My Social Media Detox

Foreign Service LifePeru
December 29, 2012

I have a confession to make.

I’m addicted to social media.  

It started innocently enough.  I mean, I didn’t even get my first Facebook account until 2008 and even then, I was incredibly reluctant about joining what I viewed as the “Online Party for the Millenial Generation.”

Given my current dependence on Social Media now for my information-gathering, it’s hard to believe functioned before it.  I mean, did I really make phone calls and send out snail mail to let people know what was happening in my life???  I most definitely did, and perhaps even more bizarre, that was a mere 5 years ago!  (I have since become very averse to both making phone calls and sending snail mail, by the way)

It took me awhile to realize I had a problem (btw, my Mom called me out on my FB addiction 2 years back and I adamantly disagreed with her).  I was in hard-core denial, justifying that it was my ONLY WAY to stay connected to all my global friends.  And let’s be honest, that most definitely is the gift of Facebook –  it provides a (relatively) stream-lined platform to share information and get to know people better.  I also really value the information-sourcing that happens on Facebook, as people are incredibly generous with sharing recommendations and tips on a wide variety of issues.

Obviously, that’s not where I get hung up or I wouldn’t be writing this post and doing a forced detox!

Here’s Where the Problem Comes In

The problem for me is three-fold:

  1. Facebook’s format encourages me to constantly compare and judge myself against my “Friends”
  2. Somewhere along the line “Likes” and “Comments” started taking on critical importance as a measure of approval from my “Friends”
  3. It is my Go-To Procrastination Tool

Let me give a bit more explanation on each of these.

1.  For problem 1, the judging and comparing frequently shuts me down, especially when it comes to putting my coaching work into the world.  Here’s a common scenario: I’ll wake up all revved up and ready to create something awesome, sit down with my latte to check Facebook and immediately be inundated with thoughts of inadequacy in response to my colleague’s sparkly new product that they launched that day.  Cue the buzz-kill and a day full of feeling sorry for myself for not being as brilliant as so-and-so.  This scenario can play out around personal stuff too, but most frequently seems to happen in regards to my work.

2.  I’ve had a people-pleasing problem for as long as I can remember.  Translation: It is very important that you like me.  And not only just like me, but tell me that I’m great.  It’s the validation that I really need.  I look externally for others to validate me because I have a hard time affirming myself and knowing I’m good enough.  I can remember back in high school that I would literally count the number of hugs or compliments I got in a given day, taking that as a sure sign of my worthiness.  Ridiculous, I know!  It wasn’t even until Therapy in my mid-20’s that I put this all together and realized what I was doing…

Old problems die hard though and despite doing boatloads of work to learn how to validate my own worth, the damn thing manifested in a new form – you guessed it – Social Media.  Just substitute “Likes” and “Comments” for hugs and compliments and presto, I had found another way to externally measure my worth!  Did I mention that I absolutely LOVE bench-marking and being able to measure myself against something else (never mind that this is a really f’d up method…)

3.  Facebook acts as a bit of a motivation crusher for me.  Let’s say I’m thinking about spending time on a new passion, something I don’t have a lot of confidence in yet.  Because I feel uncomfortable doing this thing I’m not-so-good-at-yet, I procrastinate by checking Facebook quickly before starting.  As most of you know, a Facebook check-in is rarely quick, especially with the large number of friends most of us have AND given my tendency to compare, I frequently get shut down and never invest time in developing the new passion (no matter how much I may want to).  It’s a vicious cycle!

What I Did About It

I took the last 1/2 of December as a mandated Facebook Detox to a.) see if I could do it and b.) see what clarity or benefits I would get from it.  I realized that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.  I don’t, however, want to leave Facebook, as I think it’s an important place for me to be in community with my friends and family.  I do recognize the need to make some changes though.

One thing you’ll notice is that I’m SHUTTING OFF COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG.  Like Facebook, I put too much weight on the response to my post and I’ve found that it actually inhibits my writing.  I want to be writing for myself first and foremost, not for comment love.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about Facebook yet.  I know that I will be taking more PERIODIC FACEBOOK FASTS.

I will also most likely POST LESS and be more aware of what my intentions are in posting something (ie: Am I trying to impress you or just genuinely sharing something that is important to me at that moment).  I’m also going to do more work with my Coach to continue chipping away at this need for external validation because the best way I can decrease that need is by cultivating my own self-love and compassion.

Thanks for hearing me out on this.  Now you’ll know why my online presence may look different than it has in the past.  I’ll keep you posted on what I’m learning as I go in 2013.  Wishing you a wonderful start to your New Year!

PS – Since I’ve removed comments on this blog, I’ll be adding a contact form as a way for people to get in touch with me.

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