This past January, I hit a wall. My mother and I were at odds, and I was struggling after my divorce to find my new path and forge ahead. My immediate reaction — when I felt the walls closing in — was to shut down, focus on myself, and look inward. This included cutting out the distraction and influence social media brought to my life. I disconnected my account on New Year’s Day, and until a couple of days ago, never looked back. It wasn’t until this week, when a colleague and friend experienced the tragic event of her young daughter’s death, that I realized life is too short and precious to not share and participate in the lives of those we care about.
This year has been transformative for me in more ways than one. And I don’t think I would have been able to focus on myself as carefully as I have over the course of this past year without shutting down Facebook. Might sound trivial to some, but to me, it was a big deal. I don’t think we all realize how caught up we get in others’ lives, how much we compare ourselves — our vacations, our parenting, our weight, and the list goes on — as a direct result of social media.
I wanted to reflect on what I learned during my time away. And I’ll be the first to admit, now that I’m back and fully participating, I actually missed it. But now I feel I see things from a different perspective. Facebook is a great tool if you’re mindful of how you’re using it.
1. Getting off of Facebook forced me to learn and appreciate other social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter.
I fully understand Twitter and how to use it as a business and professional tool, and Instagram has opened up a beautiful world of photography and imagery. Not giving myself access to Facebook allowed me to learn and get comfortable with other tools out there. While Facebook is arguably the most popular choice of the bunch, it’s not the end-all-be-all.
2. I naturally focused more on news and reading when surfing the Internet and browsing on my phone.
It’s easy to get consumed — every time you’re on your phone with a couple extra minutes to burn, you’re checking Facebook vs. something else. It was good to spread the love — and my time — by keeping up with more diverse and newsworthy sites (does Buzzfeed count?).
3. A lot of people I know and care about not only got pregnant, but had actual real live babies while I was away, and I had no idea.
After logging back on, I realized that I was missing huge life events of people who actually matter to me. Little babies had grown up and started walking, and the last time I saw a photo of them had been when they were just newborns. I realized that I enjoy following these events from a distance, even though they’re, well, of distant friends.
4. I didn’t take as many photos, and I have less documentation of what happened in my life over the past year vs. if I would have been on Facebook.
For me, having a platform to share photos, stories, and moments of my life makes me more inclined to actually take the photo, write the story, and document the small moments. Without Facebook, I did document some big moments, but not nearly as many — and definitely not as many small moments — if I would have had the means to share with others. In essence, Facebook encourages me to be more mindful of those special, important (big and small) moments because I want to share them with those who I care about and who care about me.
5. I realized most people put forth their “best version of life” and that it’s not all what it seems to be.
I learned to stop comparing myself because what’s on social media is the best of the best (and I’m guilty of this portrayal myself). I’ve read the studies and articles, and I know some of the effects on those who get pulled into social media and start feeling their life is inadequate. We have to know we’re only seeing the best of the best, and that people aren’t as inclined to share when they’re feeling depressed, defeated, annoyed, or angry. And honestly, I’d rather keep it like that. I think we all have our fair share of problems, and social media isn’t the best platform or means of sharing our frustrations. That’s what phone calls and in-person visits with the ones we love and trust are for.
6. Time passes by too quickly to not be engaged.
Regardless of how passé, superficial, or self-indulgent people consider Facebook to be, it’s a great platform to stay connected to those with whom you want to have a connection. As I found out, the majority of my friends (and pretty much my entire family) aren’t on Twitter or Instagram. They’re just not; everyone’s still on Facebook. And, I have to say that my grandmother being able to see and comment on photos from my everyday life is kinda priceless. Facebook is an effective tool to keep up with family because it’s true that I didn’t send them an email or text every time I took a great photo, visited a new place, or had a funny story to tell.
7. By being off of Facebook and cutting connections, I was able to get myself on track without any outward influence.
No comparison. No judging. No interjecting. During my time off, I focused on myself, transformed most areas of my life, and made some huge changes. It felt good to do this on my own terms. We often don’t realize the impact social media — and being in constant contact with hundreds of people — has on our psyche and well-being. To use this tool in the best way and get the most out of it, we have to have our head in the right place.
My time away proved to be exactly what I needed, and I’m so glad I did it. Although I feel as though I may have missed out slightly this year, I’m looking forward to getting back to documenting and connecting, and (this time) doing so without comparison, judgment, and distraction.
Look out 2016! It’s going to be a wonderful, connected — and well-documented — year.