I like Facebook. I think it is a fabulous tool. I was a late-joiner because it initially seemed to be a platform to stalk people you went to high school with and share random details about your day-to-day life. But fast forward five years and I now feel like my time spent on Facebook has mostly been life-enhancing. It is my news source and my virtual library of online awesomeness. I’ve done cool things and gained knowledge through Facebook. I’ve been exposed to art and inspiring people I wouldn’t otherwise may not have seen, like T.J. Dawe’s solo play Medicine, and Brene Brown’s transformational TED Talks.
Lately, however, I have been wondering if Facebook might be affecting me in less positive ways. I live with a partner who often shares his theories on the potentially negative and unconscious ways Facebook affects us. His theories planted a seed of doubt in me, and I began to reflect on how a relatively constant connection to a library of online awesomeness might be affecting me in ways I may not have noticed.
I decided to take some time away from Facebook to find out. I am disconnecting from Facebook every weekend this summer. I had an “a-ha” moment in between weekends two and three. I was checking Facebook (both my personal account and my yoga page), and as I went, I was right-clicking and opening things I was interested in reading. In a relatively short amount of time, my online library of awesomeness had given me seven new articles to read. I sat for a moment and realized that I had suddenly created a significant amount of work for myself.
If you don’t know me well, you might say, “Just close the links if you don’t have time to read them.” But, if you know how passionate and curious I am about learning new things and exposing myself to different ways of seeing the world, you might understand how painful it would be for me to close those tabs. I feel the loss of potential knowledge and opportunity keenly. What if I close the link that was going to direct me towards another powerful play? What if I close the article that offers freeing insight around the things I have been struggling with the most? An older gentleman once told me of a famous author who used to cry when he thought of all the books he wouldn’t be able to read. I have yet to weep over unread books or articles, but the sentiment resonates with me strongly.
My interactions with Facebook can create a draining emotional cycle. When I’m on Facebook, I’m surrounded by awesomeness and I begin to pile up everything that I want to read, watch, and research. I’m on a high. In reflection, I found that I tend to move forward at some point between these two extremes:
1) The Track and Follow-Through – I keep track of all the links I am interested in (and essentially add them to my To-Do list). I often feel inclined to pick this path, but ultimately, it stresses me out.
2) The Disciplined Closing Down – I remind myself that I don’t want to feel the burden of having so many links to follow up with, so I commit to closing the tabs on anything that I am not able to make time for in the moment. The decision to let the links go causes me some emotional turmoil.
This cycle of acquiring and having to chose between the stress of holding onto things and the pain of letting them go plays out in different areas in my life, but it is magnified by Facebook for me. I certainly don’t want to stop acquiring new ideas and different perspectives. Every cell in my body is curious: I am excited to learn, explore, and understand, and my curiosity has opened up many doors. But I am starting to believe quite strongly that I will experience more ease and joy in my life if I pursue knowledge in a more moderate and bounded way.
So, I think the Facebook free weekends are going to stick!