This past Lent season, I decided to forgo using Facebook and instead replaced the time spent there with living in the present, whether the activity was boring or seemingly useless.
For forty days, rather than getting on my phone to stare at other people’s lives (because that’s what it is, isn’t it?), I would watch an episode of the Amazon Prime show, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” for the umpteenth time with my daughter. Before bed, I would watch a show or video I’d never seen before (I have a hard time reading before bed. It puts me straight to sleep) or simply go to sleep, rather than spending countless minutes scrolling through recycled memes and news articles. Never mind the political propaganda.
While I’ve since returned to Facebook, resisting it those forty days helped me analyze how I spend my time and what is important. It also helped me think about the positives of using Facebook, though still laced with negative underpinnings.
Using Facebook to announce a life event makes sharing information easy. You don’t have to worry if you remembered to tell your friend that your child graduated pre-school or announce a new bundle of joy. Of course, you talk with those closest to you about events such as these (at least I hope you do), but you don’t have to worry if you left someone out because the information is there for everyone to see. That is, if they’re on Facebook.
I use Facebook because I get a peek into the lives of friends I have that live all over the US. Friends from school, those I’ve made here in Baytown, but have since moved on to another state. While we may not be as close as we once were, it’s nice to see how they’re doing. And yet, I wonder if my time would be better spent calling, texting, or emailing them. Is Facebook the cause for losing touch with others, lessening my ability to communicate personally? To pick up the phone and intimately hear a friend’s voice on the line, right in my ear.
Another positive in using Facebook is the marketplace, where individuals can post items for sale, new and used. I recently used it because I needed a better stroller for the trip my family and I will take in June to Utah. The stroller we currently use is good for walking on a neatly paved sidewalk. In Utah, we plan on doing some hiking and exploring nature, so I was looking for something able to handle rugged terrain. I found an inexpensive, used jogging stroller that will be easier to maneuver. Without Facebook marketplace, I might have had to buy a new one or struggle with the one we currently own.
While using the marketplace was successful in that instance, it was a pain when my husband and I were trying to get rid of garden pavers we no longer needed. Too many flaky buyers that ended up being a waste of time.
While temporarily getting off Facebook helped me reevaluate my time and reflect on its positives, I can’t help but feel as though it’s simply a distraction. I tend to look at it when bored, when I could be spending time in the present, thinking on writing ideas or something more productive. I’ve cut back my usage. But I think the time we spend on there does need to be reevaluated. Do we really need to post countless vacation pictures? Should we just call a friend, rather than relying on them to post information? Should we be spending more time, in the now, exposing ourselves to our restlessness, reminding us that life is finite. Maybe then we would be moved. Maybe then our lives could become more fulfilled.
Justa Lanie Garrett is a lifelong resident of Baytown.