What I learned from my Facebook fast

Usually I give up French fries for Lent. I love them, and they’re the standard side dish at many restaurants, so I have to make a little effort to make sure they don’t appear on my plate. In other years, I’ve given up cookies, candy, chocolate, the usual stuff, in addition to not eating meat on Fridays. But this year, I realized I needed to give up something that I would really miss: Facebook.

Being a wimpy Catholic, I didn’t give it up altogether. I just ruled that I couldn’t look at Facebook until my day’s work was done. After all, social networking is considered essential to a writer’s career these days. But it’s so easy to click on the little “f” in the morning and waste an hour reading and responding to everyone’s posts. By the time I finish, it’s time to check email, and then, since I’ve frittered away so much time, why not do an online jigsaw puzzle, and oh, might as well check Facebook again to see if anyone commented on or “liked” something I posted. Before I know it, it’s lunchtime, and I’m too sleepy to write after lunch.

So, no Facebook till my work is done. Sort of like no dessert until you eat your peas and carrots. No going out to play until you do your homework. I set up a whiteboard listing the major tasks of my day–write, rewrite, market, practice my music, walk the dog, and I got to work. It wasn’t easy because I love the instant connection with other people that Facebook gives. I was only able to resist because I had promised God.

Immediately I got more work done. A lot more work. I produced pages of writing, revised things I had written before, and submitted my work to publishers. I made visible progress on my to-do piles. All of a sudden, I felt as if I had so much time. I could write my blog posts, write in my journal, experiment with a poem, start a new piece . . . I had no idea how much time I had been wasting.

 Most blog hosts allow you to automatically buzz your posts on Facebook and Twitter, so notices about my blog posts appeared without my actually going there. Normally I would go to Facebook to see if anyone had commented. But no, no looking at Facebook during working hours.

So, I learned that I could find big delicious gulps of time simply by not looking at Facebook and other social networking sites during working hours. That includes Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads and whatever else one is addicted to.

I also learned that I wasn’t missing much. Don’t get me wrong. I love Facebook. It’s a great way to keep up with friends and family. But I can absorb everything worth reading there in one visit a day. I do not have to read every post, and I do not have to keep checking back to see what people have said about my posts. It will wait.

Lent is almost over. I will gladly go back to eating meat on Fridays. It’s amazing how I crave steak or hamburger on that one day when I’m not supposed to eat it. But I plan to continue limiting my Facebook time. It’s a delightful distraction when I’m unsure about or uncomfortable with the work at hand, but it keeps me from doing more important things.

Want to join me? No Facebook, Twitter or online games until we’re done with the day’s work. Try it for a month, okay? Tell me how it turned out.