I de-activated Facebook and Messenger for a week this month, and this post reflects on my findings.
Halfway through that same week, I also deleted most apps on my phone, including Gmail and Chrome/Safari. My post tomorrow will reflect on that.
I’m not a stranger to limiting my access to social websites and apps. While this week turned out to be a challenge, I’ve taken similar steps before. I previously deleted my Snapchat and Instagram accounts, and the Facebook app on my phone.
This post will not be about Facebook, which I barely use, just Messenger.
I de-activated Facebook and Messenger because I was glued to my phone the week before. It was early in the quarter, so my friends were generally active on Messenger.
My intent was to clear my head and to be less needy. This was mostly done on a whim, as an experiment.
The first day was the hardest. Every few minutes, I would pull out my phone, and unlock it to the home screen, and stare at it for a while.
There would be no notifications or badges, which meant my brain would not get the hit of dopamine it was expecting. This went on for a few days, but eventually, I stopped checking my phone.
It took longer for me to break my Messenger habits on desktop. When I would do homework with my laptop open, I might load Messenger without thinking, without any prompt. My fingers knew the keyboard shortcuts, and if left unattended for even a moment, they’d jump to Messenger.
This continued until the end of the week, unfortunately. But don’t worry, I never faltered and logged in.
Since there were fewer reasons to check my phone, I would not be on my phone during class, while eating, or while walking home. These activities were able to go uninterrupted.
What I appreciated most was walking home without talking to friends. Previously, I might stop on the sidewalk to respond, or type while walking. I’d probably end up laying on the couch on my phone when I got back, too.
This week, I was able to think uninterrupted for those 20-minute walks to and from campus. I began looking forward to walking home. Sometimes, I’d slow down as I neared my place, because I was in no rush to get inside.
Somehow, what was previously filler became a highlight to my day, which I appreciated. I substituted Messenger on my walks for Spotify, and listened to a lot more music as a result, too.
I wish I could say I paid more attention during class, but alas, that was not the case.
After quitting Messenger cold turkey, I felt lonely the whole week. This wasn’t my intent, remember! I had wanted to think clearly, and had wanted to rely on people less, not more.
I realize now that Messenger played a huge part in fulfilling my need for social interaction on weekdays. I don’t necessarily study with others, or even have lectures with my friends. I don’t hang out in my apartment’s living room. I either go on my computer in a study lounge, or in my room. And I’d chat with people.
I did have dinners planned with friends I wanted to hang out with that week, which kept me going. But it isn’t reasonable to have dinner with friends everyday.
Everyone has friends they prefer over others. In this, I’m not different. I have a few friends that I’m probably closest to right now, and those are the ones I talk to Messenger.
When I de-activated, I didn’t have access to those friends anymore (for some reason, no one replies promptly on iMessage…). As a result, I had to talk to whoever is in my vicinity. This meant I talked more to my apartmentmates, the classmates I met.
There is value in maintaining the relationships you have, over new ones, but there is also value in being in the present. So, this is more a neutral point.
This experiment differs from my breaks from other platforms, like Snapchat. I do not plan to be on Snapchat again (I’ll go into this in tomorrow’s post), but I am to happy to resume being on Messenger.
I missed having great, funny conversations with my friends on Messenger. I also missed sending stickers. But, I don’t want to use it during class, on my walks, or when I’m with other people.
As a result, I’m not re-downloading the Messenger app on my phone. I’ll stick to just the web version. Unfortunately, this means I’ll have less awesome conversations with friends, because I’ll be on a lot less.
I can see myself re-downloading the app in the future, but not this quarter. I feel the need to be in my own head for the time being.