We all have feelings about and because of Facebook. For most of us, the good ones include being able to connect with friends and family far and wide. I love seeing (and doing my fair share of posting) photos of family, friends and travel, as well as beautiful sunrises and sunsets too. (OK, those who know me well know I will likely never post a picture of a sunrise…). I also appreciate thought provoking posts and occasionally even enjoy reading a political perspective or two (read: VERY occasionally). Then there are the posts that make me laugh out loud in glee; I do so get a kick out of those! And I really enjoy the low carb groups I belong to on Facebook. It truly warms my heart to see the support, kindness and love this like-minded group of mostly strangers offers to one another, many with very serious weight and health issues. Thanks in part to these groups, I have a whole new way of living and eating that has resulted in notable health benefits for me. Yep, there is no doubt in my mind I benefit from the good feelings tied to Facebook in many ways!
For all the benefits of Facebook, there are plenty of costs too. For starters, I am disappointed in myself for the time and focus I have lost from frequently scrolling through my newsfeed, liking and commenting on posts that, at least in the moment, matter to me. If I am totally honest, I also admit I tire of the constraints of maintaining the unspoken but very real expectations of sharing only a carefully curated persona; the one seemingly “safe” for the world to see. This especially came home to me over the last month when my friends asked “How was your holiday?” and my response was “Do you want the Facebook answer or the truth?”. I frankly also get really annoyed with the apparent self-serving “me, me, me” focus that seems to also be a norm, and one we all know either comes from, or contributes to, the psychological distress of people dealing with self-esteem and life struggles.
Then there are all the feelings that arise from some of the more controversial posts I see. Too often there are posts about abused pets that make me terribly angry, or a photo of a lost pet that makes me equally as sad. Or there are other posts that stir up more feelings of sadness and loss, like the ones that show the after affects of a severe weather event, or the compassionately created Go Fund Me pages for people in dire need. Then there are the rants that truly don’t belong in the public domain that cause me to catch my breath. Finally, there are also times when a post will strike a nerve and send me digging deep so I can let it go and move past it. These costly posts that drain my energy and overshadow my spirit are the ones that have me asking myself “Is Facebook really worth it? Is it contributing positively to how I want to feel and live, and to what is truly important to me?”
As I sat quietly skimming Facebook late on Christmas Day, I realized the time had come for me to answer the question of whether it is worth it. It was then that I started my first experiment and deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to really see what I might learn, and what the impact on me would be.
Within a day my experiment confirmed what deep down I already knew. It finally came home to me the accumulated hours I have spent on Facebook, simply put, could be used in much better ways. If I simply stepped away, it was clear my days would likely be brighter too. More importantly, I could choose to engage with friends and family in ways that deepen my relationships and bring me much more joy than the “surface returns” of Facebook.
Over the last week I have continued to reflect and get in touch with what I know deep in my bones. Today, January 1, 2020, I am stepping fully into the truth that I…
- Am determined to free myself of the pull to “peek at my newsfeed for just a minute” only to find before I know it an hour has gone by.
- Yearn to have real conversations with friends over coffee, lunch or dinner rather than fly-bys on Facebook that hardly scratch the surface.
- Prefer to use my time to visit, call or write “my tribe” and truly demonstrate my desire to listen and be present with them.
- Get great joy from encouraging and supporting wholeness and humanness and offering a safe space to just be.
- Want to spend more time on other things too, like writing, oil painting, exercise and fitness, and getting more and better sleep too. All would contribute to lowering stress and a better quality of life for me.
- Definitely prefer to have my feelings (whether they are fear, anger, sadness, joy or love) come from real-time life experiences rather than Facebook posts.
My Christmas Day experiment also showed me the hour or so I was averaging each day on Facebook would not free up nearly enough time to focus on all the things that mattered to me. Thus in 2020 I will be incorporating other experiments too, including dialing back on work so I can open up more time for all those things. I also know I want to maintain my connection with the low carb groups so I can stay up to date on research and medical outcomes in that space. With a family history of diabetes and Alzheimer’s, it will surely be a valuable investment of my time. Some of you have already noticed I opened a new Facebook account in my married name, which I did for the sole purpose of staying on top of the latest research. It too is an experiment and I’m wondering how it will work to not add friends on that account and be mainly an observer, soaking in all the wisdom of that group. Perhaps by utilizing Facebook in that way, it will help me to not get distracted by (read: sucked into) a newsfeed that can so easily draw me in and keep me in. Finally, and admittedly with some trepidation, I think I will keep my original account active for now. (Besides, it is one of the places I have set up WordPress to publish these blogs!) Fortunately, thanks to the experiment that began on Christmas Day, I no longer feel compelled to frequent Facebook like before. To that end, I have also turned off Facebook notifications and intend to only occasionally peruse, post or comment. I truly want a new experience with Facebook, one that better serves my intentions. Should I slip back into scrolling for hours on end, then my commitment to myself is to “go dark,” permanently. Last but not least, my husband has promised to support me in these experiments by being my accountability partner too.
For all my friends and family, and especially those of you who have already sent friend requests to my new Facebook account, please accept this as my open invitation for us to get together and bring our whole-selves to a real-time conversation. And when we do, please also ask me how my experiments are going. As we head into this new decade, I would love to include you in my accountability tribe!
Facebook. Does it bring you great joy or is it the bane of your existence? Or is it a mix somewhere in between? And is the time you spend on Facebook proportionate to your answer? I encourage you to experiment too and find the answer right for you! ❤️
“Don’t grab hurtful comments and pull them close to you by rereading and ruminating on them. Don’t play with them by rehearsing your bad ass comeback. And whatever you do, don’t pull hatefulness close to your heart. Let what is unproductive and hurtful drop at the feet of your unarmored self. And no matter how much your self-doubt wants to scoop up the criticism and snuggle with the negativity so it can confirm your worst fears….take a deep breath and find the strength to leave what’s mean-spirited on the ground. You don’t even need to stomp it or kick it away…..just step over the comments and keep daring.” ………. Dr. Brene Brown