What would you do if you had no connection with the world for five days? Lived completely isolated, had no human interaction whatsoever? You had no contact with your friends, family or colleagues. You lived your life totally alone. That’s what most young adults would say going without Facebook for five days would feel like. Now you might be saying, “Well, I could do it,” and you’re probably right. However, for some people the mere thought of taking away a part of life we have come to depend on is shocking. Here is my experience of going five days without Facebook.
In the movie “The Social Network,” Mark Zuckerberg says that he is “taking the entire social experience online.” When I first heard this, I realized he saw Facebook as an extension of the social interaction we experience everyday. Even though Facebook has become more than that now, this concept is still evident on the site.
When I log on to Facebook, I see three levels of friends on my friends list. The first level are the friends that I physically interact with everyday. On the second level are the friends I have a deeper relationship with but don’t see on a regular basis. For me, they’re friends from Austin where I recently moved from. On the third level are friends from childhood or high school that have found me on Facebook. This is the largest group of friends that I have on the site.
During the five days I went without Facebook, the amount of distance I felt from these three distinct groups of friends was extraordinary. I experienced a different level of separation from each level of friends.
I felt the least amount of disconnect with the first level of friends, the ones with who I had daily interaction. I saw this group of people either everyday or more than three of the five days of the experiment. I had my regular social interactions with this group by talking in person or through texting. We didn’t really miss the Facebook aspect of our relationship or our ability to like each other’s statuses or comment on each other’s pictures.
I felt slightly more separated from my lowest level of friends, my friends from the past. These friends are the ones whose status updates and pictures show up in my news feed, but we don’t comment on each other’s posts very often. I don’t interact with them on a daily basis, and during my experiment, I didn’t feel too distant from them or feel a need to connect with them.
I felt the most disconnected from my second level of friends, my closest friends that interact with through channels other than Facebook or social networks. This small group of people is made up of my former roommates, co-workers and other very good friends. My interaction with these friends outside of social networks is through SMS and phone calls as well as face-to-face communication. However, social platforms on the web have made my contact with these friends easy and simple. The social web brings down the barriers of time and space and allows us to communicate in ways that physical interaction and even some forms of digital interaction don’t allow.
I began to wonder why I felt the way I did about the levels of friends I have. Unknowingly, I placed people in groups according to the level of interaction I have with them and the depth of relationship I have with them. I found that even though I have less interaction with the second level of friends, the level with the least amount of people, I felt the most disconnect from them because Facebook is the largest channel we use to communicate with each other. Our social interaction depends on Facebook and without Facebook our level of physical interaction is pushed down to the third level of friends. The reason I felt the most disconnect with these friends is because without Facebook I don’t interact with them as much as I need or want to. They are pushed to the third level of friends.
I concluded that when we go on a Facebook fast, our level of discomfort and disconnect from our friends depends on our level of friendship and our amount of physical and digital interaction. When people cross into other friendship levels when we go without Facebook or any other online tool, we feel as if we are missing something.
Going without Facebook for five days wasn’t that difficult. You should try it and see what kinds of relationships you really have with the people that make up your friend list. I was once told that you don’t really know what you have until it is taken away from you. This experiment really made that statement true and showed me the true level of friendship I have with my friends list.