They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. That was the number of days I walked away from Facebook for last fall. I logged on and made one status update stating that I was going off for three weeks so I could completely focus on my ghostwriting and photography. I promptly deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone, the one I’d tap on while waiting in line at the grocery store or while out to dinner with a friend who excused themselves to go to the restroom. I then removed the link from my “Favorites” list in my internet browser. I was truly committed to three weeks of being Facebook-Free!
On the first morning, instead of scrolling through news feeds and friends’ profiles, I left the house with a cleaner than usual kitchen, a load of laundry done and an empty dishwasher that I normally would have let sit until later that evening. During the day, I wrote two chapters of a client’s book and went on a photo shoot in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the end of the first day, I concluded that by time the three weeks were up, I’d be labeled a Domestic Goddess, several more chapters of my client’s book would be completed, and my photography portfolio would have additional Blue Ridge Mountain images. After the three weeks, I would return to posting Facebook status updates as usual.
Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography
Then the next morning came, and the next and the next. With each of these passing days, my productivity, creativity, and focus soared. It was on the sixth day when Deepak Chopra and Arianna Huffington visited the University of Virginia. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect as they guided students, faculty and members of the community in a “Mediation on the Lawn.” They stood on the steps of the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda. The “Lawn” spread out before them was filled with the hundreds of people who came for the event. In both of their opening words, they spoke of the importance of unplugging from social media in order to tap into our authentic selves. I sat front and center, absorbed their message of releasing mind-clutter, while also capturing several images with my camera in order to preserve the moment.
In the following days, I encouraged friends to stop for a moment and think about the incredible amount of mind-clutter that we filter through when we’re on Facebook. Our minds are overloaded from weeding through the scrolling updates and images with endless images of cats and “uplifting” quotes. The filter is constantly working without our realizing how exhausting it is for our subconscious minds to process all of these bits of information.
It was also in the second week when it became obvious that one of the biggest benefits of the 21 Day Facebook Detox was that I was now tapping back into real life, not the illusion of life often projected by Facebook and other social media outlets. I was going on longer photo shoots that resulted in some of my best work. Creativity in my photographs came more readily because my mind was clear of clutter, allowing higher levels of inspiration to find me. Focused and driven, I was capturing landscapes that had new meaning and depth to them. I was hooked with being unplugged!
What was also interesting was how my experiences at the coffee shop where I write from started to change. The coffee shop became my social avenue. People talked to me more. I noticed things like how we all took turns opening the door for the man who rolls in every morning in his wheelchair. How the old men at “their” round table started including me in conversations about local politics. I was no longer walking in, putting down my purse and laptop and immediately getting to work after ordering my Arnold Palmer. Instead, I was engaging in the community, and as a result, I felt more connected and alive in a small coffee shop than I ever did with my 4,158 friends (and counting) on Facebook.
In a recent conversation with my literary agent about this experiment, she made what may seem like an obvious point, but what many don’t often take to heart. Her point was that when Facebook or other social media is used effectively, it isn’t draining. Limiting our time on social media frees up the rest of our day to truly connect with people, and more importantly, with ourselves. She also noted that when we unplug from social media, we are more conscious of having a quality, not quantity, experience when we do plug back in.
None of this is a claim as a shocking revelation, but how many of us are actually doing this?
This is what I discovered in my 21 Day Facebook Detox:
• My productivity soared.
• My mind was free of excessive mind-clutter.
• Inspiration and breakthroughs came readily and daily.
• My creativity reached new heights for both my writing and my photography.
• Opportunities opened up for me in amazing ways.
Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography
Detoxing from Facebook was the best decision I could have made for my career, peace of mind, and livelihood. The image you see above of the weathervane at sunset was one I captured on Day 18. I thought it was appropriate to share because as I later viewed it on my computer screen, I wondered what direction I would take with social media when the 21 Days were up.
Note: I encourage those of you who may spend a wee bit too much time on Facebook to try the 21 Day Facebook Detox.
Originally posted by Heather Hummel on the Huffington Post 10/31/2013: