A week ago I logged out of Facebook, not to return for seven days. To be fair, I logged out of all social media...Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc, so I shouldn't just single out Facebook, but it fit better in the title.
What I've learned in a week without Facebook is that life doesn't end when I check out of Facebook.
Okay, I've learned more than that, but, really, I sort of expected that to happen. Sometimes I make way too much of something - as is the case with me and social media.
Why All the Fuss? Its Just Facebook
I've been through a challenging season. From changing careers, moving to a new home, trying to figure out my artistic relevance, meaning and purpose to just making ends meet as we learn how to find a sustainable model of making music. I'm going crazy, here....literally.
In trying to sort out the stuff of life I've realized that there is too much noise around me - especially as I read through my media feeds. I find myself absorbed in other people's statuses, pictures, posts, news articles, complaints, worries, stupidity, and anger that my mind gets over-stimulated and wearied. I find myself comparing and, most of the time, I feel I come up short.
Combine the above with an addictive personality and social media becomes compulsive and habit-forming - a way to escape. I was reaching for my phone every chance I could - even if I knew I had just checked it and nothing new would be posted. When I was bored I'd search through for something interesting. Was I using people's lives as entertainment? I found myself reading posts and articles even when spending time with my kids. I found myself checking my phone right away in the morning. I found myself checking to see how many "likes" I had on a picture or a post and sometimes it just wasn't enough.
Bottom-line, I think my use of social media was contributing to depression.
It took me a while to reach that conclusion and when I did I just decided to stop. Cold turkey.
I'm as much of a scientist as I am an astronaut, but I figured I needed to approach this in a way that would make the characters from The Big Bang Theory proud.
I decided to observe and track how my mental well being improved (or not) over the course of the week.
Day 1: There was a sense of anxiety as I logged off. I think it was a fear that I would miss something, or not be part of something that everyone else is a part of, or that people would forget who I was, or that no one would miss me at all.
I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone and iPad, put my phone in a cupboard and walked away.
I spent the rest of the day reaching for my phone only to remember it was in the cupboard. I felt the anxiety and stress someone with compulsive issues would have if they didn't get to act out on their compulsions. That was disconcerting.
Day 2: The anxiety and compulsions eased a little though I was still pretty grabby. We had Isaiah's two-year birthday party. It was liberating, but strange, to see Isaiah with his cake and NOT take a picture to post on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, I had my brother take pictures and I was able to focus on the moment. That felt nice. Really nice.
Day 3: Was a Sunday. Many of the people that are a part of NewDay are friends of mine on Facebook, so by the time Sunday rolls around I already have a pretty good idea of what's been happening in their lives in the past week (or, at least, what they reveal). Last Sunday, I went into our Worship Gathering with a blank slate. I actually had to go and ASK people how they were doing and what was happening. I concluded that much of the conversations I used to have with people (in person) weren't happening anymore. I was doing most of my conversing and relating with people on social media to the detriment of personal conversations. Last Sunday, I literally felt more present than I have in a long time. That was nice. Really nice.
Day 4: The compulsion to grab for my phone diminished considerably by day 4. I didn't think about it nearly so often and wasn't bothered by not knowing what people were posting. In fact, my mind felt more clear. I was starting to feel more focused on what I was doing at any given moment.
I had a rough evening at home alone with the kids that day. It was just one of those times when a quick post to Facebook might have garnered some mom sympathy. I missed that. I thought that maybe I could call someone to vent and realized I hadn't just called someone to talk in a long, long, LONG time. In fact, except for one good friend and my family, I couldn't think of anyone who wouldn't think it strange that I just called to talk. Have I lost the art of practicing a friendship - a real friendship? Woah. That gave me pause. Seriously.
At the dinner table that night (again, alone with the kids), one of the kids did something memorable (ironically, I can't remember what it was). My first impulse was to post it on Facebook, but then remembered my little experiment. So, I sat and thought on it for a little bit. I figured I could go write it in his journal, but that didn't seem nearly as fun because I wouldn't get public affirmation. Have I been using my children in this way? Yikes! I sat and chewed on that for a little bit (pun intended). Then, the joy of keeping this little memory to myself crept in. Some things can be kept in my heart and treasured there. That bit was nice. Really nice.
Day 5: I spent the day at the office - working. Not checking social media all day actually made me more focused and productive. (insert sarcasm).
Day 6: As I was getting Isaiah dressed for the day, I noticed he was covered in hives! For those that don't know, I have chronic idiopathic urticaria which means I have chronic hives and they don't know why. I freaked out at the sight of Isaiah's hives. I called and made an appointment with my allergist. What I really, really wanted to do was post a quick post on Facebook asking for prayer. I resisted. For better or for worse. It made me realize the benefit of quick access to a whole lot of people. Though I wonder if social media is really the place for these types of things. (Update: Isaiah has responded well to meds, and we are assuming the hives will go away soon.)
General Observation: One strange phenomenon (maybe its happened to you?) is that I found myself thinking in Facebook statuses. Alone in my thoughts, as I would be going about routine tasks, I found myself forming Facebook statuses out of thoughts. That bothered me. Its like Facebook has had some control over neuron-pathways in my brain. Since logging off I've found that I've quite doing that.
Day 7: I literally did not want to log in, but did anyway. Don't get me wrong. I don't think social media is bad. In fact, the opposite is true. It is a tool in which families can stay connected, friends can stay in touch, good news declared, difficult times shared, and life celebrated. However, as in all things, I need to be able to enjoy it in moderation and in a spirit of good-will. If it feels negative, competitive, obsessive, like gossip, self-infatuated, or leads me to ignore the physical world, I need to step back. The problem isn't with social media, but my use (or miss-use) of it.
I've reached the point where I realize that - for now, for me - social media can wait a little while longer. I'm enjoying my new found freedom. Friends, you might not see me on the Twitter or Facebook or Instagram as often, but just know that I "like" all the wonderful things in your life and *dislike* all the bad.
Life didn't end when I logged out of Facebook, but maybe it became a little bit better.
And, yes, I do get the irony that I will post this to Facebook when I hit "publish." Some thing never change.