Charlotte Hannah
February 01, 2013

Is There Life After Facebook?

I’ve decided that for the full month of February, I’m going to forgo Facebook and focus on… whatever there is to life other than Facebook. Maybe I’ll write more, or spend quality time with my friends, or craft the world’s most epic grilled cheese sandwich. Or just use Reddit twice as much. Probably that last one.

Call it a Facebook Fast, if you will. And just to add to the alliteration, I’m going to write about my post-Facebook life every Friday of this month. February Friday Facebook Fasting. Has a nice ring to it, no?

There’s no particular reason for this, other than as a neat little experiment. I’m not what I’d call a Facebook addict. I have less than a hundred friends and I barely post anything other than the occasional interesting article or cat photo. But I guess most addicts don’t admit they’re addicted, so maybe I’ll learn some great truth about myself this month.

To begin my Facebook Fast, I posted a notice on my Wall, informing everyone that I’d be MIA for the next 28 days. My mom was the only person who seemed to care, so I guess we’re off to a good start.

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At midnight, I signed out of my Facebook account. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and unpinned Facebook from my Firefox tabs.

It wasn’t long before I started to realize just how ingrained in my psyche Facebook has become. When I woke up this morning, I immediately went to check my feed and see what changed overnight. Upon remembering my predicament, I felt strangely disconnected. Someone might’ve plowed land in Farmville or gotten a good deal on cheese at the grocery store and I’d have no way of knowing.

Whether we like it or not, Facebook is a big part of our lives (for those of us who use it, anyway). We get used to the constant connection it provides, and when we can’t use it, we feel its absence keenly. Who hasn’t spent 10 minutes frantically trying to refresh their feed when the Internet is out?

That got me thinking about the other ways in which Facebook affects our minds. For example, there’s “Facebook envy.” A recent German study showed that one in three Facebook users feel more dissatisfied with their lives after browsing the social networking site — which the researchers chalked up to the envy that arises due to seeing all their friends’ successes laid out in front of them.

While obviously we’ve got to take this study with a grain of salt, since contradictory studies about Facebook’s effect on the psyche come out all the time, you can’t argue that the social network doesn’t make it easy to selectively self-present. Because of this, most of what you see on your friends’ Timelines are the most exciting parts of their lives, which makes your own life seem less exciting. I think we’ve all felt a pang of jealousy after creeping the feed of someone who seems infinitely more attractive, confident and successful than ourselves. And I’m sure we’ve all felt frustrated when a post we thought was witty and insightful didn’t get as many Likes as we’d hoped for.

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It turns out there’s a medical cause for the rollercoaster of emotions Facebook makes us feel. Seeing and responding to a notification we get on Facebook, whether it’s from a friend posting on our wall or a Like on one of our comments, releases a bit of dopamine in the brain. It creates the same happy feeling we get when we indulge in food we had a craving for or listen to a favorite song — and it’s addictive.

So maybe I am a Facebook addict after all. It’s been less than a day, so it’s probably too early to tell. In any case, watch for my next Facebook Fasting article next Friday. Unless I go crazy from the withdrawal.

Check out Part Two of this series here.