I’ve been on a small Facebook fast. It started out as a cold-turkey thing that eventually evolved into a 5:2 diet.
There were a few instigators. Knowing I was soon going to a job that required constant social media surveillance was one. Getting bored (!) of Facebook was another. But the biggest push came in the form of a Whatsapp women’s devotion I’d been a part of for 28 days straight (give or take the days I forgot to post the devotion!) Someone I love made the decision to stay off Facebook because it had become too much of a lure into the Comparison Trap, and I cheerfully invited myself to join her on impulse — at least until I started the New Job. (More on that later.)
I started to observe what I chose to do with my new spare seconds, and soon realised how often I habitually checked my gadgets. I started to still that impulse. Then came the challenge of replacing the old habit with a new one. I started using paper journals and organisers again. I downloaded new design software, watched tutorials, learnt new things. Caught up on John Oliver snippets.
More than that, I started to find my inner dialogue changing. Because I wasn’t constantly surrounding myself with edited micro-versions of people’s lives, I wasn’t so bitchy in my head about my own failings, nor so quick to crow about my so-called successes. It was a nice bubble. For a little while.
But bubbles pop. I’ve now returned and am fully immersed in social media, and in people’s online lives. For the most part, it’s been good fun catching up with photos and tiny celebrations and new babies and milestones. And I’m genuinely happy for 99% of my friends, 99% of the time.
But then the other day, I caught myself behaving like a complete cow on the phone, mooing over some petty jealousy or other. And all that effort to detox, all that strength and confidence built up by that little wall of protection and blissful ignorance my Facebook Fast gave me came tumbling down like a house built with straw.
The problem, of course, isn’t social media. It’s just my propensity to look to the left and right constantly, and find myself dissatisfied by my portion in life. Why do we do that to ourselves? Or maybe you don’t suffer from that as acutely as I do, so… why do I do that to myself, always?
This isn’t the first time I’ve taken myself offline, but it’s the first time I’ve crystallised my real issues with social media – and it’s not the media. Of course it’s not the media. Of course it’s not the media. Because if I look at someone’s successes and mull over my own “defeats”… If I look at someone’s “Pinterest-perfect” snapshot and sneer silently about its lack of authenticity… If I feel taunted by a particular notification, or annoyed by a post’s ever-increasing “like” counter, or worse – conduct a swift compare/contrast and feel vindicated, then I have issues. Or rather, I am the issue.
I cannot recommend highly enough this devotion series we’ve just completed, called The Comparison Trap. It’s short, it’s poignant, it’s insightful, it’s gentle, it’s essential. I have been so edified by the lessons, to the point where I think I’ll be going through it again next month except this time, on my own and actually committing to doing the exercises. (Including the drawing. I don’t draw, but perhaps this might unleash some hidden Pictionary mightyness!)
I started my new job this week, after saying goodbye-for-now to the other one-month contract I just finished. My life has changed from the tactile to the virtual. The biggest strain so far hasn’t been about getting mentally attuned to corporate life again, but about losing fresh air, sunshine and constant movement. And I cannot choose to switch off from social media now – it’s part of my job description.
But I think I’m a little more self-aware now, a little more wary of pitfalls, a little more determined to get over myself and move on.