It’s April 1, 2018. Easter Sunday. The first day of my social media hiatus. I just deleted the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and FB Messenger apps from my phone. This is not a joke.
You see, I noticed an addiction forming that looks like this:
I’m bored. Check facebook.
I’m lonely. Check facebook.
I don’t know what to do with my life. Check facebook.
I feel like basking in some beauty. Open Instagram.
I wonder how my good friend Sally’s doing. Stalk her on both Facebook and Instagram. (I don’t have a good friend Sally but if I did, I’d be stalking her too.)
It used to be food. Now it’s some digital conglomerate of zero’s and one’s that have become a substitute for being with what’s real.
I’ve had a couple good lines:
“I’m not a social media junkie. I only really use social media because…
It’s good for business.
I don’t live near my friends and family so it helps me keep in touch.
It gives me a creative outlet. When I write something I have people to share it with.”
I’m calling bull shit on all of that. Here’s the God’s honest truth.
I had no idea what Facebook was until about 4 years after it started catching on. I only joined it so I could nurture an imaginary budding relationship with a guy I met on holiday. I was into him, and the only way it was suggested I keep in touch was via Facebook. I didn’t have internet at my flat at the time, and the website was blocked at work, so I spent some hard-earned pounds at an internet cafe (remember those!) to create a FB account.
I friended (is that a verb!?) a few key people before friending him so that I didn’t look desperate (ha!), and then attempted to start a very nonchalant conversation, carefully weaving in the fact that I don’t have constant access to the internet so don’t expect an immediate reply.
I thought I could walk away. Make contact and then not think about it for a few days, maybe a week, and then perhaps when I had a few moments with nothing else to do, I would find another internet cafe just to be polite and not leave his response unanswered.
Well, you know where this is going right?
I’m on high alert. Eyes wide open, pupils dilated, raised eyebrows, and fiercely set jaw, as I scurry through the evening commuters that don’t seem to have anywhere better to be as they exit the train platform.
Out of my way! I’ve gotta get to the cafe, log on for a quick 15 minutes, and then get home so I can go for a run before dark.
And of course there’s no reply.
Good thing I found my sister on facebook. I could catch up on her life and message her instead without completely losing face.
Lonely. Love-starved. Ripe for grasping on to anything that would fill the void. Completely susceptible to the addiction.
To be fair, I didn’t become an addict right away. I’d say I’ve been on the lower end of the hours-lost-on-Facebook bell curve. After I got over this guy, I could go days without it.
Then I started meeting people in real-life that were also on Facebook and it became an easy way to connect. Easier than accepting that fact that if we tried to have a real conversation, we’d probably both be itching to go after ten minutes or so.
Then old highschool friends that I lost touch with started friending me, and all of a sudden my life had meaning again. They missed me! I was important to them!
And then of course, I was checking it daily.
When I took a break back-packing and didn’t have constant access to wifi, I’m happy to report I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms.
But then I attempted to start my own business and that’s where it all went pear-shaped.
I’d post something that was slightly edgy for me… a story about my past, or an invitation to sign up to one product or service or another…
Something where I was highly attached to how people responded because I was measuring the value of my thoughts, my products, services and Me, based on how many Likes, Comments, Shares, Follows, or Purchases there were.
Again that jaw clenched, eyes dilated, and constant refresh of the page, wondering why my post hasn’t gone viral yet. Why my fans aren’t loving me as they could and should.
I give myself a pep talk. “Keep going, this is the only way to land clients and customers. It’s the only way people will find you.”
Too bad the data shows that only two of the dozens of clients I’ve coached were because of a Facebook post, most of our customers come from personal connections we’ve made, and most of those connections have come through other connections with businesses, referral sources, or from being human and do things that humans do…. Like participate in a world that is made up of protons and neutrons and electrons, not just zeroes and ones.
So why is it only now that I’m taking a break from social media?
Because I’ve been afraid.
Afraid to let go. What will happen if people don’t hear from me for a whole month? What if I lose out on a chance to make some money? What if I miss out on something really important that happens and Facebook is the only way for me to find out about it?
Afraid of those things, and totally afraid to Trust.
Trust that the right people at the right time will come into my life. Trust that financial provision will continue to come in ways I don’t always have control over. Trust that if something important happens, I will find out about it in time.
I’ve also been afraid of the blank space. That nano-second in time where I am feeling bored, lonely, disconnected, sitting with more questions than answers and creeping towards the edge of uncomfortable uncertainty. Thank God for Facebook, Social Media, Email, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter… anything to reassure me that I’m not alone anymore.
Except after the initial high wears off, I am back to where I was. Or worse, spinning into action fueled by more fear. This time, of being left out and being behind the curve (because in life-according-to-Insta-and Facebook, clearly everyone else has their shit together.)
So I thought, “Right, no more of this crap. Get yourself together and start listening to your Self.”
Now, you may already know this, but what I’m about to tell you is news to me.
Your Self and my Self, is different to yourself and myself.
I know it seems like the only difference is a matter of hitting the spacebar and shift key, but turns out they’re different (and fyi I didn’t learn about this on social media).
It helps me to think of my Self as something tangible; physical, like another being. Like an Elf. Or a fairy. Like Tinkerbell.
My Self is quietly unassuming (ok maybe not like Tinkerbell). It sort of watches my life from the sidelines without interfering too much. Every now and then, my Self opens its mouth (I never know if it’s gonna be a He or a She), and says something that is wise, kind, and usually profoundly simple. Usually it’s so simple, I find a hundred and one reasons why that level of wisdom, kindness, and simplicity just won’t work out here in the real world.
So my Self shrugs her shoulders (this time it’s a She) and says, “OK. I’ll be here when you need me.”
So I do it my way, and then (again), this quiet unassuming voice just kinda drops a blip of truth into my head. Sometimes it feels like a bomb, but it’s not. It’s definitely more like a blip. Or a bloop.
And then I’m left staring at this blippy bloop and I think, “Shit!! Why didn’t I see this coming!? This is going to take so much effort to clean up this mess I’m in!”
And then Self says, “Or not. You could always leave it to me.”
“Leave it you? Ha. You can’t clean this up as good as I can.”
“Wanna make a bet?”
Ugh. I really do! Like, really really do. I want to show you and prove to you that my way is better. That I’ve got this. I’m pulling from decades of experience, and hundreds of books I’ve read, and piles of manuals that ok, maybe I haven’t read (who reads instructions these days!), but I could always Google it and figure things out if I get stuck.
“You do remember that I’ve been around long before you and your Google, right? It’s fine though. Do it your way.”
And I do. And then life gets messy. And then Self drops another blip-bomb, and we have this same conversation, until finally, finally, FINALLY, I start to listen.
Which takes me right back to where I started; my social media hiatus.