One week on: Giving up Facebook is like giving up smoking

Summary:I gave up a social media 'addiction' for a week to get my essays written. Turns out, it's a lot like giving up smoking: difficult at first, but slowly gets easier.

Giving up Facebook and Twitter is almost exactly like quitting smoking.

The first few days are the worst, but once the cravings start to even out, life adds perspective again. It's not as if you gain willpower per se; it's just that you simply don't need it to get you through any longer.

My mobile phone, however, got me through. Nothing could be better than lying on my sofa on Wednesday just past midnight, blasting out some old retro-tunes on my headphones, tapping away on my netbook as I whopped out some classic academic writing, and sipping on a glass of wine.

I was in a good place. I wanted to tell the world, but I couldn't. Those who know me know full well that I don't relax half as often as I should.

I rang Lisa, my good friend. On the other side of the city, she receives a phone call from me in blind panic, thinking something was wrong. It was past midnight, after all. A mild panic attack later, she recovers, but not before giving me an earful down the phone. Though, she was pleased I was in a good mood.

I went back to my glass of wine.

The one thing I realised after a week without social media, and spending a few days back on each respective site, was how much I adjusted to not having access to social media. My Twitter usage has always been low-to-moderate, but my Facebook activity was through the roof.

My friends describe me as a 'prolific liker', relating to how often I 'like' something on Facebook. But from my perspective, it is far lazier and simpler to 'like' something than to comment. It's merely an acknowledgement of something, but its very nature is subjective and can be taken well out of context.

As Jules Renard once said, "Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired". I sleep five hours a night; I'm always bloody tired.

There is no doubt I am bored of Facebook, just as I get 'bored' of smoking. But arguably, I need both Facebook and smoking in my life.

But the interesting thing was the discovery of needing to reach out to the world.

I could have any point sent a text message to one of my contacts. That text message, under normal rules, could have gone to Twitter which would have updated my Twitter status. From there, anyone and everyone could have commented, opening the status up to variety and a greater scope of interesting comments to read back.

The want and need to be open is a strange thing for the younger generation. It's not that we no longer need to be private, but that we actively want the world to notice us in a strange, almost perverse sense of longing for attention. Perhaps with the burgeoning worldwide population, we feel as if we aren't being noticed?

I didn't finish a single essay during my time off social media, though. Mind you, I did make at least 'some' progress, I'm sure you'll be glad to know.

Oh, and I still smoke. That can wait for another post.

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Topics: Networking, Social Enterprise

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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