Finding Facebook freedom

"As the days pass by, we realised our time was ours again."

Finding Facebook freedom

The above sentiment was a response from the Dorado family, one of the intrepid groups that participated in Aurora’s recent “Facebook Fast”. As reported in July, a selection of brave Aurora readers volunteered to abstain from Facebook for two weeks and report on the experience. The result provides a fascinating insight into how it feels to give up an activity that for many has become second nature.

 

Joyeth and Nikki Dorado are originally from the Philippines but live in Wallsend with their son, Matthew. “Facebook does have its uses as it keeps us connected with family and friends,” said Joyeth, “but it is easy to lose track of time.” Before the fast, the Dorado family would often check Facebook in the mornings, a common habit for those with loved ones abroad, and breakfast discussions would revolve around posts they had seen, which Joyeth noted “were often fleeting and inconsequential”.

 

The family used its extra time together to great benefit, with Joyeth saying, “We’d have more relaxed mornings which normally would have been spent on Facebook. Early one morning we all went for a walk together. We noticed how the frosted grass caught the sunlight at the park. It was a beautiful scene that we would have normally missed and was one of our special moments during our Facebook fast.”

 

Gina Pringle of Merewether highlighted the modern phenomenon of using Facebook as a news source. “After a few days without my ‘morning newspaper’ I was worried that I couldn’t keep up to date,” she said. Increasingly, people use Facebook to learn about news events, not just “goings-on amongst friends and family”. Thousands across the world discovered the name of the new British prince, not by a legitimate news source, but via Facebook.

 

Facebook, especially on mobile devices, is a great distraction when we supposedly have “nothing to do” – waiting for an appointment, commuting to work or even watching the Ashes on TV. Opening Facebook whenever Australia loses a wicket will very quickly drain a phone battery! Quickly checking in with our “online community” has the strange, dual effect of making us feel more connected and yet safely removed. Awkward moments of real, human interaction can be avoided. As Marlene Tremain of Edgeworth said after her Fast, “We fill up spaces with noise.”

 

Ms Tremain also discovered that Facebook relies heavily on our concept of community to keep people coming back to the service. It seemed as much as she was missing Facebook, Facebook was missing her, sending an automated email to notify her that she had not logged in recently and had “missed some popular stories”.

 

“I’m wondering what’s happening in Facebook Land? What am I missing out on? Is anyone trying to get in touch with me?” she thought, and her reaction is understandable. The brains behind the “social network” understand that making people feel part of a vibrant community is critical in keeping them as customers and, accordingly, shape their language and user experience to maximise this effect. The 21st century FOMO (fear of missing out) is what drives many to Facebook and makes us susceptible to its interactive marketing. Marlene’s statement on her final day of fasting highlights exactly why Facebook urges us to “log in and catch up”.

 

“As the days have gone by,” she said, “I have thought about Facebook less and less.”

 

Extended Comments

Aurora would like to thank those who participated in the two-week "Facebook Fast". Below are some additional comments from our volunteers who reported on their experience.

 

Gina Pringle of Merewether

  • Prior to the “Fast  Period” I was not sure that I could go for two weeks without Facebook but after a few days without my “morning newspaper” I was worried that I couldn’t keep up to date with the goings on among my friends & family. After all, if anyone needed to tell me something REALLY important, they could pick up the phone & call.
  • My daughter, Hollie, was not so happy to leave it and she often “accidentally” went on Facebook but assured me she didn’t comment, like or share anyone’s status. I’m not sure we communicated anymore than usual as Hollie was embarrassed to have me comment on anything anyway.
  • Since the Facebook Fast I have noticed I’m not on it as much, still first thing in the morning, but that’s about all. I’m not sharing as many photos or commenting near as much as I used to – maybe it’s past it’s “use by date”?

Marlene Tremain of Edgeworth

 

As an educator it’s easy to be critical of how much students rely on Facebook and social media. I have realised that sometimes I’m guilty of this dependency too. I read about the Facebook fast and for some reason felt an urge to try it. Two weeks is not that long and if anyone really needs to contact me...there’s the phone, email, text, or they could find me at home or work, perhaps even send smoke signals...

 

Day 1

 

On the first day I read a book to my baby while waiting for her food to cool down. Normally I may have taken a quick look at Facebook to fill in the time. It reminded me how we have to fill up spaces with noise – like the student I overheard in a classroom who said working quietly would be “awkward”.

 

Day 2

 

I thought about Facebook a few times but kept distracted at work and home. I am starting to recognise the times when I relied on checking Facebook - waiting for appointments, just before picking up my baby, sitting in the car as a passenger, having a coffee at the end of the day, in the tv ad breaks.

 

Day 3

 

I’m wondering what’s happening in Facebook land? What am I missing out on? Is anyone trying to get in touch with me? Life seems less distracted at the moment.

 

Day 7

 

I hate to admit it but I was really missing Facebook today.

 

Day 11

 

11 days seems like forever. I have been away on holidays, with a lot more spare time. I really wanted to find out what was happening on Facebook.

 

Day 13

 

When I’m busy I don’t notice that I haven’t been on Facebook for more than a few days. My email said I have 17 notifications pending and that I have “missed some popular stories”. I wonder what those stories could be. Communication with my closest friends and family is still via phone and text so if there’s anything major happening I know. For all the other stuff... that’s where Facebook keeps me in the loop.

 

Day 14

 

As the days have gone by I have thought about Facebook less and less. Is this what it is like when you have an addiction to something? It would have been easy to take a sneak peek once or twice and no-one would have really known. But I wanted to show myself that I could do something when I was motivated enough.  

 

I’ve read a lot about the pros and cons of social media and yes, I could survive without it. The two week fast has shown me how much Facebook can consume your life, if you let it. For me, letters, phone calls and actually seeing people in real life will always be preferred. In our modern world with people scattered around the country and overseas, Facebook helps us stay connected. 

 

I’ve had more quality time with my husband and baby and not had the distraction of knowing everyone’s movements. My plan is to not rely on Facebook to fill the "in-between" moments so much and to take more notice of what’s happening around me each day – living in the present. 

 

Joyeth Dorado of Wallsend

 

Week 1: The first two days we’re difficult; I had an instinctive compulsion to leave a window open for Facebook in the morning as I normally do. Later during the week, we slowly adapted to the idea.

  • We’d have more relaxed mornings as it freed up time which would have been spent on Facebook.
  • My conversations with Nikki tended to revolve around what is important to us, our plans for the day and less on Facebook wall posts which are often fleeting and inconsequential.
  • We often have the feeling that we might miss important messages but then people actually contact you via phone or email if there is something really important/urgent in the same way that I actually make a phone call instead of leaving messages on FB.

Week 2: As the days pass by, we realized our time was ours again.

  • The fast was much needed opportunity to break away from daily habit of going on Facebook. Facebook does have its uses as it keeps us connected with family and friends, but it is easy to lose track of time and the reality is that it need not take an hour of each day.
  • Early one morning, we went for a walk together. We noticed how the frosted grass caught the sunlight at the park – a glimpse of serenity as it welcomes the daybreak. It was a beautiful scene that we would have missed had we gone later in the morning and was one of the special moments we had as a family during Facebook fast.

Yes, we would definitely recommend the fast now and then. It is an effective self-check and gives one time to reflect on what’s important in life. 

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