Breaking the Addiction: 40 Days without Facebook

How One Couple Grew Closer to God and Each Other

Laurel Murray and Aaron Polli are getting married in December. Earlier this year, they chose to practice a kind of lent by abstaining from Facebook for forty days. After making the announcement on their statuses, Aaron and Laurel disappeared swallowed by the proverbial black hole.

My first reaction to their lent caused me to cringe—No Facebook for forty days? Are they crazy? My second reaction was almost envy.

In that time, we wondered what they were doing, what service they were attending, and waited for them to come back online. Instead, their Facebook accounts have been stagnant. When I reconnected with them at church, they told me how not having Facebook has strengthened their relationship with each other and God.

So I pulled them out of their proverbial black hole for an interview:

NH: What made you decide to abstain from Facebook?

LM: A friend of mine on Facebook was doing 40 days without Facebook, and inspired me to try it as well.  She had stated that she needed to focus on things going on in her life and Facebook was distracting her from that. This rang true with me as well.

AP:  I was in the process of cutting down from Facebook, and Laurel had suggested taking a forty day fast.  We agreed we should focus that energy and attention on our real lives.

NH: Did Facebook become an addiction? How did it begin?

AP:  Yes.  From the start the little apps and other people’s pictures caused me to stay on longer.  Pretty soon I was talking about it at work, and I began to look forward to going on after work.  The addiction came with snooping on other people’s profiles, commenting on posts, and finding the events that other people had going on.

LM: Yes. It began when I moved back to Arizona from Pennsylvania. I was in a long distance relationship with Aaron, and I felt like it was the only way to get in contact with him, or to know what he was doing. I ended up being on there all the time talking with other people, and creating a virtual social life.

NH: You mentioned to me in our conversation that Facebook caused arguments between the two of you. What kind of arguments and how were they resolved?

AP and LM: Aaron snooped on women’s profiles. This was later resolved by Aaron agreeing to not look at any of the opposite sex profiles. Aaron showed no interest in what Laurel said on Facebook and did not respond to things Laurel said to him via wall posts. When confronted by this, Aaron began complimenting and reassuring Laurel.

Laurel was on Facebook when she could have been spending time with Aaron and her little girl, Sadira. Aaron disagreed with things Laurel would post on her status. Aaron obsessed about proving a point to a female friend and he was always checking her profile.

The second was resolved by Aaron and Laurel giving up Facebook and focusing on their life together. The third was resolved by Aaron and Laurel both responding to the others’ posts and creating multiple running conversations on Facebook. The fourth was resolved by Aaron admitting he was obsessing, by ceasing to look at that friend’s profile or responding to any of her posts.

NH: During the 40 days describe, the first week. What kind of struggles did you both endure? What improvements did you see in your life?

LM: I felt awkward.  I kept having the urge to go on Facebook to fill my “empty time.” I had to endure making myself available and connected which made me feel exposed and vulnerable. The improvements I saw were more time with my family, and less focused on what was going on with Facebook. I had more real life interaction.

AP:  I was relieved that Laurel and I had made up our mind to get off, but not without temptation. Being alone with the computer put me in temptation as it felt natural to just go on Facebook and spend half an hour putzing around.  The conveniences and design of Facebook stayed with me, almost overshadowing my experience with the entire internet. The improvements were immediate in that there was more emotion, more quality to our time, and a great relief in that my time mattered to someone else.

NH: What did you do instead of Facebook during those 40 days?

AP and LM: We talked and read the bible, played games with Sadira, enjoyed company and truly rich, attentive and fulfilling conversation. We danced and made dinners together, argued less about things on Facebook and spoke more about our miscommunications.

NH: What kind of feelings did you feel the first week without Facebook?

AP and LM: Strange. Empty. Used.  Guilty.

NH: Describe your best memory during that time.

AP and LM: We were cooking dinner and listening to our recently purchased Florence and the Machine album.  We were all dancing and expressing ourselves with laughter while we enjoyed our family’s company and the smell of a cooking dinner.

NH: During those 40 days, how did it bring you closer to God?

LM: I spent more time opening the scripture and reading, instead of reading it on Facebook. It was an active hands-on experience, rather than having it given to me on Facebook. Also, I was able to have a personal relationship with God by hearing more of His voice and talking with Him.

AP:  It allowed me time to actively seek God’s Word in the scriptures, and to put more earnest trust and hope in the living relationship I had with God daily with more willingness.  Removing a social multimedia medium allowed me to be sensitive to His Voice and His Presence rather than seeking self-fulfilling pockets of pleasure and vanity. I felt closer and wanted to be even closer to Him.

NH: Why haven’t you been back on Facebook since it’s been over 40 days now?

AP: Facebook had become an addiction and an antagonist of real life situations, detracting from the true and real value of everyday, common, normal, God given, natural life and interaction of, with, and for life. I will not enable or continue in such an abuse or profanity of life through Facebook and the privacy it robs, intimacy it mocks, popularity it suggests or any of the lies, manipulations and vanity it alleges through its use.

NH: As parents, what kind of impression do you think your actions made on your child?

LM and AP: It showed the importance of having a relationship with God and having relationships with people in real life.

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Facebook shouldn’t be in lieu of real life relationships, and it can be a positive experience. Without Facebook, I would not have been able to participate virtually in my family’s life (they live several states away). Social networking can be a way to connect, but like any other tool, how it’s used and the time a person spends with it should be managed.

A tool’s use is determined by the person handling it; you can’t blame a saw for slicing into your leg. As Christians, we can choose to use this tool to shine Jesus’ light and build relationships, or misuse it by posting statuses or doing activities that reflect poorly upon our worldview. Laurel and Aaron made a wise choice for their situation, and in the end salvaged their relationship, understanding we were meant primarily to connect in real time.