For the past three Fridays, I’ve been trying to be Facebook-Free. (If you haven’t already figured it out, I like my alliterations.)

Yesterday marked the first time I’d been successful. (I had set WordPress up to automatically post to Facebook on my behalf, so that wasn’t me checking in.) All this effort only serves to highlight how sadly addicted I’ve become to social media. And as it turns out, I’m not alone. I was reading A Pendulum World yesterday, and she too was working through her habits and actions when it comes to blogging and social media engagement. Her post resonated with enough women to garner 21 responses and counting – all of them bemoaning the fact that they have difficulty switching off.

It’s very much a problem of the age. And before some of us start mounting our high horses about the generations after ours (in my case, Generation Y, Millenials, and iGen), let’s just say that the Corporate world – currently dictated largely by older Gen Xers and those before them – have a lot to answer for, too. We are now expected to be On Tap and fully accessible through the myriad of technologies availed to us. You can now get your emails through your desktop, your tablet AND your mobile, and for the more progressive companies, they’re pushing documents and news through instant chat apps and the like. The influx of information – whether prescribed to or subscribed by us – can be unrelenting.

And then there’s that big lie about multi-tasking, and how women are built for it.

“Contrary to popular belief, human beings cannot multitask. What we are capable of is handling a number of serial tasks in rapid succession, or mixing automatic tasks with those that are not so automatic. That’s one of the reasons that the NTSB reports that texting while driving is the functional equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. You just can’t effectively attend to two things at once – even the superficially automatic ones.” ~ From Psychology Today

“It’s a common belief that women are better at multi-tasking than men. After all, productivity studies show that women continue to do the lion’s share of household and childcare tasks, while also holding down part- or full-time work. So this must mean women are better multi-taskers, right? Not necessarily. For a topic that causes so much heat in the kitchen, there’s surprisingly little scientific evidence to declare a clear winner.” ~ From National Science Week 2011. The study goes on to prove that women look like better multi-taskers, because they are better at planning and strategy.

I speak purely for myself when I say my Facebooking is compulsive. If I have a free moment with the gadgets, that’s the place I’ll go. I may not be the type of Facebooker to post a pic of every meal I’ve had, repost every news article I’ve come across, or give a blow-by-blow of my hourly movements (unless I am pathetically trying to do A Photo An Hour). But if I posted a series of photos, you’ll be sure I’ll be checking in to see how the numbers are climbing. And don’t get me started on blog posts. Every blogger I’ve met not-so-secretly watches their stats climb after they publish a post. And that is something I have come to actively repress because of how narcissistic it is.

The scariest thing of all is that it’s become a reflex – I don’t know I’m doing it, until I’m already there. That’s when I knew I had a problem.

The biggest losers in all of this, of course, are the relations in my life. Specifically, the daughter I deliberately stayed home most days of the week to blog about. The Art of Being Present has started to elude me. And yet, I watch Arddun and all she does is live in the present. No casting back on the past, no organising about the future. Yet somehow, as we grow older, we take on this odd paradigm that thinking ahead is sagacious and living in the Now is indulgent.

There are a few posts meshed in this untidy one – multi-tasking, living in the present, turning things off – so I’ll try and focus just on the one for tonight.

Here’s a few things I’ve been trying out lately to discipline my social media-checking compulsion.

  1. Getting Alarmed
    I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my FitBit One, but I went and got a nice maroon one from ebay early this year, and it has evolved into my Life Reminder – mostly because I can program several alarms on it and it vibrates against my body discreetly. My three main FitBit alarms are for waking up, for reminding me to sleep, and for my 3pm cup of tea – which is the permission I give myself to check personal emails and Facebook. This worked out great for about a month, until I stopped wearing it from the middle of my second trimester due to the lack of pockets in maternity wear. You read that right.
  2. Finding a replacement
    I think part of the reason I click on Facebook is the unthinking need to connect to someone, or to feed the mind. And so I’m starting to pick up my mobile and call others for a chat if I have a block of time. Or sit and plan for the next day with paper and pen. Or write an actual letter, stamps and everything. Or read an ebook borrowed from the library. Or write a summary of my day in a journal. All this takes conscientious effort and self-awareness. And it’s about unlearning an old habit, at the end of the day. I can still be in the middle of checking Facebook before realising I had defaulted to that without thinking. But at least the self-awareness is growing.
  3. Going cold turkey one day a week
    So like I said in the beginning of this post, Friday is supposed to be my Facebook-Free day. And yesterday was the first time I succeeded. Some of the things that helped – planning in advance. Resolving the night before that Friday was Facebook Free. Coming up with the alliteration in the first place, so I’d remember. And then moving/hiding the app icon, so that muscle memory wouldn’t kick in. I tried not to binge today after a day of Facebook fasting, so building in new rules for regular days of the week have been crucial for me. I get to check Facebook in the mornings, before I’m out of bed. I’m still sticking to my 3pm as far as possible — even without my FitBit One — and then after dinner to unwind.

Why am I even wanting to do this? Because Being Present with Arddun is my greatest gift to her at this stage. Quality time IS Quantity time. The two are intertwined. And while Being Present isn’t just about not Facebooking (I have many other distractions like housework), it is at least a good start.