Recently I was chatting with a sober friend of mine about time management. I’ve recently refocused on my recovery, and I’ve been rearranging my life to accommodate getting to meetings with other sober folks. I was complaining to him about how annoying it was to have to give up two hours of either my recreation, work, or family time to get another meeting into my weekly rotation, and he said, “How much time do you spend each week on Facebook?”
I happen to know exactly how much time I spend on Facebook on my computer; I use an app called Rescue Time to track my hours to help me with client billing — and to keep my honest about my social media use. Even though I’ve worked hard to decrease the amount of time I spend on social media during my work days, I still spend about three and a half hours using Facebook out of the 55 hours or so a week I work at my desk.
Yes, a bit of that is work related; following professional groups, sharing links to work I’ve written (a requirement from many of my clients) but way too much of that time involves the Facebook rabbit hole of friend’s updates and pictures, funny videos, and other nonsense that doesn’t improve my life at all.
Even worse? That doesn’t even count the amount of time I spend on Facebook via my phone. I stopped bringing my laptop down from my office in the evenings, preferring to spend the dinner hour and my daughter’s pre-bedtime hour offline, but I do keep my phone handy and after my daughter goes to bed I easily pick it up for another half hour or 45 minutes (or even more if something juicy is happening).
And what’s the first thing I check? If I’m honest, it’s not my friend’s updates. It’s that little red box with numbers on it — my notifications. I want to see who commented on my posts and liked my photos. Yes, my favorite part of Facebook has become the pseudo-affirmation I get from my 4,200 “friends”.
After chatting with my sober friend about my time spent on Facebook, I was able to step back a moment and realize that for me — a sober alcoholic who has to fight daily to overcome her narcissistic tendencies — this is not healthy behavior (and please, know I’m saying this for me alone and I am absolutely not judging you or your Facebook time) .
In other words, yes, I do have two hours in my week that I can devote to focusing on my recovery. I can do it by giving up two hours of the time I spend on Facebook.
In a brilliant New York Times article, psychologist and MIT Professor Sherry Turkle talks in depth about the difference between real life conversation and digital conversation.
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.
When I sit down with other recovering alcoholics I quench my thirst (pardon the pun) for intimacy, connection, and understanding. It’s not a sip, it’s a whole damn gallon of connection. I need more of that in my life.
I’ve decided to view my Facebook time — something I am not willing to give up completely — as being restricted in the same way I’ve restricted my calories to help me lose weight. Basically, I’m on a Facebook diet. I allow myself a morning check in, a lunchtime peek, and then nothing until dinner time. Well, I try: it’s hard work to go post a link over there and then NOT click on that little red box. But I’m managing to do it more often than not, just like I manage to not eat ice cream on my diet more often than not.
And best of all? I’m also getting lots more work done. What do ya know.
I did not come up with the idea of “Facebook Diet,” for the record. That honor goes to Gemini Adams, author of the book The Facebook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Digital Detox (The Unplug Series).