We are what we repeatedly do.

This photo from Patrick.Hocker’s via flickr is kinda creepy. But it struck me as an interesting visual for this post. (And I do know this is his “to do” list. But still, you get it.)

Yup. Aristotle said it and we love it around here. Apparently it struck a chord with the author of this article who committed — hold on –Facebook Suicide.

After reading Aristotle’s words “We are what we repeatedly do”, this is how Carmen Joy King felt:

I became despondent. What, then, was I? If my time was spent changing my profile picture on Facebook, thinking of a clever status update for Facebook, checking my profile again to see if anyone had commented on my page, Is this what I am? A person who re-visits her own thoughts and images for hours each day? And so what do I amount to? An egotist? A voyeur?

Whatever the label, I was unhappy and feeling empty. The amount of time I spent on Facebook had pushed me into an existential crisis. It wasn’t the time-wasting, per se, that bothered me. It was the nature of the obsession – namely self-obsession. Enough was enough. I left Facebook.


That article prompted me to think (a good thing) and to write this post about Alone Together (also inspired by a book by that name).

Which then lead to a challenge from my email pal @danholm. Seems his church challenged their members to give up something they are addicted to– smoking, over-eating, whatever. And his heart led him to FACEBOOK.

Here’s just two of a long list of the things Dan shared with me about his addiction:

• I would check Facebook on my phone in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT when I would wake up randomly at 3am.
• My wife and I would sit in bed at night and talk about stuff and people we saw on Facebook….something wrong with this picture? We would go to restaurants to eat and both have our heads buried in our phones (trust me, we still like each other).

Sound familiar?

I am not quite so addicted as Dan, but Facebook is VERY addicting. You know it. And puzzling. I have always had a love-hate relationship with facebook and most social media. Several years back in fact, I was close to someone that had such a constant need to connect and tweet, I was frightened for him. I truly believe it changed who he was, how he saw himself and what he came to value. It change his identity.

It was a bit of a constant riff between us.

So a week into Dan’s “fast”, I decided to join him on a Facebook fast of my own. I jumped in when there were 17 days left. And we agreed to update each other on how it felt, then share with you the three lessons we learned while taking a break.

I need to tell you I actually felt a little jittery when I wrote these words. “I am going on a Facebook Fast until Feb. 18th. Bye. Bye. OXOXOXO”

What if something earth shattering happened? Could I stick to it?

BTW, I did fall off the wagon once and posted a promotion for a webinar I where I was the presenter. My “off the wagon moment” did not go unnoticed. Hey, who wants to do a webinar if people aren’t listening?

So for what it’s worth, my three lessons:

1. I am not my Facebook status. This is my favorite line from Carmen’s article and sums up how I feel: “Is this what I am? A person who re-visits her own thoughts and images for hours each day?” I think the happiest people and the best leaders for that matter have this “outward attitude”. An ability to take themselves out of the equation. A self-forgetfulness. Facebooking forces you to focus on you. And that is not really me. Make sense?

2. I missed the photos most. Facebook is like an online scrapbook and better yet, it’s like a collection of scrapbooks from the folks I love. Like my kids and friends and family. I really do like to capture and share my life’s best moments. A sunny day. An amazing view. A flower found on a walk. I realized that visual sharing is what I truly DO love and in fact missed most when I gave up Facebook. Maybe it’s because photos capture what’s real.

3. I felt calmer. Maybe it was one less thing to do. Maybe it was just letting go of a habit. But maybe, just maybe… I was truly more outwardly focused. Listening to my kids stories a little deeper. Asking folks at work about their weekend instead of reading about it. Maybe I truly was less focused on me.

Okay. Dan — your turn:

1. We don’t need Facebook. Facebook Needs Us. I never thought of Facebook needing us. Lately it seems that everyone and everything tells us we need Facebook. We need to create an account, we need to update our profile picture and have witty statuses and sign on to get discounts from brands. What I found during my 21 day fast was that Facebook relies on me (and all of you) to keep their site interesting. If we don’t share, post and connect then Facebook dies. We should never forget that we own Facebook, Facebook doesn’t own us.

2. Life is only exciting if you’re engaging. I have 500 friends (impressive right? Not really). Guess how many of them noticed I went missing for three weeks? Not. A. Single. One. No one asked where I was, what I was up to or wondered where I went. I was shocked when I logged back in after my absence and only had 5 notifications. Only 5!?! How can this be possible? It’s so simple…..if we’re not engaging, generating dialogue and having a conversation….no one is going to talk back with us. The same principle goes for life in general: we must engage with our personal communities in order stay relevant. This applies to your brand as well…

3. Real connections live on without Facebook. We don’t need Facebook to connect. It just makes it a whole lot easier to connect. During my absence, I still was in contact with “my real friends”. We still hung out and guess what? I had the opportunity to ASK them about their lives and hear what they were up to in REAL LIFE. In past instances I asked them, and then already knew everything because I had stalked them on Facebook. There is something to be said about hearing people’s stories, looking them in the eyes and having a genuine conversation vs reading several status updates and attempting to piece the story together on your own. How many of my friends on Facebook are my real friends? Good question….probably a handful (please don’t tell my other “friends” they’re not my real friends). Check out this article on how many friends your brain can hold.

BTW, thanks to @thebrandbuilder for sharing this article with me (via Facebook I might add) in the first place and to Dan for inspiring me to take a little break and time to reflect.

And now your turn. Do you have a social media fasting story to share?

  • http://libbywilliamsphotographs.com libby

    Robbin – you my fast all too well.

    About a year ago, I decided to really sit back and listen to what Twitter was about. The people I followed at the time were either posting about their breakfasts, the fabulous weather, the unsurprising demise of legend Michael Jackson, or parading the self-promotion flag a little too proudly. Anytime I posted something, there were few to respond. It felt like I was talking to a group of lonely people who weren’t doing much different. It felt like shouting in a trash can…you only hear the echo of yourself and the resonant smell of yesterdays news.

    I still don’t twitter. Much. I tried to go back and see if anything changed. It’s the same. Nothing is different. When I have passion about a subject, I want to find someone who cares. Not someone who cares about themselves.

    Facebook is very different for me. I love the photos as well. It’s my passion. But what I realized is that it even isn’t real sometimes. Even I only post the images I WANT people to see.

  • http://brainsonfire.com Robbin

    Well said Libby. I just think at some point if you over do it, you can start to drink your own koolaid. Best to keep everything habitual in check I suppose. Aristotle got it so right.


  • http://writingonpurpose.com Teresa Basich

    I, like you, Robbin, have a love-hate relationship with social media — they are wonderful means of connecting, but there’s a downside that I fight with regularly. Like your friend, I’ve changed, and not for the better, because of my attachment to these communication channels. At first they were fantastic ways to keep up with folks, but at the height of my addiction (bah, that word scares me) I couldn’t go 10 minutes without checking into one or another of these places. And for what? I found myself in constant “observer” mode, watching other people live, rather than living my own life.

    I participated this past weekend in the National Day of Unplugging and, although it was only a day, it felt wonderful. I’ve also taken some steps in my professional life to move away from constantly having to use and be present on social media, and I already feel as if a bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

    For all that social media is an incredible phenomenon in the way human beings communicate and connect, there’s a fine line between benefitting from its use and getting stuck in the ether of virtual life. I want to live, not just observe. If I have something to share, I want it to be worth the share. And when I catch up with people, I really want those moments to be rooted in voice and personal (even face-to-face!) connection.

    Great lessons learned, and great post. :-)


  • http://alterimaging.com Vincent Ammirato

    I always tell my students that, if the service is free then you aren’t that service’s customer, you are their product. Did you know that you can make everything on FB private *except* your “likes”?

    Each one of those “likes” is a quanta of marketing data and they are slowly building up a more and more complete profile of each of their users….to be sold to marketers so they can better customize their messages to tug at each persons’ individual heartstrings.

    Stay out of our head! Advertisers already have too much influence. I have a little 5yo that asked me one day if I thought she was too fat!

    As an antidote to the madness I like to combine the concepts of Bogusky’s “Digital Super Me” (we only reveal our positive traits online) and Tyler Durden’s mantra “you are not your khakis”. No matter how many likes I click, FB will never know or own me.

    That and I never, ever click the ads.

  • http://www.marcreece.net Marc Reece

    I just discovered your blog and book and I LOVE IT!!!! I am not my Facebook status! brilliant. I have to admit that I have been weening myself off facebook with personal status updates and have decided to only make posts if it will enhance someones life, like this post. You guys have a refreshing spin to being social. Are we really being social if we communicate only through posts? Its somewhat of an oxy moran wouldn’t you say.

  • http://www.jbillingsdesign.com/ Josh Billings

    I am also a recent fan of your book and I just stumbled onto your blog. I really like what all of you stand for and look forward to learning even more about you through your blog.

    I find this article interesting and timely. Although I have never created a profile on Facebook, I can relate to this posting in regards to the blogging world. It is easy to get consumed checking on all your on-line acquaintances and trying to leave them with relevant comments. I can really relate to Dan’s second revelation mentioned in this article. After six months of obsessive blogging and commenting I realized people liked my comments and posts but all my participation was not necessary. People are not offended if I don’t visit their site and life does carry on without my on-line actions In realizing the futility of my blogging pursuits I came to the conclusion that Facebook and Twitter would inevitably end in the same rabbit hole. I now keep and limit my one on-line use in an attempt to cultivate my real life’s sphere of influence.

  • Pingback: Facebook and I (2) | My little bubble