Could I Give Up Facebook for a Week?

November 2011

Americans spend seven hours and 46 minutes on Facebook per month. That's basically one work day, which made me think about how much time I spend viewing photos, chatting with friends, and keeping up with old classmates instead of doing laundry. Now, I don't consider myself a social media junkie, but I log on to Facebook two or three times a day. Which is why when I heard about fbBreak.com, my curiosity was peaked.

The site, created this fall by a couple of Denver-based ad reps, helps you break the habit for a week—or in their words, “cleanse your social networking soul.” Created as an experiment to help people remember what life was like before Facebook, the free site works on the honor system. Once you take the pledge, you hand over your password to a trusted ‘sponsor’ of your choice who (by changing your password) effectually locks you out for the next seven days.

Could I—who wastes at least four hours a week on the site—do it? I’m always up for a challenge, especially when it’s my husband doing the daring. Skydiving? Check. Run a half-marathon? Check. Go a year without cable? Check. So when the challenge became personal (my husband didn’t think I could go cold turkey), there was no way I could back down.

This is how the experiment went:

Day One: Shortly after I take the official pledge, a congratulatory email pops up from the fbBreak.com team. The email mentions that the site offers it’s own “wall” for journaling your experience, but I decide I won’t be participating in that because it’s too similar to Facebook.

Day Two: Out of habit, there have been several times I catch myself staring at Facebook’s blue and white login screen today. I know that I am locked out for a week, but subconsciously my brain hasn’t caught up quite yet. 

Day Three: Work was busy today, giving me (thankfully) no time to even think about logging on to Facebook. That is, until I get home and find my husband eagerly surfing the site. I take one look at the big, goofy grin on his face and I have no doubt he’s using Facebook to taunt me. It's working.

Day Four: Although withdrawal thoughts are definitely present, I push them aside in an effort to make the most of my newly earned free time. Up first: Making a to-do list of all the things I had been putting off (housework, anyone?). I get the urge to brag to my friends about how productive I’m about to be. But, oh wait: no Facebook.

Day Five: I never realized how interconnected everything on the web is until I tried to sign up for an account on Spotify, a new free music-streaming service, and was denied unless I logged in with my Facebook account. Major fail.

Day Six: I’ve been tempted to find new ways to procrastinate by spending time on other sites like The Oatmeal, a site chock-full of sarcastic comics that poke fun at everyday situations. After a few mental bouts of knock-down, drag-out fights with myself, I’ve been able to resist—for the most part.

Day Seven: I wake up feeling refreshed because for the first time in a week, my social networking withdrawals are gone. Even the thought about catching up on all of the missed posts seems pretty inconsequential. But then again, maybe it’s because I know I get my password (and freedom) back tomorrow.

Day Eight: Password returned, I’m back to staring at Facebook’s blue and white login page again. I walk away, but by the end of the day my curiosity has gotten the best of me, and I log in.

Recap: Since my return to the world of Facebook, I can honestly say the site does not hold the same thrill it once did for me. Is that to say I don’t login regularly anymore? Of course not. (But I have cut back.)

—Image courtesy of Drew Dahlman, fbbreak.com