I disconnected from social media yesterday, I’m certain it was the right choice for me. I’ve been questioning for months whether social media did me more harm than good and today I got what felt like an answer. An uncle of mine that lives on the other side of the country posted an aggressive reply to a comment I made. This uncle is a decent human being and I’m certain that if we had been in the same room, he wouldn’t have spoken to me the way he did. But it put me in a funk, being talked to that way. It felt really bad and my stomach was in knots over it for a few hours. That cemented it for me – social media really brings about more disconnection than connection for me. It does me more harm than good and it is time for me to cut the cord – so I did. My Facebook account will remain deactivated until at least Halloween – if not forever (baby steps).
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about social media lately – mainly because I’m fortunate enough to have known life without social media so I can compare one to the other. I have so many questions! What is it about social media that allows us to forget common courtesy and just blurt out the first thought that pops into our heads? It has turned most of us into impulsive people who just reply without thinking. Is it because we don’t have to see the person on the other side of the computer? Surely if we were face-to-face and had to see firsthand the emotional reaction to our comments we’d filter ourselves, right? It has become so easy to just click “share” on a provocative article (I’m guilty of this) or to comment on a racy post to assert our dominance…but what do we really get from doing this? A fleeting feeling of self-righteousness? A damaged relationship with someone we once cared for? Is it worth the price we pay?
Then there is the time factor, if we’re honest with ourselves, how much time per day do we really spend on social media? Easily a few hours a day for most of us. What are we saying no to in order to say yes to social media? For me it was saying no to writing and yoga; two things that I love but “didn’t have enough time for”. When I was honest with myself about how much time I was spending mindlessly scrolling on Facebook I realized that I did have time for the things I loved, I just wasn’t prioritizing them. That was tough for me to admit.
So why was I choosing Facebook; something I didn’t care much about, instead of things that I did care about? I spent a long time mulling this question over. I’m still not sure I’ve gotten to the bottom of it. I think that I was choosing social media because it was mindless and easy; a perfect distraction from things that were hard or frustrating. I made a conscious choice to pay attention to when I was logging on to Facebook, and I noticed a pattern. 90% of the time it was when I was feeling uncomfortable in some way. Sometimes I felt lonely. Sometimes I was running out of patience with my kids. Sometimes I was bored and unsure what to do with myself. Other times I was craving connection. Many times I was avoiding something that I didn’t want to do (I’m talking about you laundry). At least 10% of the time I logged on out of habit – it became like second nature to just pick up my phone and log on to Facebook without even thinking. Then, I started paying attention to how I felt after logging off of Facebook and I noticed a pattern there too. Did Facebook make me feel better? Usually not. Yes, it did allow me to numb the initial uncomfortable feeling, but it almost always left me feeling disenchanted. I often had feelings of guilt for getting sucked into Facebook again. I’d scroll mindlessly for 20 minutes and not even realized how much time had passed by. I’d end up feeling more anxious and annoyed and I still had to tackle whatever it was that I was avoiding in the first place.
So I quit. I deactivated my account and I have a strange sense of freedom. I do still get the urge to log on and scroll mindlessly, but now I do something more productive instead – like go for a walk or write (finally!). I’m rekindling my love affair with yoga and last night I got to bed early. I’m replacing what became an unhealthy habit for me (social media) with healthier choices that help me to feel good. It feels liberating. Isn’t that the basis of personal growth; identifying negative patterns that don’t serve you well and replacing them with healthier options?
Is Facebook all bad? No. It does allow us to connect with friends and family members who live far away. It also allows us to spread information quickly and widely when needed. Facebook helps us to reconnect with those we’ve lost touch with – I’ve even been able to track down my long-lost half siblings via Facebook and get to know them a bit. It has its merits for sure. Like anything else, it is a tool that can be misused. It is up to us to ask ourselves the hard questions like “Am I spending too much time on social media?” and “Is social media getting in the way of my personal relationships?” and “What am I saying no to in order to say yes to social media?” Exploring those questions and answering honestly can give us so much insight into who we are and why we make the choices that we do.
* I fully realize that this piece will be posted to Facebook (irony much?) but rest assured, it is an auto-post. My WordPress account is synced with FB and automatically posts my new blog entries for me.