At first, I thought I didn't need Facebook. Boy, was I wrong.
After some prodding and pushing from family and friends to join, I signed over my life to the social network giant in February of this year.
I consider myself a people person, so I quickly made contact with my "peeps,'' both near and far. I have to admit, Facebook opened a whole new world for me. I have been able to reconnect with childhood friends from the '60s, family members, and a host of friends from my high school, Long Beach Poly and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Some people I found through the network I haven't seen or talked to in 35 years. It's like a reunion every day I sign on. I've had live chats with my college journalism instructor and mentor, who is now retired and living on the Central Coast, and have been able to keep better in touch with my family, especially those in Southern California.
Facebook has brought us all closer together.
But in a short period of time, I felt like my social life was being sucked up by Facebook. Morning, noon and night I HAD to check in. It had become an obsession. I needed a break. So one day in late September while being social (four birthday posts) in this digital world, I decided to sign off and go cold turkey for 30 days.
Two hours later, I was regretting my decision to post my plans. By the next morning, I felt a powerful urge to sign in and renounce my pledge. My wife was no help, teasing me that I would never make it. She had seen me in action many nights in the den, one eye on the TV, the other on Facebook.
As my first full day without Facebook ended, I thought to myself, 30 days is a long time not to be connected to this instant, digital world.
You see, I had become used to checking in with my workout buddies on Facebook before my daily exercise. It was like having a cup of joe before heading to work. They offered support and encouragement.
I've never considered myself addicted to anything, but this life without Facebook had me thinking: Was I indeed a "Facebook junkie"?
The biggest draw of Facebook is the feeling of being part of one big family. Now I felt lost and forgotten. So to fill the social void, I texted and emailed family and friends to let them know I was still alive.
The texts and emails helped me cope. But it wasn't the same as seeing the familiar digital faces on a daily basis. I didn't want to seem desperate for attention, but I was hurting for some digital love.
But there was an upside. I had more time to exercise, clean house and work in the garage. So for my wife, these were good times. She sat back and enjoyed the new me with more time on my hands.
This self-inflicted exile also taught me the importance of direct communication with family and friends. One day during the third week of my sabbatical from Facebook, I again phone texted some "FB" friends. I even made a few phone calls. It felt good to hear their voices, knowing I couldn't see their profile faces on Facebook.
Still, there were many days I felt like I was missing something important. My "peeps" share their ups and downs, joys and pains of life. I'm a big supporter of my family and friends, and I felt like I was letting them down by not being "present" in this digital world. Facebook gave me a line of communication, but now the line was disconnected on my end.
The lonely days turned into weeks. At the halfway mark, the urge to reconnect was building. I was ready to call it quits.
I was in full "take me back" mode. Being a digital outcast was taking a toll on my everyday life. For example, I attended my cousin's wedding one Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful service with family and friends. Of course I took photos, but under my no-Facebook pledge, I couldn't post them. What a bummer.
As the third week wore on, I started to count the days of my return from digital exile. I could visualize the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing my "peeps" would be waiting with open arms on the other side.
On Day 27, I got so itchy I called up the Facebook app on my iPhone and just looked at it, longing for the time I could sign back on. My sign-on password popped into my mind as I anticipated the digital love I would receive upon my return. I wondered: Do people really miss me? I hoped so, because I like to feel the love from my FB peeps.
My brother called me two days before my release to show me love. He was wondering what happened to me. He's a big-wheeler, delivering food and other goods across the country. So every now and then, he checks Facebook to get updates on me and other family members and friends.
On Day 30, I had a hard time keeping my emotions in check as the day turned to night. The closed gates to my Facebook community would soon open and I'd be free to network once again. The morning couldn't come fast enough.
As you would guess, once my self-imposed sentence was over, I jumped right back on Facebook and haven't looked back. And my "peeps" were indeed waiting for me to return to the digital fold. There were lots of notifications, friend requests and messages on my page. Smiling faces and welcome-back notes put a smile on my face. I embraced the moment to be back among friends in this addictive digital world.
Thank you Facebook. I'll never do that again. I'm here to stay.
Contact Sherman Turntine at email@example.com