Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream.
I love this quote from Oprah Winfrey, and think of it often, because life really does whisper to us in all kinds of ways.
Is that what intuition is?
Or are we really just paying attention, the way we’re meant to, when we can hear the whispers?
Is listening to that whisper the equivalent of “reading between the lines”, as they say, or is it a gift from some ethereal place – a guide perhaps – the existence of which humanity has debated throughout the ages?
Whatever the whisper is, one would be hard pressed to deny its existence, though often we seem to notice it after the fact. It’s those “ah, I knew I should have…”, or “oh I had a gut feeling about…” moments. Sometimes things just feel wrong. And if I know one thing, it’s that when it feels wrong, that tends to be life whispering at you. Whether it means you’re about to pull a hammy, or an area of your life could use some fine-tuning, it’s good to get curious about why it feels wrong. Because if you don’t get curious, if you don’t fix it, you’ll eventually get screamed at.
The Initial Whispers
If I’m being honest, social media has felt wrong to me for a while now. At some point it went from being about sharing my life with friends, to something more akin to maintaining connections… an audience. Which felt gross to me. Not that I don’t want readers, or “fans” even. Who doesn’t love to be popular and have wide appeal?
But it’s always felt like too wide of a net to cast, like we can’t be everything to everyone, but on social we throw it out there anyway. There are social media strategies, of course. There are ways to leverage it, find your audience, tailor the net, so to speak. But that wasn’t ever my intention for social media.
I have always been stuck in the “sharing my life with friends” stage, never stopping to think that 1500 people is not a collection of friends anymore. It’s just too wide of a net. At some point it becomes a grab bag of connections too eclectic to make much sense on a friendship level. A smorgasbord of people who don’t necessarily “get” each other, but met at a party one time, and entered a funny sort of social contract when they clicked “accept”, and here they are. It’s another thing to manage, to make decisions about. Should I unfollow them or totally unfriend? And it often feels icky.
No App For You
One day, the Facebook app on my phone just stopped functioning. This was a known issue; there were reviews on the Google Play store about it. The app would say it texted a special code to your device that you were to supply, but if Facebook doesn’t have the right phone number for you, that’s a problem. So no app for me.
This happened in early 2021, and I have to say, I immediately felt better. I noticed how much time I wasted each day mindlessly scrolling, and that I can actually feel it when my brain wants to “check out”. I can feel those autopilot motions, the rote action of opening the app, the analgesic quality it imparts. Life’s whisper is more apparent to me now.
A Whole New World
In October I was having trouble with an online tool, and when this happens it’s standard troubleshooting to clear one’s cache. This makes for an annoying rest of the day, because you’re subsequently logged out of every account that you normally remain logged in to, thanks to that yummy cache of cookies you just dumped. But, it is what it is.
Clearing my cache did solve the problem, and later when my autopilot motions kicked in, opening a new tab for Facebook without even thinking about it, I was asked for a one-time password from the two-factor authentication I had set up on a previous phone.
So I didn’t have the app on my phone and now I couldn’t get into it on my laptop either. I was hosed and, to my surprise, I didn’t care that much. If Facebook didn’t want me, I didn’t want it.
It ended like so many jobs, friendships, and relationships in my life, where I have stayed way too long, stopped caring at some point, and didn’t make any effort toward recovery when it was clear the end had come. Life whispers, then it screams, in all kinds of ways once we develop our ear for it.
Facebookless And Fabulous
So here I was, cut off from… what exactly? A social media platform that felt icky to me, for a long time actually, and I finally didn’t have to feel icky anymore. Now all I had to do was figure out how I did want to feel. How to leverage my online presence in a meaningful way. It’s an interesting train of thought, and fun to find new ways of living purposefully in the ether.
So far I have created a new community on Slack, which is a project management app. This takes all our conversations and puts them in their own safe little container. It’s our space, not Facebook’s, and I’m excited at the thought of fostering more trust and connection between members when we’re not in the heavy traffic of Facebook. (If you’re interested in joining The Changing Room, the Life-Changing Book Club, or the Yoga Room on Slack, please message firstname.lastname@example.org.) I have a few other things in the works too, and not a single one of them feels icky.
To be sure, being off Facebook these last few months has changed me in some interesting ways. Here are just 5 that come right to mind.
Without Facebook I’m a more creative thinker and problem solver
When I first was without it, I realized how I went to Facebook for everything. Crowdsourcing ideas, finding out if a business is closed, asking questions in groups, figuring out how to do something. It seems like a nice tool. And it is, on some levels. But everything is Googleable too. Information can be found in other places. And once I started looking to other resources for information, Facebook’s stranglehold on my inherently lazy brain began to loosen. Now I think in different ways about how to solve the issue at hand, and I find value in that.
My attention span and ability to focus are infinitely better without Facebook
Not only am I thinking more creatively than ever, but as time away from the platform has given my addicted brain a chance to recover and center itself, I notice I have better concentration. I can actually watch a television show without picking up my phone and scrolling on autopilot. A whole show, I do it all the time! Even a movie. Bring it. I can’t recall when I had such a solid attention span. Now that I’m not checking out on Facebook every 45 minutes, I literally have more time in the day too. My 24 hours feel less fractured, more flow-y. I can work for 4, 5, 6 hours at a stretch, no problem, and I no longer have that knee-jerk desire to open a tab and hop on Facebook, like a smoker mindlessly reaching for another Marlboro.
Without Facebook, I don’t feel so rushed
Though it’s true that we all get the same 24 hours in a day, I feel like I have more hours now that I’m not on Facebook. Though it obviously wasn’t a conscious decision to step away from the platform – that was life screaming at me – I’m not mad about it. Every day feels more purposeful, like I’m choosing the things I want to do with my time. Not whiling away the hours in Facebookland, numb to what’s real and happening right in front of me. I don’t wake up in the morning anymore with anxiety about how I’m going to get everything done. The fact is I don’t have that much to do; I was just terrible at managing my time because I needed so much of it to waste every day.
I have better personal connections without Facebook
The only things I really do miss are The Life-Changing Book Club, and the several friends with whom this was my major mode of communication. But, in the last couple of months, either I have reached out to them, or they have reached out to me, and behold: life outside of Facebook does exist. We have real conversations. We actually engage on a deeper level than before.
The book group has moved to Slack, and we can still get together on Zoom to share our growth and our wins in life, and something about it already feels more authentic than Facebook. Author and speaker Brene Brown talks about creating a “safe container” for your communities, the people you care about. Slack feels like a nice safe container. In comparison, Facebook feels like the creepy uncle we have all learned to tolerate.
Without Facebook, I don’t feel like a junkie anymore
It took mere hours to realize the stranglehold that Facebook had on me, when my 10+ year relationship with it came to that abrupt end. When I found myself without the ability to mainline Facebook whenever I wanted to, it became clear I was addicted to it.
I was completely hooked, and it’s not even real life. It’s bits and pieces of lives. It’s what we want to share, in whatever light we choose to share it. And it can be really toxic for some people. There’s a new study every couple of months these days, citing Facebook as an instigator of anxiety, and depression. The struggle is real.
One huge barrier to happiness is our brain’s propensity for comparison, whether we realize we are doing it or not. I talk about it in this blog. It is a biological fact that we look outside ourselves for validation, and it is also a fact, perhaps a little more philosophical but generally accepted nonetheless, that validation is not to be found outside of ourselves. This understanding is part of healthy adulting, but many people’s lack of attention in this area is something that Facebook exploits. All social media does, it’s not just Facebook.
One day at a time
But as a person who is trying to do better in this world, being relieved of my Facebook duties has been life-changing. I can hear myself think again, and I have things to say… not from a place of comparison with others but from a place of realness. For me, it’s that authenticity that’s missing from Facebook. But I’m bound and determined to create a space where authenticity can thrive, meaningful conversations abound, and there’s not a single bot or fake profile in the whole space. Nothing but real people, with real things to say, supporting each other through it. Just like real life. =)
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