Four years ago I was dreadfully unhappy.
I had battled my way through my teen years, facing off against a chronic illness which robbed me of my excitement and my joy. After recovering, I realized that I had taken for granted everything I had fought so hard to claw back. Instead of enjoying the health, I was wasting it on Facebook.
Time after time, I would spend my time refreshing the page like something new was going to change my life. In a crazy moment of clarity, I decided to quit Facebook.
I wrote up a list of thirty things that I wanted to achieve and decided that I couldn't go back on until it was done. I logged out, gave my log in details to my best friend and told them not to tell me the password until I had completed everything.
That was over three and a half years ago.
Since then, almost everything in my life has changed.
- I met, dated and married my wife Sarah.
- I've started and finished a Psychology degree at university.
- I've moved twice, now living in the West of Melbourne.
- I've had four jobs.I honestly learnt a lot in the four years since I left Facebook , but I thought I would pass on the four biggest things I learnt when I quite Facebook.
#1- People Can't Remember a Time before Facebook
I think this was one of the more surprising things that I learnt. Most people can't remember a time before Facebook. They genuinely couldn't see why a young adult would not be on Facebook. Time after time, I would have conversations about it and people would be dumbfounded.
Facebook is a really important part of young adult culture, but it's not everything. I could be a highly social young adult, with tabs on multiple areas that interest me, keep up to date with various trends and people groups and never touch Facebook.
#2 - You don't miss people
I now have a simple question to find out who is really my mates. Do you want to hang out? People who don't want to see you in real life, do things in real life, or talk to you in real life are not your friends, they are acquaintances.
When you are in the Facebook jungle, you think you have all these friends and contacts but the truth is that you don't really. I didn't miss anyone when I quit Facebook, because being honest, I still saw the people I would have missed.
There are some, such as my friends and family overseas who were more difficult to keep in contact with but you make the effort because you love them. When I left Facebook, I found ways to keep in touch with people who matter to me.
#3 - Genuine surprise and genuine relationships
Nothing is a surprise anymore on Facebook. Haven't seen a friend in a month? Don't worry, they already know that you have a new partner, that you moved house and that you bought a dog.
Seriously, a lot of good surprise in friendship is gone when you put your life on Facebook. The amount of times that I was excited to tell someone something and they said 'I know, I saw it on Facebook' is crazy.
When I left Facebook, people gave me awesome reactions to news that I thought was exciting too. It worked for me as well, I gave genuine reactions to news because it was the first time I was hearing it, not something that I spied at 10pm last night whilst trawling Facebook.
The most common objection to leaving Facebook is being left out, or not seeing your friends. I found the opposite! People who were my friends kept in contact, hung out with me, wanted to have coffee or go riding or do something awesome. They didn't want to hear what I was doing, they wanted to do it with me.
Leaving Facebook showed me who wanted to be my friend and who I wanted to be friends with.
#4 - Facebook is a tool
The majority of you reading are doing so because you saw a link on Facebook. What kind of hypocrisy is this?! T he last thing that I learnt is that Facebook is a tool.
Like a hammer, or a rake, or anything which can be useful when it has an application. When your hammer falls apart, or your rake loses half its spikes it stops becoming useful and starts to become a drainer.
Facebook became a drag for me, an addiction of some sorts. It's not just that I was spending too much time on it and it wasn't giving me anything in return. The more time I spent on it, the worse I felt about myself. So I quit.
I can now see the use for Facebook in my life, a way that it can be used to help me in some ways. I can use it to represent God, to share ideas and to seek others opinions. More importantly, I don't use it to give myself an identity or a purpose. I'm not who I am because of how many likes I get, how many friends I have or who shares my status.
I am who I am because God made me, loves me and moulds me.
That has been my journey over the last four years, I hope that you were able to play a part.
James Young moved to the west of Melbourne to follow God's call on his life to tell young people about the greatest message they could ever hear – the gospel. On his days off, he seeks pain on a road bike, blissful beats by listening to Beautiful Eulogy and Trip Lee and relaxing with his beautiful wife Sarah. You can see more of his writing @radicalchange2010.com and follow him at @ragingzephyr on twitter.
James Young's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/james-young.html