What I learned from logging out of Facebook for Lent

GfL

I decided to log out of Facebook for Lent in an attempt to quiet my mind and be better able to focus on other things. I learned a few things in the process…

1. Progress, not perfection. I stayed entirely off Facebook for about one out of the six weeks of Lent. Then I let myself slide back in just to stay in touch with a small, private Catholic Moms group and our private family group. I was able to keep up with that for about three weeks. Then I started doing some scrolling, but not commenting. And in the final week or two of Lent, I began commenting on people’s posts here and there. So was it a perfect sacrifice? No. But I think it was a useful exercise.

2. Take the humble road. One thing that I was committed to during my time away (or lessened) was not making any original posts myself. OK, there was one exception — a request for prayers for my husband’s current job search. But other than that, I did not start any conversations. That was a deliberate decision on my part and one that I made out of a desire to practice humility. If you don’t post anything, there’s nothing to check to see how many likes or comments your post has garnered.

3. I can fill my time with anything. I have never in my life scrolled the news feed on Linked IN or the curated articles on Google like I did over the past six weeks. I learned that it’s not Facebook that can highjack my night; it’s my own unwillingness to set boundaries and stick to them.

4. I am not a very visual person. In lieu of posting on Facebook, I found myself posting to Instagram. The problem with that is that Instagram is an image-based platform. I have a word-based brain. Limiting myself to Instagram forced me to think differently about how I wanted to convey what I wanted to say. That was a learning experience.

5. Online relationships can be very real. Part of the reason I slipped back into at least the scrolling of Facebook is that I missed people — people I might not often (or ever) see in real life, but people who are important to me nonetheless. For me, Facebook fills — in part — a need for connection.

6. Facebook serves up plenty of drama and angst. This is likely no surprise to anyone, but backing out for a while did provide an opportunity for a refresh. Even when I was scrolling, but not responding or posting, I had the ability to just scroll on by and not be weighed down by whatever drama was bouncing around my newsfeed.

7. News travels fast…on Facebook. At least in my little corner of the world, Facebook is the hub of communication. I find updates from Robbie’s bowling league there, and nowhere else. Friends who have happy or sad news to share do so on Facebook in an effort to be efficient. Photos and stories of my nieces and nephews find there way to our private Facebook group when they might not be shared otherwise.

8. It’s on me to cultivate more direct communication. This stems from #6. I love being able to check in and find out what is happening in the lives of people I know and love. But I also learned over the past six weeks that I should be more intentional about making contact with people I care about outside of Facebook.

Am I glad that I chose a Facebook fast for this year’s Lent? I am. Will I spend less time on Facebook now after all that I’ve discovered? The jury is still out on that one. Will I give up Facebook for Lent again? Hmmm…I guess I have a while to figure that out.

 

I’ve made a big mistake

It’s Lent, the season during which Christians prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus by choosing to fast from something or, in more recent years, adding a spiritual practice to their days. I’ve tried to elevate my Lenten sacrifice from the giving up of chocolate that was my default in my younger years. This year, I chose to give up Facebook and Twitter for the duration of Lent. And I’m feeling like it was a BIG. MISTAKE.

My motivation was a recognition that I was spending an inordinate amount of time on the two social media sites, that all the time spent on those sites was drawing me into judgement, snarkiness and sometimes anger over things that really weren’t mine to be angry about, and that I was seeking approval from the people who responded to my posts — “do they like me?”.

All of those seem like good reasons to take a social media hiatus, and I still believe they are. However, what I didn’t really count on is how much I would miss the connection with the people who’ve become regulars in my little internet bubble. As crazy as it sounds, there are some people who I only interact with on social media who I absolutely consider friends. This Lenten sacrifice of mine has cut me off from those people.

I also didn’t consider how much I use social media as a crowd sourcing platform for life’s common questions, like “how much should it cost to replace a car’s back windshield” or “what’s the best way to cook a rump roast?” And to answer the obvious question, yes, of course I could Google those things, but it’s so much nicer to hear from friend or two or 17.

Despite the fact that I am pretty sure that I made a big mistake giving up Facebook and Twitter, I’m not giving up giving up. I think there are things I can — and need to — learn and do. I want to get back in touch with my own thoughts and feelings outside of the influence of whether or not other people agree. I’m feeling drawn to creativity, which I’ve let be squelched by mindless scrolling through newsfeeds.

There’s a big world out there and I’m hoping to find it again. And when I do, boy will that make a great story to tell on Facebook.

 

A good laugh

Today I was challenged to write about a moment experienced through the perspective of my body. I decided to write about a good laugh.

A good laugh starts in my lungs with an inhale and then a stuttered, vocal exhale. My mouth turns up and my eyes narrow. Soon, I feel my stomach tighten as the breaths — inhale, exhale, get faster and deeper. My eyes fill with tears and my cheeks stretch toward my ears. My body begins to fold over as water streams down my face. I straighten up, trying to breathe, anxious for the oxygen, but not wanting the moment to pass.

It was an interesting exercise, to think about what my body does during something as simple as a laugh. Think about it. What moment would you describe, using only the experience of your body?

Do you know how you feel?

Last week a co-worker said to me, “You must be really stressed.”

Her comment took me by surprise. “Why?,” I asked.

“Because you’ve been talking to yourself a lot. You do that when you’re stressed.”

I stopped to think for a minute and she was right. I was feeling stressed. But I was so hyper-focused on the tasks of the week — including getting two kids ready to head out to college and one set for his first day of high school, I hadn’t taken any time to consider how I was feeling about it. All I knew was I had a to-do list a mile long (two of them, in fact — one at work and one at home) and I was chiefly concerned with ticking off  the boxes.

Since then, I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I’m feeling about situations and experiences. Those feelings have included:

Frustration — on several occasions, including when I’d spent more than an hour building a webpage at work, only to have the computer spontaneously shut down, causing me to lose an hour’s worth of work.

Exhaustion — moving two kids into college in two days will do that to you.

Conflict (Confliction? I’m not sure that’s a word) — As a lifelong Catholic, I’m feeling conflicted about my religion given several recent stories in the news.

Sadness — the first time I pulled up to our house and it did not look like a used car lot because there were only two cars there, not the four that had been parked out front all summer

Gratitude — For several things, a flexible work environment, the ability to provide our kids with education, a body that can move (mostly) freely

Exasperation — I love my daughter Annie but by the time she went to school, we were both very ready.

Fear — when my son Charlie told me he is going to his first college party and working with my other son to get himself organized for high school

As I look over this list, I’m surprised to see that happiness and joy didn’t make the list. Surely, I’ve felt both of those things in the past week. I’ve had periods of my life where happiness and joy went on long sabbaticals. This is not one of those times. I think I need to pay more attention to when those make an appearance and be grateful for them.

Are you aware of your feelings as you are having them? Or do you just march through your days ticking off the boxes?