Last month, I decided to take a Facebook “sabbatical” for a month or so. (Actually a full social media break.) It’s an experiment to see how it would effect my focus, my energy, and my work in the world, similar to why one would go on a retreat — to rest and reboot. I’m still involved in the real world, available, and working, despite how it might appear to the Facebook world.
For some context, I was an active Facebook user for personal, professional, and cause-related connections, so it felt like a big decision to step away from it.
It’s now been over two weeks on the social media sabbatical, and wow, what a refreshing difference in my brain and my body, even starting from the first day. It feels great.
In this post, I’ll let you know:
- What was hard about the decision.
- The toll it was taking on me and how I came to taking a break.
- How I set things up to step away for a while.
- The benefits I’m already experiencing in my body, mind, and soul.
- The main thing I miss.
- Now what?
- The outcome (added later)
The Decision to Pause
When I heard of a friend taking time off of Facebook, I found myself excited about the idea. It’s funny that I hadn’t even considered it before. Since she too has a business and is active on Facebook, I thought if she could do it, I could do it too.
But then, many “what if’s” came up for me, such as what if a client or potential client contacts me through Facebook and I don’t see it, …they’ll think I’m being rude… And what will happen to the group I facilitate? Will they think I don’t love them anymore? Will people think I don’t care about important causes anymore? Will I miss out on important news? And on and on.
I worried that stepping away would cut me off from important causes and perspectives. When I tuned in to my truth, I realized that when I focus on real-life opportunities for learning and involvement, it works better for me, and seems more effective. More grounded + more effective learning + more effective contribution… sounds good!
I felt a heart’s calling to step away from social media for a spell, and that calling was stronger than all the pulls to stay. It was time.
The Toll It Was Taking on Me
While social media has exposed me to many important things, and I appreciate the ability to easily share information, I don’t like some of the effects of being so plugged in. It used to feel like the benefits outweighed the costs, but then it was time to question that.
Posts just seem to fly by — from joyful births to disaster photos to political yelling matches. How can we really take it in and do any of it justice? While I do want to know much of these things, my heart knew something was wrong with the way it all flooded in.
I started noticing that scanning the posts had both a numbing effect on my brain, and an aggravating effect on my nervous system, neither of which supports my ability to add something positive to anything.
I’m not suggesting this is how it effects everyone, but that was my experience over the past year, even after paring down what I looked at. I recognize that my high sensitivity is probably a factor.
As I started noticing these negative effects over the last few months, I started to go there less and less, but it was not enough. Keeping the door open still had a draining effect to it.
Closing the Door. Day One.
All this led to the day of starting a full break. Here’s the note that flowed out of me when I posted my sabbatical news on Facebook. Writing it helped me feel complete.
I’m taking a social media sabbatical starting today. I’m fine so don’t worry about that. This is for healthy reasons! I’m still me and still involved in the world, available, and working. You can reach me here: valnelson.com/contact
I have people helping me manage the facebook group I lead for introverts so all is well there. It remains active.
Why I’m doing this:
When I first heard of a friend doing this, I found my heart got excited, and so I knew I should do it too. I do love some of what I gain there, but I don’t love some of the effects of being so plugged in to fly-by posts.
I want to:
a) see what happens to my brain, b) notice how I spend my time without social media, c) see to how it effects my spiritual connection, and d) see how it effects my real world connections and contributions in the world.
In my fantasy about this time off, I imagine:
breathing more slowly and finding more resiliency in my body and mind, attending a few one-day meditation retreats, taking time to volunteer more, breaking the social media addictive habits, reading whole articles and books instead of the skimming I do on Facebook, writing and finishing blog posts, and deepening my connections and contributions in real life instead of leaning on snippets online to feel connected.
In reality, I don’t know what will happen. I feel hopeful, intrigued, and I’m about to find out.
I put a lot of thought into this and how to manage work stuff and FOMO (fear of missing out), and it comes down to this: It will all be fine.
And when I’m back, I won’t be reading every message or notification I missed. I’ll start fresh.
Here we go… Thank you, ♥ Val
And Then, Quiet Happened
As soon as I posted that note and logged out of Facebook for the last time, I could feel a release.
It was like when the electricity goes off and the hum of the refrigerator goes quiet and your body relaxes in a way you didn’t know it needed. What a nice start!
I walked away from the computer and had an urge to go walk outside. I ended up walking by myself along dirt roads, surrounded by New England fall colors. I felt alive and relaxed.
Each step felt like part of a cleansing ritual. I know that nature is so good for restoring our spirits. In a way, Nature is the exact opposite of Facebook. It has a natural pace that my body and brain were built for, whereas the Facebook feed is an unnatural sped-up version of life that I can’t fully take in.
As I walked, I had a good laugh when I saw wonderful photo opportunities and I knew I wouldn’t be posting any photos on Facebook.
I did the radical thing of snapping photos anyway, for the sheer love of nature and photography. How refreshing. At least I get to share one of the photos here. Ha.
I just kept going for an hour and a half, longer than my usual walk. I had nothing else calling me. I felt free.
Many Benefits, Only Two Weeks In
Every day without social media feels so good. I haven’t missed it (except for one thing I’ll describe below). Who knew I wouldn’t miss something that I had so often I felt drawn to?
I like what I’m discovering:
- I find myself more open to making plans to meet up with friends or chat by phone. I think social media gave me a “lite” version of filling social needs. It created a false sense of fullness and now, without that, I find I have more room for real-life socializing. Very interesting discovery for this introvert… a secret path to more energy for socializing.
- I have been reading more and enjoying it. Full articles and books, not just skimming.
- I have been writing more. This is my second blog post to publish in two weeks! As opposed to nothing published for months before that.
- I’m more productive and focused at work. In fact, I got one thing done that has been on the list for years. It seemed like my brain had more staying power to the finish line.
- I signed up for some day-long meditation retreats.
- I actually had a day where I felt Complete with my to-do list. Not that it’s ever done, but the feeling of Complete was so nice! So rare. It seems connected to the absence of buzzing energy from Facebook.
- I’m finding a little more capacity to connect with local causes and events in real life, and still hoping for more of this.
- I’m meditating more often and am doing more self-care in general, which has lovely ripple effects for everything.
I feel hopeful about more benefits unfolding in the coming weeks.
As you can see, this is all leading to wondering about letting go of social media in a bigger way, maybe for a long while or for good. That idea felt radical a few weeks ago and now seems so doable. But…
The Main Thing I Miss
As I’ve thought about what I do enjoy and value in Facebook, one thing rises to the top: hosting my group, The Caring Introvert Clubhouse.
I love the group members and I love the heartfelt authentic sharing that happens there. Those connections feel genuine and enriching for me, and I think for the members too. I learn a lot from their posts and their questions and how they support each other.
It’s a different feeling than how I’ve been feeling lately in the rest of Facebook. In the group, it feels like I’m able to both gain and contribute something valuable.
I’m holding back on figuring it all out for today. Social media does have a lot of potential. I want to explore this, at a natural slower pace. I’ll let you know what happens.
For now, I’m taking in these intriguing ideas:
- Technology, Peace, and Sanity, blog post by Alex Franzen
- Talking Politics on Facebook: A guide to social change conversations that are liberating, make an impact, and won’t drive you crazy. – free ebook by Reva Patwardhan
I’d love to hear about your experiences and wonderings. You can comment below. Thanks!
Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down….Consider actually exhaling.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and Big Magic
I ended up turning the one month sabbatical into three months because I didn’t want to go back yet. The need for it was gone. Then I did go back lightly, mainly for connecting in the group I lead for introverts. I went back into the water, very slowly, consciously.
It was different after the break. Less addictive, less consuming, and I went in much less often.
Then, to be honest, over the next six months, it crept up to more often and at times has gotten into the over-doing, numbing way that it was before. Then I would take little breaks, like a week, to reboot. That helps.
I’m now back in one of those times where I might need to back off from it again. I reread this piece to motivate me. It helps. I’m not sure what I’ll do.
It’s time to rethink why I go to Facebook now, bringing myself back to consciousness: to what matters most. Well, that’s always the journey with life. Coming back to home base, one’s own inner compass, so we can live the life we are here to live.
I decided to take another sabbatical from all social media. Feels freeing again. Not sure I’ll go back to anything but my Facebook group.