The Blackout Week Challenge: 7 Days to Beat Your Cyber Addiction

Give your eyes some much needed rest.
Give your eyes some much needed rest.

A while ago I discovered something that might have been a no-brainer to most people: I hate Facebook. Now, I’m not saying that to condemn the social networking site. It’s well designed and does actually serve a useful purpose, which is to keep friends and family connected. But at its worst, Facebook is a virtual high school, prone to unnecessary drama, uneducated arguments, rampant advertising and is one of the biggest time wasters on the internet. I’ve known all of this for some time, but I kept coming back so I could contact family, play a select few games that I enjoyed and network with a group of people trying to revive a show I like. But it came to a head when I got into a political argument with someone who wasn’t even on my friends list. He was a friend of a friend and the argument occurred on that common friend’s page. It was a stupid conflict, prompted by a silly little cartoon, but by the end of it I hated this guy and I hated myself.

I try to walk away from most confrontations because it causes more stress than it’s worth, but by engaging in this one, I had seen a side of myself that I didn’t wish to see again. I didn’t want to be someone who started and/or participated in these kinds of heated arguments, especially not on Facebook, where I’m supposed to be coming to relax. And that’s really the core of what I realized; Facebook was causing more stress than it was relief, so why did I keep using it? It’s kind of like that moment where you realize you’re in a bad relationship with another person and you have to cut ties or risk losing yourself. At that moment I seriously considered leaving the site altogether, but the benefits I mentioned above gave me pause. So instead I decided to participate in what I called a ‘blackout week’. Essentially I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t use Facebook for seven full days, no matter how much I might want to.

You can wait a week to post those new pictures.
You can wait a week to post those new pictures.

Now you might be asking yourself, what is the point of swearing off Facebook, or anything, for seven days if you’re just going to come back to it after the challenge is over? And the answer is perspective. I wasn’t doing it to make a statement, and I wasn’t doing it to punish myself, I was doing it because I wanted to see if I could survive without it. And that’s what I mean by beating your cyber addiction; proving that it doesn’t have such a strong hold of you that you can’t live without it for a week. What I discovered was that not only could I survive without it, but I was more productive and generally happier during those seven days. It also helped me realize which aspects of Facebook were actually useful to me, prompting me to give up certain games and other time wasters when I came back.

Living in the technology age, we have a tendency to rely on various devices and websites to get through our day. This has become so integrated that many people have come to say they can’t live without their cell phones or live without their television. But people have been living without these things for thousands of years, why is our generation so weak that we can’t function without them?

Participating in the Challenge

Identify what you want to give up for seven days. Generally, it should be something that is causing you unnecessary stress, or something that you think you can’t live without. There is a great quote Yoda said in one of the Star Wars movies that goes “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” He was referring to loved ones, but I’m referring to our dependence on technology. Below are some examples of things you might try giving up, but remember, pick something that is causing stress or is wasting time where you could be doing something more productive.

  • Social Networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, etc.)
  • Smart Phone/Cell Phone/Tablet/Television/Computer
  • Specific Websites (Memebase, Reddit, YouTube, PornHub (yes, I said porn hub), etc.)
  • MMO Video Games (World of Warcraft, The Old Republic, Runescape, etc.)
  • This could also be applied to non-technology things such as: (Alcohol, junk food, coffee, cigarettes, etc.)

Hopefully it's no so extreme an addiction that you need to blindfold yourself, but I guess whatever works for you.
Hopefully it's no so extreme an addiction that you need to blindfold yourself, but I guess whatever works for you.

Make preparations so that the blackout week won’t interfere with important things. For example, if you’re expecting a business to call you about a job, that might not be a good week to give up your cell phone. Or, if you are coordinating an event with friends on a social network, that might also be a bad week to give up Facebook. It helps to tell people you’re going to do this so that if they try to contact you, and can’t, they will know why and not panic. If you have friends who would deliberately try to derail your progress, however, then try to do it on a slow week and leave certain people out of the information loop.

Exceptions to the rule. If you’ve sworn off of a website, for example, and you happen to glance over someone’s shoulder and see that website, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed the challenge. That was something out of your control. The whole point of the blackout week is to prevent you from seeking out and using these things. Now, if you sat down at your friend’s computer and started to use the website, then that would be a failure because you engaged it. Similarly, if someone tells you that it is very important you turn on your phone in order to get a serious phone call, then that wouldn’t be a failure either, so long as you turned it off after that call. Important, real-life events will always trump the challenge.

What to do in the meantime. You may find that you have a lot of time on your hands without your go-to addiction. This is a good thing. Think of all the stuff you’ve wanted to do over the past few months, but couldn’t because you didn’t have time. Things like reading a book, finishing a hobby project, cleaning your house, or visiting family/friends you haven’t seen in a while. Use this as an opportunity to do all the things you say you can’t do.

Ultimately how the blackout week helps you may be different than how it helped me. I viewed it as more of a vacation than a treatment for an addiction, but after doing it, it really helped me put in perspective what was a waste of time and what wasn’t. Hopefully it can reveal at least that much for you as well.

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Comments 13 comments

BethDW 4 years ago

Excellent hub. I have similar feelings about facebook...I hate all the drama that comes with it (and had a similar experience recently where I got into a heated political discussion with someone I didn't even know...) and yet I keep coming back to it. Definitely going to try the blackout week challenge!


lenz 4 years ago

Excellent. I joined Facebook to make business connections, but found the atmosphere too demanding of my time and my privacy. The phrase, "virtual high school," expresses exactly the way I feel about it.


Borsia profile image

Borsia 4 years ago from Currently, Philippines

I agree with you about FB and it goes +110% for Twitter, although I don't have a TW account and have never tweeted I just can't imagine anything sillier.

I find it even more aggravating that virtually every forum or blog as well as the comments for news articles ask for you to sign in through FB.

As to a blackout; since I live almost entirely in the 3rd world blackouts are pretty common and 7 days is about the norm, sometimes much longer.

Of course these are forced blackouts because one has no control over when they will happen. But they do show one what life without internet is like.

As far as smart phones and such I have never had a data service on my cell, even though it is capable of running it. Data on the cell is expensive and burns a lot of minutes so the occasional text is as far as my data goes.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

BethDW - Hot button issues, like politics and religion, are definitely things one should avoid on Facebook, particularly because there is virtually no chance of convincing the other side of your argument. So it just ends up getting ugly every time. I hope you give the blackout week a try and I hope that it will be as productive for you as it was for me. Thanks for the comment!

lenz - A lot of businesses and celebrities also join social networking sites for the same reason. It's a good tool to get yourself out there, but I wonder if it's worth it with all the drama. If I ever succeed at becoming a famous author, I'll have to hire someone to manage my official Facebook page, because I don't want to do it. :) Thanks for the comment!

Borsia - I also dislike how many other websites require a Facebook login to work properly. It's kind of like how some bank sites ask for a cell phone number to help keep your account secure. I don't have a cell phone, but it seems like I'm going to be forced into it just to function. I'm sorry that you are experiencing real blackouts, that can't be easy when trying to stay on top of things. I suppose this challenge isn't necessary for you, but hopefully something good can come from a week without internet. Thank you for the comment!


Elizabeth Hayl profile image

Elizabeth Hayl 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

Oh my gosh, you completely described my feelings toward Facebook--I've just never known how to write them so eloquently. Another thing is Twitter (which you address); my college professor REQUIRED that his class have a Twitter account for communication purposes. Apparently this is how the "digital humanities" work nowadays, though I'm not sure I agree.

I just hate thinking about wasting my life away caring about what people think on Facebook. This social network has rendered us shallow and self-absorbed, and I think your "Blackout Challenge" is the way to break this horrid cycle!

Okay, I'll stop ranting. Nice job. Voted up. :)


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I think once in awhile it is good idea to take a break from this cyber world.

Over the summer, I make a point of it and get back to nature with no net whatsoever for periods of time. Quite refreshing!

While this medium is great for keeping in contact and terrific for information,news and writing... back to basics is a nice change as is writing in longhand! :)


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

Elizabeth Hayl - I shudder to think of college professors making a social network a requirement. If it was a college exclusive site, like blackboard, that's one thing, but twitter is another entirely. But you're absolutely right; time on facebook is time spent worrying about what people think of you, or what their latest post means between the lines. It's such a waste of energy. Thank you for the comment!

Scribenet - I've thought about a total blackout of the cyber world. It would take a lot of discipline to do it and I would have to plan out a week of activities in advance, but I do think it's something worth trying. Sometimes even a day without the internet can be a refreshing breath of air. Thanks for the comment!


Borsia profile image

Borsia 4 years ago from Currently, Philippines

I've gone through something very near a total cyber blackout.

Living in mainland China with only State TV and an internet connection that is both censored and mind bogglingly slow.

One learns to adapt and do other things reading, buying the latest movies on the street for $.50 before they hit the theaters in the US, tell me that isn't an inside job! One thing I find to be true is that the movies that get the highest acclaim are generally not worth watching. So ever since if a movie is nominated for too many awards, or worse wins them, I don’t waste my time with them let alone my fifty cents.

Even in my years in Colombia the internet speed often rivals what I had in the early 90s.

I remember my very first brush with computers, or at least with the concept of computers since they didn't yet exist in the real world. This would have been 1974-75.

We were assigned writing a paper about the coming use of computers, at the time a good calculator would set you back $300.

I wrote about a group of engineers who designed a massive new bridge project. This was set in the future, post 2000, and they relied on their computers and calculators completely but it had been so long since anyone did any real math that they didn't realize the numbers were wrong.

The bridge collapsed on opening day full of traffic and everyone died. I got an A on the paper which made me happy even if it had cost hundreds of fictional lives.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

Borsia - That's a pretty good idea for a story. There is a meme floating around on the internet with a quote that most teachers told us in the 90s (you aren't going to be walking around with a calculator in your pocket). But the picture in the meme is someone holding up their cell phone, which has a calculator function. It's like people having an excuse not to learn and, like your story, has the potential to get so bad that no one will be able to check the machine's math in the future. Scary stuff, thanks for the comment!


buckleupdorothy profile image

buckleupdorothy 4 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

This is fantastic - especially for people struggling to find more calm and time in their days. Absolutely linking to it.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

buckleupdorothy - Thank you for the compliment and the link! This challenge really does help to give that bit of extra time all of us seem to be lacking in our day to day lives.


Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 20 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

This reminds me of the episode of "Gimme a Break", where the family decided to give up TV for a week. Nell Carter, who played the maid, kept checking on a pie in the oven during dinner. At the end of the show, it was revealed there was a TV in the oven, not a pie. LOL!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 20 months ago from United States Author

Say Yes To Life - That is pretty funny. I think I originally got the idea from a health class I had in high school. For that challenge I gave up pop for a week and found myself pleasantly surprised by the results. We don't necessarily realize how much better off we are without these vices until we actually remove them from the equation for a few days. Thanks for the comment!

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    M. T. Dremer672 Followers
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    M. T. Dremer has worked a public service, tech support job for more than a decade, and grew up surrounded by technology and the internet.



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