One day after my 8 year sober birthday I decided to give up social media for a month (or as long as I could). In the beginning there really wasn’t any end game in mind. My motivation: I realized that somewhere along the way I started caring what people think. And this started to affect how I felt about my self. Oh and also, I was spending way too much time checking my phone.
I wish someone could have taken my picture and posted it as I contemplated what it meant to erase the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone. I held my finger on the screen and the icons did that little dance, that shaky “please don’t delete me” dance. This continued on for probably an hour. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I’ve wanted to do this before but haven’t…. why? I’ve tried to place limits on myself: only on the weekend or not until five o’clock. I should… wait…but then I won’t feel so connected… how…will I know about ——- (fill in the blank). And I will never remember all those birthdays!
Reaching for my phone has become almost automatic; and social media like that person you meet who is really quiet and smiles a lot. Either they are a very nice person and you should spend time with them or they are a total sociopath and stay the heck away.
What have I learned so far? In the past month, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit, or better, quite a bit has been revealed. Here, I’ll give you my top 5.
1. I don’t do well with silence and I don’t do well with empty space.
Breaking up with social media has taught me that over the years I have grown uncomfortable with silence. There is so much that exists today to fill the space – and so much right at our very own fingertips. We can’t just say it’s a millennial thing anymore, either. I know some baby boomers, one of whom is well into his seventies, who reach for their smart phones as soon as there is a lull in conversation or a moment of down time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or a special dinner or if a very important conversation has just occurred. And as much as I’d like to be a millennial (well, maybe not), I’m well into my thirties. I can actually remember when the decor and fashion looked like Stranger Things. For real.
2. I need an answer for everything
If I have a question about literally anything, I can reach for my phone and have an answer or at least someone’s interpretation of an answer or comment on that question instantly. I love how now google even knows, before I do, how to accurately complete my question. So basically, you don’t have to actually know anything. The internet knows it for you. Remember the time when there were questions that we had to sit with, struggle with, reach out to actual human beings or go to a library and page thru countless Encyclopedias to find? Yeah, me neither.
And when it comes to social media, this relates, too. All I have is one word: #hashtag.
3. Comparisons are silly (and destructive)
A lot of women I’ve talked to have mentioned that social media makes them compare themselves to others. I know when I was pregnant with twins, this was true for me.
Can I just say that there are way too many skinny pregnant moms out there? You know (and you may be one of them), the soon-to-be moms who are still wearing bikinis and vacationing in exotic places? Many insta-moms are skinnier pregnant than I was BT (before twins).
Especially now in the age of everyone has an online business or brand or label or whatever: color-coordinated or fashionably mis-matchy. There is always something to sell.
Sometimes I scroll past the moms with perfect hair cuts and perfectly dressed children and perfectly smiling faces and do one of those internal eye rolls. I scroll past but there is something that feels yucky inside if I let it. My thoughts can feel captive to something…Not love. I don’t like the fact that social media can bring this out.
4. Society (I am a part of this society) is preoccupied with being seen
I have a photo-worthy moment and my first thought is sometimes not gratitude. My first thought is, I better grab my phone quick and post this.
Or, I have a revelation; you know, the one that is so profound that I need to tell all of my followers exactly what it was with a clever caption and cute selfie.
Why can’t I have more of these moments in solitude? Why does everything need to be displayed and perfectly staged like I am an actress in someone’s screen play?
5. Social Media does not always create community
In the recovery community, social media is often used as a tool to help reduce the stigma of addiction and recovery, a tool to create community. In my past working life, much of what I did and tried to encourage others to do via social media was talk about the good stuff: don’t just live the transformation, show the transformation. Because people need Hope. And we all want to feel like we belong.
For many, social media is the place where people see for the first time that recovery is possible for a young person – or any person for that matter – that we can and do recover. What a gift and blessing! It is also a place where we can meet others with common interests, issues, and causes and feel connected to them from the safety of our own living rooms.
The down side, however, is that we can get trapped here, too. Because recovery, just like life, is not always pretty. Maybe those people we are trying to help behind the screen would be more helped by me saying “I’m having a bad day.” Maybe meeting in real life and having a real conversation would be more helpful?
Could you imagine if we posted about real life? The good, bad, and not so IG-worthy? Here’s an example:
Picture: woman (me) hands down on a rainy road with a bag of dog poop, a Wiley German Shepard and eyes welling with tears
Caption: Going for a Run!
Hashtags: #blameitontherain #poopyrun #outofshape #fallingfacefirst
Or another one:
Picture: two five month old babies crying, woman (me) in the kitchen frantically trying to get dinner ready
Caption: The Best Days!
Hashtags: #thisisparenting #mommascrycorner #help
Kind of ridiculous, no? But this is life, too. And why do we have to hide this and only share the pretty stuff? Why don’t we want all of us to be seen?
As in recovery, I think I’m finding there is a spiritual solution to all of this. The empty space and the quiet moments – maybe they are just supposed to be this. Maybe instead of scrolling thru social media, I can embrace the stillness.
And maybe instead of just sharing the pretty pictures I can be real with the people who are really in my life. I can spend time connecting in a way that is life-giving and authentic.
When I told a good friend of mine my plan to detox from social media for a while and change my relationship with it, her response was one of anxiety. She told me the thought of getting rid of those apps on her phone made her heart almost skip a beat and she had a sinking feeling, like someone was holding her under water.