Monday, September 01, 2014

Pondering and pausing my Facebook time

I am taking a break from Facebook.

There is much I like about Facebook. Being connected with friends and family from all aspects of my life. These are individuals and groups of individuals from my past and present. It's remarkable. The ease in which I can share moments of joy or exuberance, sometime sadness, or accomplishment, and the efficiency of the distribution of those messages is simply remarkable. Staying up to date on the lives of my friends is equally if not more rewarding. I've evolved into being primarily a poster of photos. To me those photos are a way to tell my story and share it with people I care about. Of course that's what Facebook does.

I don't view Facebook as inherently bad or evil. But there are issues, and those issues have become a problem for me.

This year I've had some personal travails, nothing uncommon or too personally burdensome. Real first world stuff. A relationship ended. Challenges with myself, and my bad habits. (I have good habits too). And last month, the deaths of two old friends--one whose time had come, the other one--Trip--tragic and premature.

One of my bad habits has become checking out of reality via Facebook. (Despite the choice to take this Facebook break, I am aware that positive endeavors and pursuits are my best path forward—not prohibitions.)

Facebook gives many of us a tendency to fan the flames of self aggrandizement. I don't post anything inaccurate, but the highlights of my life aren't my whole life. Of course, people really don't want to hear about your problems--although the sympathy post is big for many, it's something I avoid.

It can be insidious, giving you a little reward when someone likes or comments on a post. Sometimes I find myself hanging out—online—to see who else is going to chime in. And who doesn't. It's pathetic, although the people who do weigh in are people I care about, which makes the hook it can have on me so compelling. It's designed to be addictive. And it is.

I've found myself wasting time, especially at night, and sometimes in the early morning. While I tend to sleep soundly, this little habit of perusing Facebook endlessly has cut in to my sleep. And frankly, it's become annoying. 

I read a post this morning that discussed a study showing that introverted people are more likely to become addicted to Facebook. I am an introvert. It spoke of how introverts can find online interactions safer and more comfortable than real world ones. 

This free service has become one of the top destinations on the Internet with well over a billion, yes a billion, monthly users. I find it to be more insular than Twitter, where I am more likely to connect with new people and ideas. Yet I have met new people on Facebook too, usually friends of friends.

My day yesterday is an example: brunch with friends from a Facebook invite, then hiking with a group of guys (including some from brunch).

This was possible because someone I knew, three years ago, joined a group hike on Facebook. I saw this in the little Facebook ticker. I noticed that anyone could sign up for the hike. I did, and I went.

I've been on many hikes with this group since then, and yesterday, going on the hike got me invited to what turned out to be a fun party where I met some memorable new people. It was a long day of interactions with real people, made possible by Facebook. So no, it's not all evil.

But is has become something I spend too much time doing. 

This isn't my first Facebook break and I plan to return. 

Rules of disengagement

Part of my role as marketing director at the Natural History Museum of Utah includes being the content creator and Facebook strategist. I've taken the NHMU Facebook page from just under 10,000 likes a year ago, to more than 22,000 today and increased engagement dramatically. Before coming to the Museum I served as the social media strategist for a number of other organizations as part of my job as Editorial Director at RIESTER, a regional advertising agency. My Facebook break does not extend over to the NHMU page.

How do I continue to serve as the admin of the NHMU Facebook page and disengage from Facebook personally?

Solution: I created a new Facebook account for the sole purpose of administering the page. This is not a completely original move. I know people who have professional Facebook pages and personal ones, and they keep the two very separate. That's never been my style, but for the purposes of this current Facebook break, I now have a new account solely to give me access to the page I manage. 

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