Thursday, January 14, 2016

Social media: A new approach for a new year

Just before the holidays, I decided I needed a break from social media. I noticed that after I had spent any length of time staring at my feeds, I felt worse than I did before. It is so easy to sit down after a long day of parenting and mindlessly scroll. But when I stopped to ask myself if I was gaining anything from the experience, the answer was no. So I deactivated my Facebook account and uninstalled Instagram from my phone.

One thing I have learned from reading Gretchen Rubin's books is that I am a textbook abstainer. It is much easier for me to not get on Facebook at all than it is for me to regulate myself. Taking a break showed me that I don’t miss it when it's gone. Now, instead of falling into the rabbit hole of my feeds, I find myself picking up a book, or writing, or texting a friend, or talking to Neil--all of which are preferable to spending time on Facebook. This last weekend, while talking to my wise friend Abby, I decided to delete my account altogether. It may seem a bit scorched earth, but I am confident that it is the right decision for me.

Facebook is touted as a great way to keep in touch with friends near and far. I do know more about acquaintances lives through Facebook, but I haven't found that it helps me deepen those relationships. I keep in touch with a good number of out-of-town friends over the phone and email, which I plan to continue. If anything, I think being off of Facebook will help me connect more to the people I love because when I am seeking connection I am going to call, text, email, or (gasp!) arrange to see someone in person.

Facebook has permeated so many aspects of our lives that even though I wanted to quit, I kept thinking of reasons I should stay on. For example, I have found that here Facebook is used more than Craigslist (which was not the case in Austin) to access the local secondhand market. Solution: before deleting my account, I added Neil (the very definition of a moderator) to a handful of  local buy/sell/trade groups.

So here's where social media and I stand right now:

  • I deleted my Twitter and Pinterest accounts, neither of which I ever used.
  • I deleted my Facebook account, which I used far too much.
  • I culled the list of blogs I follow on Feedly to the ones I am truly excited to read.
  • I deleted the Instagram app from my phone, with the intention of reinstalling it in the future.

I have not deleted Instagram because I do find enjoyment from that feed. When I go back to it, I plan to be even more intentional about who I follow. For example, I follow several healthy food blogs. I love the content in theory, but I always move right past the photos. When I want food inspiration, I prefer seek it out rather than have it come to me. I am trying to be honest with myself about what I really love in my feed, and what I scroll past, then seeking out more of the former.

Before I go back to Instagram, I want to set some clear boundaries with myself about when I will use it. Ideally, I would scroll through just once a day. I like the idea of doing it in the evening once the kids are in bed and the house is picked up, but I find that when I pick up the phone it becomes hard to put it down. Perhaps that will be less of a problem now that Facebook will not be an option? I am waiting to go back to Instagram until I can find a sustainable solution for myself.

At this stage in my life I have precious few moments to myself and I want to use them in ways that truly bring me joy. I know that my approach is not for everyone and that other people find a lot of value in Facebook. For me, Facebook was becoming a distraction and a net negative in my life and cutting the cord altogether works for my personality. In a few months or years I may change my mind, but for now, I am happy to be spending less time on my phone and more time engaged with what's right in front of me.

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