“What matters is what we do with the life we have.” Carrie Ryan
I don’t profess to understand how anything works. I am in constant awe of the technological advances of our world and how the distance between us seems to be ever diminishing. With a large proportion of my family living overseas, and having moved away from my birth town myself, I was so thankful to Facebook when I initially became a user. At any given time I could fire up my laptop and check out all the recent news and photos. Despite the miles separating us I felt close to my loved ones. It was official – Facebook made me happy, and had I sustained checking in every now and then it probably would still continue to do so.
I can’t pinpoint when social media became a huge part of my day, every day but it became so easy to access. I bought a smartphone initially due to my love of music, my iPhone saved me carrying around an iPod and a mobile. I installed the Facebook app ‘just in case’ I ever wanted to catch up with recent posts without logging on. Who was I kidding. It became impossible for me to get through the day without constantly checking who was doing what. I didn’t want to miss anything and it seemed everyone was having so much fun, I wanted to be part of that.
As well as close friends and family I hooked up with old school friends, work colleagues, gym buddies. My virtual world was growing larger and larger but I felt my real life was becoming increasingly insular. The more I connected to people online the more disconnected I felt from reality, from myself. I found myself reaching for my phone as soon as I woke up and Facebook was always the last thing I looked at in bed at night, it took me ages to get to sleep, my mind would be full of status updates.
I began to feel lonely. The majority of my friends are on Facebook and catching up over the phone seemed to be a thing of the past. Getting married, having a baby, new job – important events where once people would excitedly telephone around seemed to be announced on their wall instead. If I was having a tough day reading about ‘the greatest night out EVER’, started to bring me down. Not that I begrudged anyone having fun but I felt separate, like an observer, seeing life but not actually part of it.
One day last year, I took my son to the park. I sat on a bench and watched him racing around laughing. Glancing around me every single parent was hunched over a mobile phone or tablet completely missing the joy their child was experiencing in that moment. I felt a sinking feeling as I realised how much time a week I must spend scrolling down my news feed rather than being engaged with the world before me. Facebook would always be there, my family wouldn’t. It was time to make a change.
When I got home I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and can honestly say the benefits have been huge. I continue use Facebook professionally (yes this blog will appear on FB too) and still think it is a great tool, used in moderation. My day once again begins and ends with meditation. I sleep better, am more energised and feel totally connected and at peace with myself. I am calling my friends on the phone and meeting up with them more with a renewed appreciation of our friendship. Those important to you will always remain in your life regardless of whether or not you ‘like’ their statuses on a regular basis.
Every now and then when I am online I sometimes choose to log on, there are pages I enjoy and people I genuinely care about, but it is a choice, no longer an unhealthy habit at best, an obsession at worst.
This is my personal experience and is completely non critical of the millions of people participate in social media daily with no detrimental effects. Social networking is great if you enjoy it and don’t feel any negativity from using it but with Social Media Addiction fast on the way to becoming a recognised condition and purportedly harder to quit than alcohol and drugs, it is good to monitor your usage every now and then.