I never thought that deactivating my Facebook account would cause such a flood of epiphanies about who I am, and who I want to be-as a person, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. Man. Sometimes it really stinks to look in the mirror and see a reflection of someone that you really don’t like.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered in these two months:
- My family needs me more than I am needed here. In fact, I can go away from here and won’t be missed. These relationships can be fleeting (it’s not a bad or a good thing-it’s just the truth). The relationship with my husband and children will last forever. The necessity to make THOSE relationships better far outweighs the consequences of me not partaking in social media.
- Relationships with family members aren’t what they should be, but I’m working on it. Excessive use of social media has hindered my relationship with my entire family. As much as I hate writing that, it’s the truth. My kids will ask me to watch something with them now, and I’m constantly reminded by them to LOOK at what they’re asking me to watch. It’s annoying, but I’m sure it has been much more annoying to have a mother who didn’t look when they asked before because she was so busy wondering what cyberspace was up to.
- I don’t need a platform or superficial props to know that I’m okay. This has been a big eye opener for me, and I think it’s something that needs to be said more often: we are not measured by likes, retweets, and +1s. If I were to base my existence on how many people followed me on Twitter, or how many “Like”s my witty commentary has, I’m pretty sure I would feel miserable all of the time (and in hindsight, I WAS miserable). I want my relationships to be about real connections. Having my kids hug me and tell me I’m great is enough. Having my husband laugh at my witty commentary while we’re sitting next to each other, holding hands, watching TV without being distracted by a phone or a laptop between us? That’s enough. The people who I will have relationships with forever- their opinions matter more than yours, and that’s how it should be.
- Real relationships suffer when you’re giving your attention to thousands of strangers. I know I’ve already said this, but it’s something worth saying again, without mincing words. I speak from personal experience. My kids are 6 & 8 years old, and I’ve been a part of social media most, or all of their lives. Until recently, they didn’t know me without a device in my hand or on my lap. They’ve played second fiddle to what I thought was important. Although I can’t take these actions back, I can show them that I no longer want to live in a place where my value and theirs is decided by inconsequential things. I want them to be secure in the knowledge that if the internet went away tomorrow, that our lives would not change drastically (except that I couldn’t depend on Google Maps anymore-the horror!!).
- Give your attention to real life. I think it’s easy for us to say, “I’m right here. I am physically present. When I am spoken to, I look up and engage (that engagement probably starts with a “What?”).” Face it. Really. YOU ARE NOT THERE. You are participating in an entirely different world while the real one sits in front of you, begging for your attention. Before Noel was born, I tried my hand at knitting. It was around 2005, and I had just started a blog, and loved reading different blogs, writing on mine, checking comments, writing comments, reading comments, getting riled up about comments, and on, and on, and on. Needless to say, I just couldn’t commit to knitting. It was too time-consuming. It didn’t go as fast as I’d like. I couldn’t see progress quickly. My list of excuses was a mile long, but it came down to this: I didn’t feel like I had time to knit. Fast forward to today. When I gave up Facebook, I wanted to have something to do with my hands that were formally in constant connection with my phone or laptop. I took up knitting again, a few weeks ago. I’m half-way through a scarf for one of my sons. It’s not too daunting anymore, because I was able to learn without distraction, and I have plenty of time to dedicate to it, without stopping to see what’s going on in cyberspace. Knitting has become somewhat symbolic to me. The longer the scarf gets, the more I see myself stepping further and further away from something that wasn’t fulfilling, and closer to a life that is fulfilling.
- It’s okay to engage, but not at the cost of real relationships. Short temper, impatience, exasperation, and similar feelings ruled my life during this time. That’s years, people. Years of negativity with the only people in my life that really matter. Just typing this out makes me want to cry. But we’re moving forward. Since January 1st, I’ve seen a lot of changes in me and those around me. I feel less burdened by nonsense. My kids are visibly less stressed when they are around me. My husband and I are rediscovering the people that we met, 15 years ago, before distraction ruled my life. And honestly, I can say that we are much, much happier. I still text with friends, a bit, during the day. I still have friends that I chat with on the phone occasionally. There’s a big difference between “a bit”, or “occasionally”, and spending most of the day tethered to social media and internet connections.
Some might think it’s drastic, and it may be, for someone with an internet business or a media image they are trying to build with these platforms. I understand that a complete break just can not be, for everyone. I realize that some need these connections for their livelihood. But I do ask that you take a hard look at how you spend your time during the day. Can you cut back from social media? Can you live without checking the phone while your kids are home, or while you’re having lunch or dinner as a family? Can you sit and watch an entire movie (or even a TV show) without checking on your personal or business Facebook account? Without tweeting about what you’re watching? Yes. Yes. Yes. You can. Take it from me, you can.
And you should.