anymore. Removing my website, Instagram, twitter, and facebook accounts from the internet would surely put me out of business in today’s fast-moving digital market. Which honestly, was a great idea. Because now I was spending more time learning about my business and ways to grow it. No longer was I spending 18 hours weekly doing nothing in a week. I was now putting more hours into the development of my website, blogs, photography, and such. And just like I mentioned earlier, those small changes in my daily routine did not yield a large return quick, but rather, with time I noticed the changes in many areas of my life. From customer growth, readership growth, and monetization growth, just to name a few.
It is a little hard to explain because if you suffer from an addiction, the last thing you want is to still be near the things you are addicted to. You would not hang out around people who smoke if you were trying to quit. Honestly, I don’t think I truly changed all that much. Because I’m still spending hours on the internet, and on social media. Perhaps just as much now as I was spending before. However, the time I am now spending on the internet is mostly for self-growth. If I’m not working towards something productive that is going to help me grow in any way, then I try my best to not do it. Some addictive personalities cannot be easily changed, unfortunately. A lot of successful people tend to be addicted to something, be power, money, sex, or simply social recognition. Whatever it was, they used that energy in a positive way to help them excel in life. So why not use the same principle towards the internet? Instead of watching videos of cats, why not upload your own videos? Instead of reading pointless articles, why not start your own? Instead of wondering why other people on the internet are making millions of dollars doing what you wish you could do, why not start doing it?
I am aware the point of this blog came with a hard plot-twist. I am not telling you should quit using the internet and go outside and enjoy real human interaction, although you should. What I really am telling you, is that you should evaluate some aspects of your life, and consider if they are going to help you grow in the future. Those extra 18 hours in your week could easily amount to a part-time job or a new e-book, or maybe even driving for