Just over one month ago I took the decision to de-activate my Facebook account. Sadly, I couldn’t totally delete facebook because that means you also lose messenger, and like it or not, it is a great way of keeping in contact with people. So I did the best I could and de-activated my account.
Because I’m not really all that sure that it’s all that good for my mental health. The problem isn’t the pretty pictures of other people who are living fabulous lives that might be more fabulous that mine. No. It’s the adverts. The sneaky adverts. Especially adverts for things like planners, or based on spirituality, or a quick fix for mental health. Then I’m off down a rabbit hole, researching, reading, buying another book, trying to work out what this person can do to help me, that the last one couldn’t, when in actual fact none of them can help me because I’m stuck in this rabbit hole and actually just need to come up to the surface and take a breath. Take a look around. Take a rest. Just be myself for a bit.
So. Facebook went. And what have I learned?
I learned just how much time I spent on Facebook. How many times I just reached for my laptop and before you know it a good hour or two had disappeared into oblivion and I had achieved precisely nothing. There are still some days, especially after lunch when I do still sit and wonder what am I going to do now – how am I actually going to fill this eternity of time that is ahead of me. I no longer have the Facebook drug and I’ve come to realise that I used it in much the same way as you might alcohol, or shopping, or cake, or chocolate. Something that fills the void, something that papers over the cracks. I’m starting to spend more time peering in to the cracks and acknowledging what’s there.
This month has also seen me travel back from Portugal to Bristol for the Christmas holidays. I wanted to spend them here this year. So for the first 10 days or so of my Facebook detox I started to take a walk in that post lunch slump. The time when I am most likely to reach for the laptop and peruse Facebook The weather was still beautiful but cooler and so all activity no longer had to be crammed into the first two hours of the morning. So I walked, not far, but far enough to get out and have a change of scenery. Since we have been back in Bristol, this has taken a bit of a back seat and I do still find myself reaching for my laptop after lunch. Getting out for a daily walk is definitely an activity I need to re-introduce as it keeps me sane and perks me up in the afternoon.
As ever, I’ve read a book ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It’ by Kamal Ravikant. He recommends using a mantra that you repeat to yourself over and over, during meditation, while you’re out and about, when you’re in a sticky situation. I chose ‘I trust and love myself’. I’m not sold on this, but happy to give it a try! Besides that he recommends:
(a) simplifying everything (and boy do I need to simplify) and stop overcomplicating life. Life doesn’t need to be anything like as complicated as I can make it.
(b) being consistent (not a strength of mine). Pick one or two things to do each day, but do them, every day, consistently. Stop hopping from one thing to another in the hope that it will magically resolve everything in an instant.
(c) Focusing on the self as a means to heal, I suppose. Not in a selfish ‘all about me’ way, but from the point of view of if I feel good then I feel well enough to get out there and take on the world, without being dragged down into the rabbit hole of doom. So for me that means getting out for a daily walk, going to Nordic Walking classes, turning up for online HIIT sessions, listening to music, eating as well as I can, not going onto facebook.
(d) Ask yourself in the moment, or before saying ‘yes’ to a request, ‘Is this something I really want to do?’ ‘Is this something that will build me up and make me feel fulfilled?’ ‘If I really do trust and love myself, would I choose to do this?’ If the answer is no – then don’t do it! I am a nightmare for saying yes, then thinking ‘nope, bad idea’. An example of this is I recently applied for a temporary Christmas job at Next. I knew by the end of the first shift that it was a really, really bad idea – but I’d been swept away by the excitement of it all. If I’d just taken time to think things through and really considered ‘if I trust and love myself would I choose to do this?’ then the answer would have been no.
Throughout the month I have found myself in the moment thinking ‘why am I doing this’, whatever this was. If I really do trust and love myself, would I actually do this? Would I eat this cake? Would I drink this wine? Is sitting on my laptop achieving nothing for an hour a good use of my time? Facebook would have gone into the no bracket. So, there have been some things that I have thought, no, not really and others that I’ve thought, actually, yes.
And what were those things?
– I like to listen to or watch something whilst ironing and had taken to listening to podcasts based on fixing myself (still down in the rabbit hole of doom). Instead I watched Dirty Dancing, Chesapeake Shores, Modern Love. I have a thing (much to husbands chagrin), whenever we hear ‘that’ song from the end of the Dirty Dancing playing in the bars in Albufeira (and we hear it a lot) I have a bit of a dance up the street! So I had a bit of a dance whilst I ironed.
– I’ve started to eat a bit of fruit every day. I’m not a fan of fruit, but do appreciate it is good for me, so I’ve started to make the effort to eat an extra bit everyday.
– I’ve been doing some crochet. I’ve actually designed, made and published patterns for two winter cowels, using wool I found in Poundland of all places. If you’d like to try making the patterns they can be found here.
– I’ve read a fiction book. I can’t tell you the last time I read any fiction.
– I’ve started listening to music more, and I’ve ordered some sheet music to practice with my clarinet. Music always makes me feel better.
There are elements of Facebook that I do miss. I miss seeing what certain friends who live a distance a way from me are up to and it does have value in finding out what is going on in and around Albufeira. It is the way that many ex-pat groups promote themselves and share valuable information. One aspect of Facebook I thought I would miss is groups that I was a member of. There were two in particular that I loved being a part of. But as the month has gone on, I can see how they were also feeding my need to be fixed and were also a part of the obsessive behaviours around health. Only this morning I was wondering again, would it hurt, really? Would it hurt if I just reactivated my account and had a sneaky peak? In that moment, I had to remind myself of the reasons I had deactivated it in the first place and did some crochet instead!
I do think that at the end of this first month I have started to regain some balance in my life. I’ve had time to focus on things that I do enjoy, without constantly thinking I should be doing more. I realise just how much I was using Facebook to avoid doing other things and using it as an excuse to explain why I wasn’t doing them. I’ve started to notice a little more those moments where I am slipping down the rabbit hole of doom and been able to understand a little more what’s causing them and how best to resolve them.
I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and I have two fabulous new cowls to show for the month. It’s a long time since I had something concrete to show for a month of my time.