In terms of improving efficiency, the effect was negligible - an expert procrastinator can always find pressing distractions. But the Facebook vacation did offer a personal experiment. I haven't gone more than a week without accessing Facebook since I became a member years ago. My usage has grown exponentially over the years, particularly when I got a smartphone and also when I started working from home. Pre-exile, I was visiting Facebook several times a day to read posts and comments and I would post at least once a day.
Over the years, I've read a lot of criticism and thought they were ignoring the positive aspects. For people geographically or socially isolated (e.g. moving away from friends or suffering from social phobia), Facebook can serve a vital social function.
It can also be a great way to share information from people who share similar interests and viewpoints (although such homophily can also limit the depth and diversity of information one gets exposed to - see this article for more). It can also provide entertainment and information for the many otherwise idle moments of life.
Considering these and other benefits and also considering my prior addiction-level usage, I thought I would go into heavy Facebook withdrawal. Much to my surprise, however, I didn't miss Facebook.
Not Missing Facebook
Other than a slight desire a few times to share a particularly great photo of my kid doing something novel, I never missed Facebook once.
It's not like my life during the Facebook break was busier or more fullfilling than before. During that time I also didn't interact any more or less with my friends face-to-face than normal, as some Facebook quitters insist will happen.
Even before my Facebook exile, I had started to feel that Facebook was becoming less interesting and meaningful. Most of the people I knew had reduced posting their quality and volume of posts and comments. With a few notable exceptions, the bulk of posts in my feed (aside from ads) were pictures of people's food, trip photos, with the occasional cartoon, George Takei post, or cat meme thrown in. Don't get my wrong, I love cat videos, cute baby pictures, and George Takei.
Upon my return to Facebook rather than feel like I had missed out on great stuff and connection with friends, I questioned why was I had been using Facebook in the first place?
But I was still surprised why I didn't miss Facebook considering how much I loved it before. So I googled quitting Facebook for others' thoughts on this.
Why Quit Facebook?
It turns out that lots of people have quit Facebook and found it similarly relieving. So I gathered some of their points below to help explain why giving up or reducing Facebook can be beneficial. I don't share all these points, but they present some keen insight into the effects of using and not using Facebook:
[Quitting Facebook meant that] I've sequestered myself from the content that moves me to compare my haves/have nots to others' and overanalyze my life and my choices.Jordan K. Turgeon Huffington Post
In getting rid of my account I had no option but to send personal e-mails, texts, cards, letters, and make phone calls, and have the quality and substantive contact that is impossible to achieve through Facebook. While the amount of contact I make with individuals on a daily basis has, of course, decreased, the quality of that contact has been greatly improved and I have started to re-establish meaningful friendships with those whom, despite social networking, I had lost touch.Abigail O'Reilly, Little Red Ranting Hood
After posting [on Facebook or Twitter], I would just move on, like a junkie moving from score to score, always looking for the next high and rarely enjoying or examining the one I was having. Posting on Facebook or Twitter just lets me flit my nails across the surface of my writing itch. Then I'd move to the next mini-moment, without ever letting whatever I was experiencing resonate within me.Maile Keone, Huffington Post
What we want when others view us [on Facebook, per a study] they learned, is praise. It's gratifying when people "Like" and/or comment on your new profile photo. The problem is that, when they don't grace you with "Likes" or comments, it makes you feel less valuable.Araceli Cruz, Fusion.net
[One of the main things I don't miss about Facebook is] the wasting of time. True story, I finish work about a half hour early each day, thanks to my not having Facebook. In between writing posts, I'd always log in, see what was up, and then I'd inevitably wind up going down some rabbit hole into someone's life I haven't physically seen in 15 years.Nicole Fabian-Weber, The Stir
All this social sharing has too often ruined my ability to be present and live in the moment. It’s easy to start viewing the world in terms of what will make a great status update. Or taking photos only for the sake of letting other people share in a moment. We soon find ourselves viewing every thing we do in life through the lens of our smartphone. Constantly reporting our lives rather than living them. Only valuing activities to the extent that they can be captured and shared online.Mathew Warner, The Radical Life
One writer, just swore off using the Like button on Facebook but found meaningful results:
I had been suffering a sense of disconnection within my online communities prior to swearing off Facebook likes. It seemed that there were fewer conversations, more empty platitudes and praise, and a slew of political and religious pageantry. It was tiring and depressing. After swearing off the Facebook Like, though, all of this changed. I became more present and more engaged, because I had to use my words rather than an unnuanced Like function. I took the time to tell people what I thought and felt, to acknowledge friend’s lives, to share both joys and pains with other human beings.Elan Morgan, Medium.com
The points raised by these writers and myself are consistent with a study ran by Pew. It turns out many people take a Facebook break - and many go back to it. Beyond the people who reported being too busy to use Facebook (21%), other people noted that they had lost interest in Facebook (10%), found that the quality of content was not compelling (10%), found the site was too full of gossip and drama (9%), or that they were spending too much time on Facebook (8%).
Although my Facebook break did not have the desired effect of improve my work efficiency, it did allow me some time to reflect on my usage and consider the effects Facebook was having on me. I strongly recommend other Facebook addicts consider a similar break.
In the end, I can't imagine quitting Facebook completely as it is a dominant communication channel and cultural outlet. But I do intend to limit my use to once every two or three days - and go from there.