As promised, here’s a bonus Tuesday Thoughts post this week (I know it will probably Wednesday by the time most of you read this considering it’s 10pm EST Tuesday night as I’m typing this).
This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for weeks, because it does involve a major lifestyle change that’s different to a lot of the ones we all hear about, either from public figures or our own family and friends: diet changes, a commitment to exercise more (which is, incidentally, something else I’m also working on), a greater commitment to belief systems or religion, etc. I’d known of certain friends who’d taken or spoken of taking extended social media hiatuses, and I’d admired them for it or at least respected their choice, but never thought I would be able, or even want, to do it myself. That changed roughly a month ago, however, particularly with respect to Facebook, and it really has made a significant difference in how I’m able to manage at least some sources of stress (which I’m thinking is going to at least be an overarching theme of my Weekend Reflections post for this week, if not the direct topic), as general stress and anxiety management is something I’m always working on, but that’s for the weekend. I’ll start by giving you a little bit of a background regarding my relationship with Facebook and to a lesser extent general social media, then discuss how I came to realize it was time for a change and the reasons for it, and finally how it’s helped and where I am today.
I joined Facebook as a high school sophomore in 2007, around the time where it began to blow up for most people (Twitter would come in April 2009, as my page reminds me every time I log in there). As an extroverted social animal–as one teacher once called me in a slightly derisive way when it got in the way of completing my work; he was right though–I took to the platform relatively quickly and passionately having some experience with MySpace before it faded out. I’ve never been a person who puts a lot of self worth in the number of social media contacts I have, but it’s interesting to think about the figures I’m about to tell you and how they represent sort of benchmark chapters in my life. When I graduated high school, I had about 450 Facebook friends, most of whom were/are schoolmates. This number began to grow quickly with an influx of friend requests from former teachers now that I’d graduated, but by four years later finishing college, my number of friends grew and still hovers today at just over a thousand.
While in college, I grew to use Facebook more frequently not only as a tool to keep in contact with classmates, family, and even some professors, but in a professional capacity. I recorded my first EP during my freshman year of college and released it in the fall of my sophomore year (October 2011), which necessitated the creation of a secondary music page linked to my account. When I started my own college radio show in Spring 2011, I created another auxiliary page for it. Finally, as I began holding paid executive positions for a student governing body on campus, I became tasked with making use of my organization’s Facebook page as well in varying capacities. Despite the increases in connections and activity that my college years brought, however, a greater dependence on the platform came after college graduation–and yes, I use the word dependence both in terms of literally depending on it to keep in touch with friends who were moving long distance (in the case one close all the way to the opposite coast), and the way one might develop a dependence on a drug. As I’ve alluded to in past posts, the two and half years since graduating with my B.A. have been a roller coaster physically, mentally, and emotionally, both in term of health scares and just fluctuations in what I wanted to do in terms of career and further education–definitely more to come on that in future posts as well. Using Facebook as a platform to keep my friends, mentored, family and other loved ones updated became like an anchor for me.
This changed with the last election cycle, however. Facebook also became my primary means of staying politically aware and engaged post-grad as well, and while I was healing from last year’s health journey, a lot of time was spent reading Facebook as things were unfolding as I didn’t really have the energy to spend my time doing much else. I tried my best to read every article I shared and give considered responses to the content, much like what I try to do here on the blog. However, especially leading up to and post-election, as tensions ran high with disagreements between Trump supporters and detractors including myself, I began to realize that I had fallen into the trap that I’d initially set out to avoid: I was auto-sharing 10-15 articles a day with no personal engagement and considered response to the content. I shared inflammatory headlines out of rage at the results with no summary or reflection of my own, and often blocked anyone who seemed to disagree without a second thought (though, the motivation for the blocking would often be a snide comment that had no greater intention of engaging with the article than I did sharing it, but that was before I realized that was what was actually happening. I began arguing with people on posts that really had no great impact on the actual state that world was and is in, and when I logged on Facebook, rather than be excited to reach out to friends, I’d be horrified, anxious and exhausted at everything I was reading and to which I was responding.
This was the moment, probably in the last week of January 2017, where I realized a change had to be made. When something you once loved only brings stress and anguish, there’s no other option. I initially made an announcement that I’d be deactivating my Facebook profile completely for an indefinite amount of time, and collected other contact information from those to whom I had no other line than Facebook. I preemptively removed my Facebook and Messenger apps from my phone. However, on the afternoon of the night I had vowed to deactivate, I realized there was still a small sliver of Facebook that I could not give up–communities of other creatives, including other painters, singer-songwriters, and music fans, plus the need to upkeep my music page, so I forewent complete deactivation. To this day, however, I still have not reinstalled the apps on my phone, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Doing this alone has helped significantly with my constant immersion resulting in chronic anxiety, and has allowed me to focus my energies more greatly on growing this blog and increasing my activity on other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, both of which are linked in the About section of this blog for those interested. I’ve also changed the bookmark in browner from the Facebook homepage to my Groups page, which allows me to not see the flood of articles that I’d be tempted to share like an automaton, and most of what I share politically now, unless it’s an issue that I’m passionate about and can comment on extensively, has more of a comedic tone.
So no, it’s not a complete hiatus, but I did overdose on Facebook and my relationship with it by dramatically decreasing my activity has changed for the better. If you’re thinking of taking break in some form for the reasons I have, I’d encourage it. Stress, anxiety, and depression management, are still an uphill battle that I’ll discuss at length this weekend, but this is one concrete change I’ve made that has helped and I think it will only continue to help as my relationship with Facebook as a platform continues to involve into an increasingly healthier one.
See you all Thursday where I can gush about KT Tunstall and tell you all about tomorrow night’s show!