Hello, I’m Ilana, and I’m a social media addict.
Let me assure you that a) I’m not making light of addiction, and b) I have not been in denial of my own addiction over the course of years. I have fully owned it but because I was still a high functioning multi-hat wearer, I had simply not been able to find the motivation to take the steps I needed to until 3.5 weeks ago. I justified my reliance on it the way we all do, and when I started not being able to justify, I simply could not find the reason I needed to DO something about it.
No amount of others telling you that you need to make a change can inspire you to make the change if YOU are not ready to own all the consequences of said choice. And, believe it or not, until my friend Millie looked at me and said, “It’s a choice, you know”, I don’t think I understood that it actually was. And just like that, I made my choice and I pulled that plug.
Three and a half weeks. Is that all it’s been? It feels like many lifetimes because I have given myself the gift of time awareness, and three weeks of social media feels, to the human brain (in my very non-sciencey opinion) like three years, because so much happens in the space of a year, a month, an hour, a minute when one cannot pull their head out of their phone and look around. It’s a macrocosm in a microcosm and boy, is it EVERYTHING.
I left Facebook suddenly, with little premeditation. An irresponsible post of the sort I was inclined to share resulted in a tsunami of backlash, and not for the first time in my 20 year relationship with social networks, either. But it was the final time in that iteration, and I can see how the massive anxiety state it provoked was one of the hugest gifts I could have received.
There was no YAGE. There was no posting in groups to let people know. I told my closest friends, and then I left. I have an admin account for business, and that’s it. I don’t go on Facebook to check anything, and I can’t even admin my pages properly because Facebook requires me to download the app, which I won’t do. So really, it doesn’t serve much purpose. I may one day let it go, as well.
On a Saturday evening, three and a half weeks ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. Deletion feels too permanent as I have SO many photos and memories and information there, but deactivation makes it so no one can find me (except on Messenger which doesn’t get deleted, and which I’m not checking, so don’t message me).
The second I deactivated that account, I felt infused with calm as it meant that those who were actively seeking me out to send yucky messages could no longer easily reach me. It meant that if they really wanted to take the time to tell me what a bad human they think I am, they’d have to do work. And the thing I realized is that most people throwing stones don’t really want to do the work to find the glass house. I’m thinking a lot about my need to be seen vs. a need to show myself. The two are not mutually synonymous and both have different implications and consequences.
For the first time in many, many years, I could drop the hyper vigilance that comes with being an active contributor to social feeds, because I didn’t have to constantly be on the lookout for the next disaster to prevent, even if I was the one creating it.
The first week was easy. The whole calm after the storm thing is beautiful, and it’s filled with hope and space and new and “I can do this”. My kids were at their dad’s, and I spent the week focusing on work, riding the bus to ballet, reading reading reading for FUN, and taking stock of what I was feeling.
The next week the kids came back, and I was painfully aware of the extent to which I’d used my phone to avoid the feeling that I had to be on and responsive and present all the time.
At no time did I feel a need to check Facebook or reconnect.
Incredibly, there was no sense of loss, no sense of disconnection, no sense of not being part of something bigger. No FOMO.
Because guess what? While I have been on various social networks pretty much since the birth of the social network, I also happen to be a person who recognizes my need for actual, in-person, physical connection, and it turns out that I have built some absolutely incredible relationships that are STILL there, even with a deactivated Facebook account! Wow, real life friends. How old school. And how critical to our sense of safety. While I’ve spent years building online groups and connecting people virtually, it’s been those real life friends who can wrap me in a hug when I need it that really and truly count, and that remind me that there’s always someone just a text or a phone call away, someone who truly cares for and loves me.
So it’s not like suddenly my phone went into atrophy from lack of use. If I were to install an app that monitors my usage, I’d probably still see hours a day of screen time because I use text to stay connected to my people, and I loooooooooove the power of the written word.
But here’s what was really sucking away hours of my life:
And mindlessness, my friends, is a rabbit hole of wasted time, wasted energy, wasted peace, because it is not something you do consciously, with intention. While I make a point of identifying all the things that suck joy in my posts, I cannot possibly hyperbolize the impact of mindless behaviour such as app swiping, because it’s THAT serious, that damaging, that much of a hit to our sense of well being and safety.
I am still fighting the mindlessness. When things are rough, when my thoughts feel yucky, when anxiety flares, my default is to duck back into my phone, because it’s easy, and it’s numbing, and I don’t have to be responsible for anything for a few moments. And it is socially acceptable and less damaging to my body (in the short term only – text neck, anyone?) than chemical escape. But even with nothing on there but ballet accounts to look at on the one Instagram account I’m keeping for now and my Medium subscription, I still manage to forget and lose control and swipe swipe swipe through NOTHING. But I have fostered the awareness of this behaviour and have committed to sitting with the urge to swipe and discovering what is underneath (ESCAPE! It’s really not rocket science), and cultivating peace and calm. Because while there is so much I cannot control, so much I am learning to release my death grip on, this is one aspect I CAN control. And control means to give it up entirely, indefinitely, for the greater good.
It’s only been three weeks. But it’s been three weeks, and I can tell you, with full honesty, that there is nothing that I miss about Facebook Land. My people are still a text away. I don’t need to know every detail of everyone’s day-to-day. I am not forgotten just because I’m no longer the main feature of all your feeds. I trust that I’ve made a mark, and now it’s up to me to find other ways to continue the work I have been called to do. Writing here is part of that. All of the Facebooking is a passive, effortless form of connection that doesn’t serve, and that deceives us into thinking that we’re part of something greater, that leaves us, ultimately, feeling alone, abandoned, disconnected, anxious, small. It’s the people who reached out to ask where I’d been to that remind me that I’m loved and connected. It’s my close friends who counselled and supported me through the events that led to my decision that remind me that I’ve built a community for myself. It’s my kids and my intimate relationship that reminds me that there’s a future that’s important to me. It’s NOT Facebook, and it never truly was.
Will there be greater implications for my business? Possibly. Will I miss out on opportunities? Highly likely. Do either scenarios make me nervous? Nope. Because there is a whole OTHER world out there, full of people who aren’t controlled by Facebook-related anxiety, who can sit down with me, face-to-face, and have a conversation without picking up their phone every time it dings. There are my children to rebuild relationships with, and one daughter who needs my presence more than she ever has before in her life. There is a house to finish so I can set myself up with another form of revenue. There are aspects of my business I’ve neglected because they conflicted with my social media time. There are ballet classes to take (so many ballet classes!), movies to watch, piles of books to finish, busses to ride, scenery to be taken in while I lose myself in thoughts and fantasies, love to be made, and seasons to watch pass, in front of my actual eyes. And soon, it will be time to start putting out into the world again in the way I’m meant to, by leading by example, by holding space, by offering counsel.
For me, there is only cold-turkey. It’s all or nothing, and it’s also an awareness of how badly Facebook impacted on my quality of life and my ease with myself.
I am cultivating presence. It takes work – real, yucky, facing myself kind of work. I am re-establishing my sense of peace. I’m working on seeing where the abundance exists in my life. I need to not be on high alert anymore waiting for something to be thrown my way. And when something does come my way, I need to recognize what is choice (social media) and what isn’t (my children).
Hi. I’m Ilana. And I’m no longer addicted to social media.
Have you let go of Facebook? Let me know what motivated you, what kind of a difference it made in your life, and if you feel this is a permanent move for you!