Trading Facebook for facetime

July 1, 2013
photo credit

photo credit

A few weeks ago an online friend commented that she’d given up her addiction to social media and had never been happier. I struggle, myself, with the amount of time I can sit and read posts, comment and talk to social media pals while important things in my life go unattended.  I asked if she’d write a guest post about how she unhooked from the social media whirl, and what it was like. This is her post. I hope you learn as much from it as I did. Here’s Beth Grace, guest posting today.

A fat handful of years ago, a very successful writer friend offered a piece of advice: “Use your time and energy to create and tend a solid online presence.”

This woman has an impressive resume. Several of her big-publishing-house-published books sit on my shelf and I’m one of many who’ve benefited from her mentoring. She knows her stuff. So I hopped to it. I signed up with a blogging site and dedicated regular blocks of time to being a good citizen of that online neighborhood. I wrote, read, commented, and replied dutifully to comments on my posts. And much to my surprise, I fell in love. I live just outside a major metropolis and have easy access to a vast array of culturally enriching experiences, but in some ways, my blogging community held my heart more than my concrete and maple trees one. Writers and artisans, hippie-hearts and brilliant minds—all just a few clicks away. I was enchanted.

Site #1 bellied up and the core group moved to MySpace and after tumbleweeds took over there, to Facebook. We shared links to our posts from WordPress and Blogger, tweeted, and reposted with gusto. Hungry for more, I resurrected a blogging group that had begun and thrived on MySpace until its admin’s enthusiasm went from sizzle to fizzle and spent, she closed the doors. Original members rejoined and invited their friends. It didn’t take long before strangers became Facebook friends and friends became family.

Facebook is a funny place. Just the fact that I think of it as a ‘place’ says something. It’s not Mayberry, but it’s definitely a community. Hang out for a while and you’ll find your peeps. Life online can be a wonderful thing.

Is what you love most your online life?

Is what you love most your online life?

It can also be an enormous time-suck.

See if this scenario feels familiar: You make some friends on Facebook—probably a big bunch of friends—and there’s a dozen or two with whom you form genuinely close connections. Though you live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, you are neighbors. You are friends, true-blue, you-can-call-me-at-three-in-the-morning friends. So as friends do, you hang out. You kick off your shoes, grab your favorite coffee mug, and pop in for quick visits that turn into extended stays.

A few folks invite you to play some games they love and soon, you love ‘em, too. You tell each other jokes, share pictures of your kids and stories of your daily escapades, vent when you need to, and listen with compassion when it’s their turn. You celebrate each other’s victories and mourn one another’s losses. Before long, you’re updating your status from your phone because the idea of waiting until you get home seems ridiculous and unnecessary—and oddly uncomfortable. If this were crack, it would kill you. It isn’t, so it doesn’t, but for all its pleasure, there is a price, and that price is paid in the dearest of currency: time.

More than a year ago, I took a good look at how I was spending my desk time. What had begun as a quest to develop an online presence had morphed slowly into something else. I realized that although I had indeed carved out a little place in a thriving internet community, I had lost my balance. A great portion of my time online was spent doing  Nothing. No-thing. Nothing. Worse yet was that desk time was infringing on non-desk time, and non-desk time, as we all know, is when all the really good stuff happens.

The decision to take time to "stop & smell the roses" takes discipline.

The decision to take time to “stop & smell the roses” takes courage & discipline.

I let that realization roll around in my head for a while and it soon found its way into the pit of my stomach. The answer should have been clear, and it was. Yet I was torn. The strangers-to-friends-to-family people mattered to me, and they still do. I didn’t want to leave them. I decided to spend a full month fully offline—an internet detox, if you will—and announced my hiatus.

This will sound crazy, but I expected those 30 days to reset my balance and was sure month’s end would find me happily juggling the perfect blend of work, friends, family, and online/offline time—magically allowing 50 hours worth of stuff to be crammed into every 24. That’s not what happened.

Instead, the little voice that had whispered its wisdom refused to be ignored (thank you, little voice). It spoke up more clearly and when it was again hushed, it grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a good shake. Finally, I listened.

Change came in baby steps, but today, I have no desire to live much of my life online. I’ve rolled up the rug at my blog and put a sign on the door: Out of Business. I won’t rule out a Grand Re-Opening at some point, but not any time soon.

Sleep, sweet rejuvenating sleep, the thing I most often shunned to feed my habit since I was not about to give up visits with the kids, playtime with the grands, and spontaneous waltzes in the kitchen with the hubs while dinner cooks, is once again mine. Work still claims a fair portion of my time, but I’m doing my working and playing and loving and laughing largely away from social networking sites, and I have no regrets. I check in online, but I no longer set up camp. The you-can-call-me-at-three-in-the-morning people know they still can; my shoulders and ears never close for those who matter to me. I’d be willing to bet they’d still take my calls, too. The support I’ve received from my online besties has been wonderful. Not one harsh word was directed at me as I’ve transitioned away. I have gotten quite a few calls, emails, and private messages. Most went something like this:

“Are you really okay? ‘Cause I’m here for you if you’re not. You know that, right?”

I do know, and I truly appreciate the care.

“Are you working on a big secret project? Are you writing a book?”

I’m always writing something. That’s no secret.

“Have you embarked on an all-consuming fitness plan? Is that why you’re not online much?”

Nope. Less desk-time has meant less on-my-fanny time, but that’s just an unplanned perk.

“I can’t imagine not blogging and Facebooking. Don’t you miss it?”

No, I really don’t. I sometimes miss the people, but when I do, I pop in to see what they’re up to and say hello.

 Life is short and no matter our station in life, we’re afforded 24 fresh hours each day to do with what we please. We can’t stockpile them and they can run out, possibly without notice, at any time. Tending a virtual farm and snorting at George Takei’s (super fabulous) posts might be entertaining, but in the currency of time, they’re just too pricey for me.

The question I’ve gotten most?

“What on earth are you doing?”

My answer is simple: I’m taking care of myself; I’ve given myself a gift. I’m jumping in leaf piles, making snowmen, planting tomatoes, reading in the pool, bouncing babies, playing Tag, strolling hand-in-hand, talking late into the night, and whispering sweet nothings. I’ve traded Facebook for facetime, and it’s the best move I’ve made in a very long time.

My writer friend and mentor will always have my respect, and though her advice was well-intended, it was misplaced. We’ve each got to do what feels right for ourselves, and I’m far happier spending my time and energy tending my offline 2013

Elizabeth Grace, aka Word Nerd, pretends her brick two-story in suburbia is a fairy house nestled deep in the woods. When she’s not writing, she likes to spoil her (beautiful and brilliant) grandkids, sing off-key, dream about winning the lottery, and talk to strangers. Her husband finds her quirkiness charming, which has made him ever-increasingly adored for more than three decades.



33 comments on “Trading Facebook for facetime
  1. Leigh Young says:

    Congrats on being a guest speaker AND taking time for your inner self! That is a strenuous task at best. Physical life versus Online life….friends are good to find anywhere…However, as with any relationship, you need to take time away to have experiences to share with your friends. I look forward to more of your writings. Thank you for sharing with all of us!

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Exactly! Finding that balance is the trick, and each person’s perfect balance will be uniquely their own. I think I’ve found mine, at least for this chapter of my life. Thanks so much for coming by to read and comment!

  2. Julie Phelps says:

    Good reading – thanks for sharing your thoughts on all this online addiction we so easily get sucked into.
    Lately I have also been making conscious decisions that reduce my online time and it feels liberating, to say the least. While I am checking out profiles on online dating sites (still trying to find Mr. Possibility) it seems I automatically pass over the guys who don’t appear to be computer literate. I think to myself, “how could we possible have much in common if he doesn’t spend time with the computer and Internet?” Then THUNK! I remind myself there is more to enjoying a life together than being separately checking out what is happening online. To think that it has come to this!?!
    Anyway, your post was very timely in my own case. I think I am more myself now.
    Smiles …

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Mr. Possibility! LOVE that!!! I know what you mean…it seems odd for someone not to be in the social networking loop these days, yet there’s a whole lot more life to live than what can happen while seated in a chair, looking at a screen. I hope you find your Mr. Holy-crap-he’s SO-perfect-for me!

  3. Jo Heroux says:

    I love you. I respect you. I have missed your witty musings and your sage advice. That being said. I do know that we will be friends for life because we share so many moral and intellectual values that we are, in fact, sisters of the heart. There is seldom a full day that you don’t wander through my mind. So while I miss your online presence, you are in attendance in my life.

    Although this move away from the Beth I used to know startled me initially, I know it has brought you happiness in a more fulfilling way than could have been anticipated. For that, I am thrilled.

    For me, my online life has inspired my muse to stay the course. I enjoy the connection with casual writers and professionally successful writers from all over the world. I draw strength and stories sometimes just jumping into my brain from a quick exchange; my muse is perhaps living under my keyboard? Moving away from my writing groups is not something I ever entertain, because I am not obsessed nor do I feel obligated or overwhelmed, I feel connected and I belong. Like you, some are forever friends, some are casual acquaintances and most are simply part of my writing life. My wonderful circle of creative friends who were never so abundant in my life until I joined your group and bloomed.

    So, be happy doing your facetime and loving and living and continue to pop in and send smiles and by all means continue to be the loving woman I will always adore.

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      I love you too, Jo. You are definitely one of my you-can-call-me-at-three-in-the-morning people! I think the main difference for you and me as far as time online is simply that you’ve retired and I’m not there yet. That frees up the hours for you to enjoy a full online experience without shortchanging the rest. The writing groups (and um, especially the GBE…) are WONDERFUL sources of friendship, support, and encouragement. The people there are such kindred spirits; it’s not surprising that so many of us feel right at home there.

  4. Jennifer Wilck says:

    I love that you’ve done this, Beth! I, too, miss your presence online, but I so admire you for what you’ve done. Everyone must determine what’s truly important to them, and to recognize that you were missing out on what was important to you, and to fix it, is a wonderful accomplishment. And it makes when you do pop in, that much more special!

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Jennifer, thank you! I found myself repeatedly griping that there weren’t enough hours in the day. I knew how ridiculous that was and knew, too, that the only solution was to get my priorities in line.

  5. Janie Emaus says:

    I’ve been having this debate with myself lately. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      It can be so hard to find the balance. Most of us have SO many things we need to do and even more we WANT to do. All in its own time, I guess. 🙂

  6. Kathy says:

    Love this post Beth. Yes, you are missed, but you are taking your own path. I have gotten to the point where I can get my work done during the day (faster if I avoid FB) and have my weekends off. The only upside for me having spent so much time on social media is that I have a whole new appreciation for “real life” time. I haven’t quite made it to where you are, but I see it in the near future. As usual, great and inspiring post…never expected less 🙂

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Thanks, Kathy. You are building such a wonderfully solid and independent offline life, which is not only terrific for you, but a great example for Hunter. He will always understand that his future in wholly in his hands…and I think he’ll have a true appreciation of the strength of women, too. 🙂

  7. Real life, real experiencing of each moment of life trumps virtual every time. I found this to be especially true when I suffered a serious injury and needed quite a bit of real, on-the-spot help just getting around. Virtual friends are just that, virtual…

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      I agree with you (to a large degree). I have a few online friends who I absolutely believe would come to me if I truly needed them. But you’re right, for the most part, our ‘real’ lives are where we live. I look at it in much the same way I do cell phone usage–it’s ridiculous (and dazzlingly rude) for someone to ignore the people they’re having dinner with to chat it up with someone at the other end of the line.

  8. Beth, good for you on stepping back. While I’m not making any hard-and-fast rules for myself, I rarely get on FB or Twitter on the weekends, cut back blogging to once a week, and am working also to get RL (Real Life) in better focus. Much as I adore my online friends (like you!) there are still only so many hours in the day.

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      That “so many hours in a day” thing is the kicker. Can’t do much about that… 😀

      I think our generation has a lot to juggle. Depending on our career choice, we’re almost obligated to be fairly active online. Yet the rest remains and needs us, too. Balance. The magic word is balance…

  9. I had to step back from my online presence too. Though some days, it might not seem like it, I don’t post nearly as much as I used to, I’m not sitting in front of the computer as much as I once did, and I spend more time OUT doing stuff. It’s that stuff that fills me up so I have something to write about online at all anyway!

    I’ll never give it up completely. But I totally respect that priorities are different for everyone and we all have to find the balance that works in our lives. You’ve found that for you–and I wish that for everyone else too!

    Love ya!


    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Michy, you are one of my very favorite people, but I’m sure you already knew that. You made a GREAT point about how living life provides stuff to write about! The more we connect and use all of our senses, the better equipped we are to write in a way that rings true for people. All of it–our joy and even our pain (maybe especially our pain) educates us and makes us better writers.

      Thanks for popping over and adding your two cents. I love ‘ya, too. Loads.

  10. Amy Morgan says:

    Beth, I took your experience to heart and too, did some soul searching and have backed off my social media quite a bit. I was beginning to feel like it ran my life and I feel more in control of my time again. Still working to find the balance – I love the line about crack – made me smile.

    All the best to you,

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      I think a great many of us are trying to find our balance. And just when we think we’ve got it, we enter a new chapter in our lives and need to recalculate the whole shebang. 😉

      I think my main goal–now and hopefully forever–is simply to do the things that I know are right for me at that time. It sounds so much easier than it sometimes is, doesn’t it?

      I hope you find the perfect blend for you!

  11. Susan Cooper says:

    It is so true that social media can suck us into a whole other world. It is especially true for bloggers and those of us who work from home because it really is very solitary. Good for you that you were able to take a step back and find time for you. 🙂

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      You’re SO right, Susan! The world is so much smaller than it was even a generation ago, yet we are often more isolated than ever. Strange.

  12. Sharon Greenthal says:

    Having spent the past 8 months building and launching a website, being online was not a choice for me, but an obligation. I adore my online connections, and I feel that my world has grown enormously from them, but I keep my real life connections strong by continuing to see my friends and family socially and talk to them on the phone. Having said that, there are days that just get completely swallowed up by social media and my website.

    I can see how offline would be a nice break from all that online time!

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Sharon, you’re a savvy woman, and you always seem to be able to keep everything flowing in a really good way. It seems clear to me that you’ve been able to find the right balance for your life, which is just wonderful. That’s the tricky part–it’s not as if there is a magic one-size-fits-all formula. We each need to test drive a little of this and a little of that until we find our personal recipe for happiness. I’m glad you’ve found yours!

  13. Kim Morgan says:

    This makes so much sense. I wish I was more comfortable dealing with people face-to-face. I know I spend way too much time online. You’ve given me food for thought!


    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Kim, I’m a weird blend. I’m slightly introverted, but I LOVE talking to people (does that make sense?). The thing that always, always, always makes me happy is feeling truly connected. The rest of the stuff could fall away and I’d be fine, but I love listening to people tell their stories–almost always, our sameness outweighs any surface, hardly-matters differences.

      That being said, I think you’re pretty awesome just as you are. Your online comfort might trump your in-person ease, and that’s perfectly okay. You have a wonderful way of making people feel welcomed and appreciated. That’s a true gift.

  14. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Good for you for putting YOURSELF on your own TO DO LIST! I applaud you!

  15. Sheryl says:

    It’s so hard to turn away…I try, I really try. I’m not totally hooked to online social media, but I’m close. But I keep telling myself I will NOT let myself take that step over the line to the other side. It’s so easy to get sucked in. Good for you for resisting the pull!

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      It’s a hard line to walk sometimes, Sheryl! Social media really IS social…and kind of wonderful. It took some doing for me to keep myself from teetering too far over the edge. 😉

  16. admin says:

    When Beth related a bit of her story to me, I knew I wanted to learn more. I can say for sure that nothing I’ve read this year has had as big an impact as her guest post for my site. I know the pull of social media, especially for us writers, who often prefer writing to talking. God knows, I’m like that to a certain extent. . And yet.

    More coming this summer on changes in my life inspired by Beth’s decision.

    • Beth (Word Nerd) says:

      Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell this story, Carol, and for your kind words. I hope you find your perfect balance–the one that makes you sit back and think, “Ah yes, I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do.” 🙂

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