My Digital Detox: A Month Without Facebook

by Kat Olson

Ah, spring has sprung! It’s time for rain, flowers, pollen, baby bunnies, and detoxes. Perhaps you come to Kripalu for your detox needs? Or, maybe you have been married to your juicer at home for the past five days. Whatever “detox” may look like for you, I want to share a story about a novel form of detox I inflicted upon myself this winter. If you have never considered a technology detox, maybe this will inspire you.

It was a subzero-degree night in late January: 10:30pm, already past my bedtime. I lay in bed beneath three blankets and a couple layers of warm clothing. I shivered from head to toe and my eyelids ached to fall closed, but I forced them to stay open, squinting as I focused on the brightly lit iPhone I held inches from my face. Why would I do this? My phone’s alarm had already been set and my weather app had already been checked for tomorrow’s forecast. At this point, stimulating my brain into a continued state of alertness was the opposite of what I should have been doing. But I could not put down the phone and go to sleep without knowing what anyone might have JUST posted on Instagram. Disgusted by the automatic, mindless attachment I had for my phone and, especially, my Facebook app, I proclaimed, silently, that February 2013 would be Facebook-Free February (FBF): 28 days dedicated to remembering the way things were before our social lives could be carried out without  having to  interact face-to-face with other people.

Excited about my idea, since I had been thinking about breaking up with Facebook for years, I announced my challenge to the world…by posting a Facebook status.

A few friends said they would join in the challenge; a few denied it being any sort of challenge at all. Some admitted they would never be able to abstain from the ‘Book for that long; others just thought my idea was plain stupid. Regardless of the feedback, I was still set on following through. Plus, the catchy name, Facebook-Free February, was too good to not use.

Fast-forward to February 28. The next evening after work, my detox would be over and  I would log on to Facebook, and everything would be just as it was when  I left it. Contrary to a friend’s insistence that I had missed so much, I was sure I would take one look at my homepage and think, “oh…right. Facebook is still Facebook, and my life is no less fulfilled having been removed from the Facebook world for the past 28 days.”

So what did I learn during that month of being Facebook- free? Honestly, not much. I had hoped that restricting my access to Facebook would cause me to be more productive. While I do think I was a tad more productive, when the time came at work or at home when I just wanted mindless brain stimulation on my computer I still spent (wasted?) plenty of time on the Internet, even without checking Facebook. My tweeting rate increased about 400 percent during the month of February, and I revisited addictive sites such as Pinterest and Etsy in lieu of Facebook.

Looking back on my month of Facebook detox, I think its anti-Facebook effects could be portrayed in a sort of inverted bell curve. On March 1, I felt hardly any different from how I felt on February 1. Closer to March 15, I started to voluntarily remove myself from the Facebook world more often, remembering the good ol’ days of FBF, when I didn’t care what tons of people I didn’t really know were doing. Then, as weeks went by, I slowly returned to my original interest in Facebook. Today, I still communicate with friends using Facebook messenger. I still post photos and “like” statuses.  But I also still have the grand memory of those 28 days when I was a REAL human being, relying on people in my direct vicinity for engagement and social stimulation, and called people instead of “poking” them.

Bottom line: I recommend a Facebook detox to everyone. Even if it doesn’t elicit life-changing effects, it will still stir your mind a bit. Challenge your habits, question your routines, and keep yourself sharp and lively!

P.S. No offense, Zuckerberg, you have done great work.

Kat Olson, former Intern for the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, earned her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from Thailand’s Vikasa Yoga, and holds a 30-hour certificate from YogaHope’s Trauma Informed Mind-Body program in Boston.

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