Reflecting on My Facebook Free Lent

Happy Easter! The season of Lent is usually associated with sacrifice. However, it is also a period to retreat, reflect, pray (and/or meditate) and give alms. After which, there is a period of rebirth and growth.

On Giving Up Facebook for Lent

Some people give up sweets for Lent. Others give up swearing. I've done both. This year, the glaring vice I could see was my "Facebook Login & Refresh My Notifications Repeatedly" Addiction. It didn't matter whether I turned off most notifications in my Facebook settings. Nor did it matter that I uninstalled the app on my mobile devices. I used to log in — a lot. It certainly didn't help matters that I have personal and business contacts on Facebook and belong to international Facebook groups (TL: The groups never sleep).

So I gave up Facebook for Lent — cold turkey — on Ash Wednesday. There was no big announcement on my Wall. Perhaps I should have posted one, but at the time, I didn't see the point.  My immediate family and close friends knew in advance, and I had faith that I wouldn't be the only one to remember that there are other means to keep in touch with each other during my "Facebook Fast" beyond a Facebook Wall.

Halfway through Lent, I started to hear from a handful of friends who noticed I wasn't posting to Facebook. It gave us a wonderful chance to catch up: one-on-one — just like old times.

How I Gave Up Facebook for Lent

One thing I did was instill a Lenten Lapse Penalty. This was something I did the year I gave up swearing for Lent. For each lapse, I dropped a toonie into the Lent Jar. After Easter, I donated the money to charity.

However, I knew a toonie was too low of a penalty for this bad habit of mine. I set the penalty at $25 per login, with the monies going to charity after Lent.

I must clarify that it was the main Facebook site that I gave up for Lent. Since I'm self-employed, I had to keep the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Pages apps active for business.

There were a handful of times that I did have to login to the main site as there are certain page settings that can only be changed on the site. After discussing it with friends, we agreed that so long as I only logged in to do that one thing (or two), it was alright. The main thing is that I had to log in and out without getting sucked in by the notifications, Ticker Board, or News Feed to call it a "Lenten Success."

So, what did I do during my little Facebook Fast? Highlights include decluttering, plowing through my To Do List, taking fresh air breaks, praying, reading, and chatting with family and friends via phone, text, email, face-to-face communication — and a lot of thinking.

My reading pile. Photo by R-M Arca.

Facebook Free and Reflecting on Everything

It was hard at first. Later, I felt quite liberated. As the echoes of Facebook News Feed Chatter faded from my consciousness, I could hear myself think. Not only that, I could start to sense what God (or the universe, if you will) was trying to say to me.

My part-time job has waves of busy-ness and periods of quiet. Sometimes, my coworkers and I can chat quietly but often, I have time on my hands to think.

During these tranquil moments, I took inventory, thinking about where I am physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, and socially. I reflected upon what needed to change. New ideas popped into my head, plans started to formulate, and approaches shifted.

During a quiet moment of work, I started to plan out next week's presentations. Photo by R-M Arca.

On Regrowth and Coming Full Circle

Most of my social media interactions pre-Lent were on Facebook. I used to keep up with news via Facebook. Without it, I tuned into the radio more. I also wound up spending some time  cultivating my other social media accounts, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. As Lent progressed, I developed an actual social media posting and networking schedule.

One fringe benefit to my part-time job is that I move around more than I do teaching. There are a lot of stairs, so as the weeks turned into months, I noticed little things: like how my pants started to fit better and my energy level increased. More importantly, that my immune system is improving.

Old doorways reopened. Who would have thought that I would be doing the same things I did when I began my career, just with a few changes?

A few accompanying and recording gigs came my way, followed by my return to arts administration. Instead of being a full-time employee, I work as a freelance administrator and marketing specialist in martial arts and the fine arts.

Once these opportunities opened up, it became much easier to keep Facebook free. I was just too busy (still am). Then I got hooked on another app to help me organize my life: Trello.

Trello boards make keeping organized fun and easy.

The thrill I used to get from seeing an updated FB notification has been replaced by the thrill of moving a task on a funky looking card into my "Achievement Unlocked" column.

Updating my To Do List has never been so much fun.

I knew I turned a corner when I had to log in to adjust settings on one of the Facebook pages I manage. When I looked at the red "33" on the Facebook notifications icon, I felt...nothing.

A friend asked me, "Was it hard?" Certainly. I stuck it out till the very end, though. I'll still make a donation since technically, I still had to log in (and because it's just the right thing to do).

All in all, it was a great experience. I highly recommend going Facebook free for an extended period of time. I gained a new perspective on things, from debt reduction to health, right down to how I'm going to approach my Facebook use going forward. I embarked on new endeavours and revisited old paths. Change is good.

As I type this, part of me is dreads logging in to face the growing number of notifications. Perhaps I'll hold off on logging into Facebook for a little while longer.