Wow, so giving up Facebook, in the grand scheme of things, has been quite a small thing to do. Yet, it is already having a pretty large impact on me. My first personal revelation from being free from Facebook is that I am more grounded, more present, and more aware of what experiences and thoughts mean to me rather than what other people say or show – or indeed, my perception of what they may say or think. This whole idea is going to seem weird to some who read this, but I’ll do my best to explain it in non-fuzzy terms!
Just after I had decided to give it up for a while, I was listen to a random podcast of an interview with Maira Kalman who was talking about the benefits of spending time alone. She made this comment that resonated with me quite deeply, “…the time that you’re alone and you’re feeling and experiencing what you are observing is really the most profoundly joyous time anybody could have, and that the need to share that is often a pressure and often misunderstood so, do things on your own…”.
I hadn’t at this point started feeling the benefit of the solitude that not being on Facebook brings in this way, but now I can totally appreciate what she means. Solitude isn’t always a negative thing but we are scared of it. I am especially. I’m a social person, an extrovert, and I thrive from the energy of other people and being around other people. But it does mean I am perhaps more prone to gaining some of my self-worth from the validation of other people, and perhaps why I reached a point with Facebook that I didn’t like nor feel comfortable with. Maira Kalman’s comment made me realise that solitude can be a great thing, and the grounding that comes from exploring my own unshared experiences is quite special.
I’m not saying I don’t share and suddenly became a private person. Part of being an extrovert is that I enjoy sharing things with people, and ultimately many experiences will be told to friends over the phone or over a cup of tea, but they’re no longer immediately shared. Or at least, sharing them is not at the forefront of my mind. Rather I am focusing on the experience itself, what it’s bringing to me, and what it means to me individually. There have been a number of times over the last few weeks where I’ve thought something would be great to share on Facebook. Not being able to has really made me question why I want to share things, the type of thing I’m sharing, and the benefits of not doing so.
Frequently I used to wake up in the morning struggling with the love affair I have with my bed and duvet, and would use Facebook as an excuse to stay in bed for longer: “let’s have a look at what’s been happening while I’ve been asleep” (generally, nothing). Instead now I wake up and enjoy the love affair with my bed, revel in it a little, and give myself the time I used to spend on Facebook thinking about what’s going on with me, in my head, in my heart, and how I am feeling. It sounds silly, but I feel much calmer, more grounded in my life, and more connected to the world around me.
Has my worry of societal worth reduced because I dont have a) a constant need to check the type of response a post has received, and thus b) whether it, and me, have been validated? In a way I am experiencing relief. Not having to worry about these things because there’s no outlet for this worry, nor a constant reminder on my computer, phone, tablet etc. that I should be thinking about these things.
At the same time the experience is also humbling. I have never thought of myself as a ‘show off’ but I guess in some ways on Facebook we all are. I used to get annoyed at people posting statuses declaring their life’s angst, anger, and upset or contrastingly their every beautiful, romantic, loved-up moments. And don’t even get me started on boring posts about what someone ate for breakfast or which motorway they are on. But in thinking about how Facebook plays to our egos, I now think these people are actually the least show off of us all. Their posts are more realistic about life’s ups and downs and ‘mundane-ness’ than what the rest of us do (or at least those of us who complain about statuses of this kind) which is to only post something funny, poignant, deep, or beautiful. That’s not realistic of the ups and downs everyone faces but never post.
Maybe everyone else isn’t affected in the same way I realised I was becoming, and maybe it is just me who has actually been a hypocrite for a while without knowing, but it feels bloomin’ good to be back in control of things. Facebook is only one aspect. There has been a sudden surge in research interest about the effects of our modern day of information overload on our productivity, stress, and mental health. Just today, I saw this article from the i100 part of The Independent saying that if you want to feel less stressed, check your emails less. I can believe it. I no longer have my emails pushed through to my phone and I feel less anxious and urgent about things. I get to choose when I receive information. Along this line, the Guardian also printed an article online yesterday about “ditching my smartphone“. I haven’t quite come around to that idea, but it’s tempting. I can certainly resonate with the author’s feeling of constant guilt when bombarded with messages from people you feel you have to reply to immediately but don’t have the energy for.
On that note, has my contact with people been better? Overall, yes. But it’s easy to say ‘hi’. It’s not easy to keep the conversations going, so let’s see how that goes as my Facebook Free time continues.
As you can probably tell, I’m really enjoying this exploration! Let’s see what revelations a few more weeks bring…