First there were Dry July, Febfast and Oct-sober encouraging Aussies to give up alcohol for a month; now it seems we’re giving up social media for “Facebook-Free February”.
Australians who say they’re sick of wasting hours on the social network, worried about their privacy and bored to death by friends’ mundane status updates, have pledged to drop Facebook this month in favour of real-life social contact, phone calls and emails.
Parents Ben and Emma Payne, from Richmond in NSW, are switching off to spend more time with their three children, Jacinta, 6, Mackenzie, 4, and Max, 1.
Mr Payne, 34, reluctantly describes himself as “addicted” to Facebook, admitting to spending up to three hours a day on the site.
“I check it at work, I’ll check it on the train and I’ll get home and I’ll check it, there are constant checks throughout the day,” he said. “Over the long weekend I was bored and I found that I checked it every hour. Over the year think about how many times you look up Facebook – it’s ridiculous how much time you waste.”
This will be the second Facebook fast for the web developer, who said he struggled with boredom when he ditched the social network last February.
“The last time I did it I found I would sometimes just stand in the middle of the room, like Forrest Gump when Jenny left him, standing there just staring,” he said. “Normally I’d pick up my phone and check Facebook.”
Mr Payne said he felt social media was “without a doubt” having a negative effect on children, as parents spend more of their time tweeting and updating their Facebook statuses. “I know of people who go away on holidays and the whole time they’re on the phone, ignoring their kids,” he said.
Internet addiction expert Dr Philip Tam said Facebook-Free February was a symptom of more people becoming “unhealthily obsessed” with social media.
“The whole set-up of social media invites compulsive behaviour, you get so desperate to get feedback and once you’re trapped in this cycle it’s often very hard to extricate yourself,” he said.
“That’s one reason why people are probably feeling the need to formalise this concept of a detox month.”
Brisbane student and part-time worker Jenny King, 49, came up with the idea after becoming disillusioned with the social network, and was surprised to discover she wasn’t the only one.
“I was thinking of Dry July and Movember and I sort of came up with ‘Facebook-Free February’ but obviously lots of other people had the same idea,” she said.
“I want to reclaim my life, I feel like Mr Facebook is creeping in and trying to suck me into his vortex and I just want to say I don’t need it. They keep putting ads on there, and there’s been all these changes to privacy settings, and it just makes me nervous … so I’m going to have a month off and see if I really miss it.
“I might use it as a chance to do some old-fashioned letter-writing.”
Mother-of-two Gretel Sneath, from Port Macdonnell in South Australia, decided to switch off when she realised the site had become “dull and boring”. The 37-year-old freelance writer said she was angry at herself for constantly logging on to Facebook only to be distracted from her work by “pointless” posts.
“It’s unhealthy for a productive working schedule. And most of it is just pointless, it’s just supermarket talk. There’s not enough witty, stimulating or entertaining stuff – I think it’s become a lot more bland.”
Mother-of-two Jane Doye, from Arthur’s Seat in Victoria, decided to switch off after hearing about the idea from a friend.
“It’s become a big time waster,” said the 37-year-old, who describes Facebook as “a necessary evil” and admits to checking in up to 10 times a day.
“My last Facebook status said ‘you’ve got my attention for one more day, and after that you’ve got to phone me’, so we’ll see.”
However, a word of warning from Dr Tam.
The doctor – co-founder of the Network for Internet Investigation and Research Australia – said going cold turkey wasn’t necessarily the best way to treat a Facebook addiction.
“I might make the analogy with crash dieting in that clearly excessively using social media is fulfilling a need and if you suddenly stop it, it’s going to come back later,” he said.
“You have to analyse the underlying issues of why you need to depend on it so much, for which I’d recommend some self-relection first of all and possibly professional help if they think they’ve got an issue. It’s all about balance.”
Wow people actually wanting to quit. And finding that there are more like them. It’s nice to see people waking up to what is going on;
“The whole set-up of social media invites compulsive behaviour, you get so desperate to get feedback and once you’re trapped in this cycle it’s often very hard to extricate yourself,”
If this is true, then who is it good for?
These people talk they are alcoholics, which really they are. They have recognised that they have a problem and are taking steps to do something about it.
We believe that most people are addicted to Facebook. How can we say this? Try this little test. Choose anyone you know and ask them to quit Facebook and DELETE it, not deactivate it, really DELETE it and see what they say……………………………..try it.
They will probably say something like, well I should, or I would if I wanted to blaa blaa blaa. In other words no they won’t or can’t.