I was travelling to London last week and noticed a young woman in the seat in front of me, she had her smartphone switched on and I could see what she was looking at in the reflection in the window . The journey lasted 3 and a half hours, and the entire time she scanned Facebook’s news-feed, often looking at the same photos, and once she grew bored with that she scanned Twitter and once she grew bored with that she scanned Facebook again. This lasted the entire journey. I, on the other hand, was on my first proper social network detox, I also am blessed to feel travel sick if I read anything on coaches or bouncy vehicles. As I watched her it reminded me of me. I was exactly like this before my detox. If I was on the sofa watching TV I was also surfing the networks. If I was on the PC I found it challenging to complete a task that I’d set out to do because I spent much of my time flicking between what I was doing and Facebook.
What was I looking for?
I was looking for life. Life in a network that is virtual. Real life is away from the computer; real life is breathing the fresh air, watching the rain fall, meeting with people physically, writing, taking photos, dancing, singing… all the pleasures of living.
Quitting Facebook for good is often not an option for people, especially when they use it for business or perhaps have relatives who live far away and it’s their only means of keeping in touch with them, but detoxing from Facebook regularly can bring such a shift in awareness that I couldn’t quite believe my senses when I did it recently myself.
Facebook Can Be Deceptive
Many of us who frequent Facebook often, believe that we’re using it to make greater connections but in actuality, we are not. I used to believe that because I was on a 4 year solitude journey, that I needed Facebook to keep connected to the outside world, but since taking my break, I realise how much this social network was taking of my time, my creativity, my energy and my emotional well-being.
Facebook Can Be A Distraction From Going Inward
With the countless inspirational quotes I share, to the messages I read on Facebook, in a sense it became very much like when you read a self-help book; you read the exercises an author instructs you to do, but you never get around to implementing them, instead you browse the net seeking outside of yourself and using other people’s lives as a distraction.
Facebook Can Promote Greater Self-Loathing Through Comparing With Others
Facebook brought my own comparison junkie out in full multi-colour envy and jealousy. Many people are struggling through life. Some may feel lonely; some may feel poor with only enough to put food on the table, some may feel lacking in confidence and Facebook fuels these feelings if not kept in check.
The countless photos of other people’s holidays, other people’s ‘perfect’ relationships, other people’s abundance is not great for someone who is not able to be mindfully aware of what is taking place within them. The effect of absorbing all of this, regularly, without self-awareness or questioning, can pervade our sense of self even more deeply, and not in a good way.
Facebook Can Encourage Narcissistic Tendencies
Where some people may express insecurity through envy and jealousy, others are at the other end of the scale. They may express insecurity through excessive boasting; through sharing every single activity they are doing, to taking photos of themselves through increased selfies. The occasional selfie is fine, but taking them all the time shows a narcissistic tendency that if left unchecked can grow alarmingly, and quite dangerously.
Facebook Can Increase Self-Drama and Pity-Parties
Something a friend said to me is that you can never get through to someone who ‘Yes…buts’, someone who claims they want help or support or advice, but always responds with some form of YES… BUT in reply to you. Facebook can be rife with this. It has become an online public journal for people’s sorrow and pain. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share when you are feeling crippled emotionally or are genuinely struggling and need some support, but ask yourself how effective sharing your suffering is in terms of whether anything is changing inwardly for you? Are you ranting and raving for attention? Are you wanting someone to come up with a magic answer for your troubles? What are you actually doing to help yourself or heal? Are you putting into practice techniques that may help you discover what you need to know right now, from within yourself? Techniques like meditating daily, practicing mindfulness, stepping out of your comfort zone?
If you are sick or in pain most of the time, is your sickness ruling your life? Has your sickness become your identity?
Facebook Prevents Present Moment Awareness
I noticed that when I was heavily invested in being on Facebook I would scan the newsfeed over and over again looking for something new to absorb. Often what I saw was not particularly life-enhancing. If it was not some drama being shared, it was sales from companies or news or photos of abused animals; all these things being absorbed into my psyche often unconsciously, and I wondered why I always felt depressed after too long on Facebook.
Using Facebook as a boredom fixer does not remove the boredom, it actually increases it. What are you avoiding if you are scanning? What aspect of life are you missing out on? Are you afraid to step into something new in your life or step out of your home and take the risk of people liking you or not liking you as you meet new people?
Facebook Is An Illusion
Many people who post share only the highlight reels of their lives. They share their exciting and happy moments and we only see one side of them and may interpret their lives as being ‘perfect’ when nobody has the perfect life. On the other hand, others post only the blooper reels of their life’s journeys, primarily the struggles. But neither reel is true. We all have dark and light in our lives but we needn’t share one or the other if we are doing it for reasons other than joy or presence. My mum lives up North so she misses out on a lot of stuff I do in my life, so I occasionally share photos so that she gets to see what I’ve been up to. I also love photography and the beauty of the world, so I share beautiful pics because they uplift me and may uplift others. But you may post to get attention or to prove to an ex partner that all is right in your world. This is when you are tapping into the illusion of Facebook.
Facebook Only Shows What It Thinks We Need To See
Most of what you see on the newsfeed is based on the Facebook algorithm. This means that pages you like that you don’t interact with regularly will not be shown on your newsfeed at all. If a page that may offer you encouragement and inspiration is not liked or shared or commented on regularly, Facebook will not show you it. Instead you may see countless dramatic headlines, abused animals, politics and sales from companies running Facebook give-aways that receive massive amounts of comments.
So What Happens When You Detox From Facebook?
- A sudden sense of freedom. I felt like the joy returned inside me, like a drug addict finally quitting the habit. I felt alive again.
- A desire to go out into the world and do stuff! Physical stuff, meet new people, join groups, do new stuff, feel the fear and do it anyway, challenge yourself to embrace the new and move out of your comfort zone.
- A feeling that I need not respond to everyone all of the time, that time and space is perfectly okay, so much so you feel secure in your own space again.
- Creativity returns.
- You begin to do the ‘inner work’. You no longer have distractions so you take time to simply be, you meditate more, you become more mindful and present.
- You have this strong feeling that you want to move, dance, sing – most of all you want to move away from the computer.
- Your home gets cleaner. You no longer resist tidying or cleaning your space because you are not using Facebook as a way of avoiding doing that.
- If you are feeling unhealthy you go see the doctor, you take up a new health regime, exercise more, eat better, no longer comfort eating as much.
- Instead of feeling isolated, which Facebook can make you feel, you begin to re-engage with society again and want to increase your real-life connections with others.
- When you are no longer reading and absorbing the negative drama-fueled side of Facebook it leaves you space to allow more encouraging and nurturing stories to begin to bubble up inside you.
- If you had been struggling and feeling stuck you’re more likely to do what it takes to discover your own clarity and make decisions based on what feels right for you, not on what others feel is right for you.
- You allow yourself to embrace the NEW. No longer clinging to the old of your past or those relationships that are familiar, you allow yourself to step into uncertainty and the unknown and you thrive on the aliveness you now feel.
So How Can You Detox From Facebook?
- Delete the Facebook app from your smartphone.
- Log out of Facebook on your PC (or if you use it for business, only bookmark the personal messages page of Facebook and be strict about only visiting that page and don’t log into your personal profile).
- Take at least 2 weeks off Facebook or 21 days as this is an optimum time for developing a new habit.
- Start to meditate daily, do things you have been putting off while on Facebook.
- Start to become really present in your daily life.
- Go out into the world more and meet new people, embrace the new. Sign up to MeetUp.com and see what is going on locally in your area.
- If you do return to social networks, limit yourself to no more than 2 days a week and even then don’t spend a full day on Facebook on those days. You could also use a timer to limit your time like minutesplease.com on those days to no more than 2 hours.
- If you have a business, schedule your posts via Buffer or Hootsuite or another scheduling system and reply to any comments only on those 2 days (unless your notifications reveal something related to sales – do not scan news-feed).
- When you do go back on, be focused. Go look at your friends’ activities, but don’t sit and scan the news-feed haphazardly. Fine tune your searches for what makes you feel good or for stuff you really genuinely want to know.
A Word To The Wise
If you detox from Facebook make sure you detox from Twitter or any other social network you are over-using like Instagram, Google+, Pinterest too. If you quit one and spend more time on the others you are not gaining anything at all.
This is pretty simple stuff, but it can be life altering. By unplugging from Facebook and other social networks you will begin to feel very different and only by having a full break can you see the difference between how you felt when you were on Facebook all of the time and how you felt when away for 2 weeks or more.
Let me know in the comments how you get on. And if you have already taken a detox how was it for you?
To read more on the topic of Envy and Jealousy see my recent post at the popular Tiny Buddha site: