A few days before Christmas, in a mad dash to get all my work done before a trip to California, I reached my social media limit.
I was scrolling through my feed to follow the news, talking to friends through Facebook Messenger, and simultaneously panicking about my deadlines. When I accidentally sent a Facebook message meant for a friend to a source for a story, I realized that having social media open and available at all moments was interfering with both my work and my private life.
On a fed-up whim, I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone. And on my computer, I did something rare: I logged out.
I’m usually the first person to worry about FOMO (fear of missing out). But dropping Facebook right before a holiday was actually the perfect time. Most of my friends were so busy with travel and families that Facebook was lulling anyway. And shareable news usually quiets down around that time of year.
Still, it was an adjustment. My goddaughter Stella, whom I was visiting, was adorable — and extremely photogenic. When the 2-year-old stomped around the backyard singing, “We Will Rock You,” my friend filmed it and posted it to Facebook. I, however, lamented that I wasn’t on Facebook to comment or like it.
It drove me a little crazy, until it hit me: I was there to comment and like Stella’s ridiculous concert. In person.
I may not have gotten lots of thumbs up for the posting, but I got something better — a memory.
Since then, I’ve cut back significantly on my Facebook use, though not completely. (As a journalist, I have to use it for work.) To my surprise, I’ve discovered that the desire to scroll through my feed when I should and could be doing other things has ebbed.
It hasn’t been a seamless transition, though. I spend way more time on Twitter now than I ever used to. Instagram has become a new source for mindless scrolling when I’ve got a moment of downtime.
As Eva Hoffman, the author of “How to Be Bored,” put it, “We’re so terrified of moments of inactivity, because we have no inner resources, no ways of being thoughtful or just relishing moments of experience.”
All I can say to that is ... I’m working on it.
Allowing ourselves to sit quietly, to have nothing to do on a minute-long elevator ride, to think — it’s hard.
I’m as addicted to constant news as the next person. And yet, if cutting back on social media even a little bit can give me just a few more memories, seen through the lenses on my face instead of the one on my phone, I’d give that a “like.”