A Facebook-free experiment

I’ve come to suspect that social media is ruining my mental health. Specifically, Facebook and Twitter are the culprits.

I noticed it first with Twitter: whenever I was on there, I became agitated and anxious, and remained so for a long time after I logged off. But it’s happened with Facebook, too.

I scroll through my newsfeed. At any given time, I might encounter someone who is: shooting the breeze, ranting about politics, venting about the price of gasoline, linking to an article of substance (or not), showing photos of their kids, exasperated with potty-training, grieving a loss. In real life, each of these people would require a different emotional response; on Facebook, these people require a different emotional response. The difference is that I’m unlikely to encounter such diverse situations in a short period of time in real life; on Facebook, it all happens in five minutes flat.

For someone whose mind already overstimulated to the point of pain—no, that’s not an exaggeration—this kind of emotional stimulation drains me or agitates me or both. It depends on where on this mental pendulum swing I’m on. Part of this may be my introverted nature (I get  energy from time alone, lose energy from time with others) and part of it is the bipolar disorder.

There’s also something about the nature of the sites that bothers my brain; the constant movement of the newsfeed feels like someone tickling the bottom of my foot, tickling until my foot twitches involuntarily and I kick back.

It’s to point where I can’t concentrate on reading a book, much less writing one, and I suspect this is why my second novel isn’t coming along like it should. I can’t think normally anymore and my mood swings have definitely worsened in the past few years. Unquiet is a good adjective for it.

The only reason I have Facebook and Twitter accounts is to build a platform for my writing. As a writer, I’m constantly being told (by agents, publishers, some writers) that I must have an online platform if I ever want to be published. But what’s the point of building a platform if it ruins my mental health and my ability to think? Not to mention the toll that bad mental health has on my relationships with family and friends and God.

So. I’m going off Facebook and Twitter for an extended period of time. Thanks to Networked Blogs, my blog post links will still go through my friends/fans/followers’ newsfeeds. But I’m not going to log on to these sites, so I won’t respond to comments there. I’ll only respond to comments on my blog or emails.

This isn’t meant to be an unfriendly gesture, just a practical one. I need to see if my brain will calm down without the constant brain-tickling, and logging on “just to check . . .” will undermine the effect I’m going for.

I’ve also started keeping a journal detailing my daily moods and how they respond to this experiment of mine. I’ll keep you up to date. Hopefully I won’t lose readers, friends or followers because of this.

Thank you for understanding and bearing with me on this point.

 

 

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21 thoughts on “A Facebook-free experiment

  1. Sounds like a good plan, Laura. No need to feed the beast by staying with fb and twits. Cutting stuff out is a great skill to develop.

    Looking forward to more news from you whenever it comes.

    Tim

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    1. Well, I have another post scheduled for later this week, so you won’t have to wait too long! I’m feeling a slight bit better just having made this decision to starve the beast.

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  2. Laura, you’ve explained what I couldn’t articulate. Seeing anything from global issues to whining on FB, we have to ignore a lot of it. My own postings about world news is a plea for others to “get out of their own head”; but I can’t change that, can I? When friends whine about transient illness or ailments, I really lose it. My sister’s ovarian cancer is taking over her brain, yet she never complains, and never posts updates on the slow, certain, and near term demise. We think about the promise of everlasting life instead.

    I know people who use the media only for advancing business. These people are very high “D” in the dominance scale. They are unique. And they aren’t people I go to for inspiration.

    I only see 2 choices:

    1. Ask friends to limit postings to positive stuff– but then I’m guilty of being “negative”, depending on another’s point of view.
    2. Stop using FB and see if I’m happier and more productive.

    I’m joining you in the latter. And I’ll post this on FB!!

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    1. We think about the promise of everlasting life instead. This made me teary-eyed, Frances. Praying for all of you!

      Several years ago, John Piper tweeted (note the irony) that on the Day of Judgement, Facebook and Twitter will be evidence that our lack of prayer was not from a lack of time. I thought of that when you wrote about the difference between how your sister is living and how so many other people are wasting the life that God has given them. Thank you for reading!

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  3. This is a really good post Laura, one that I really connect with. Western society is all about me, me, me, quick, quick, quick and now, now, now! Everyone’s got an angle, everyone’s got ‘a problem’ even if it’s trivial, and everything is worth 5 minutes of juicy gossip until the next thing comes up, usually 5 minutes later! I’m not on Facebook or Twitter because of this; some people spend more time with virtual friends and they are missing out on real life and real friends! Of course it’s good to read blogs and write them, simply because we can spread posts over days, weeks and even months, but with some of the social networking sites, it seems you have to be maintaining them all the time.

    You wrote: “I noticed it first with Twitter: whenever I was on there, I became agitated and anxious, and remained so for a long time after I logged off. But it’s happened with Facebook, too.” This is a curious thing you write. I’m a big games fan, or was, as I haven’t had time to really play anything for a while now; I love the ‘TombRaider’ games a whole lot in fact. I noticed with some games, that rather than enjoying them, I was getting stressed out and feeling agitated playing them and I thought I was supposed to be enjoying this experience but wasn’t! So I have a few games now but they’re mostly adventures, but I don’t really have the time for them either.

    I’m writing a book like you, but have assignments for my uni course to do, so my book is on the back burner at the moment sadly. Nice to see you’re posting anyway! I think things like Facebook, chatrooms, and things of that ilk can become almost as deadly as any other form of addiction, and sometimes it’s better just to walk away and leave, for the time being. The world of inane chatter and gossip will no doubt go on without us!

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    1. some people spend more time with virtual friends and they are missing out on real life and real friends! This really stuck out to me because I think it’s so true. I’ve been guilty of this as well: ignoring my family while I “work” on the computer at maintaining FB relationships, commenting on blogs, etc, and justifying it as “work-related” stuff that I “had” to do.

      I’m going to try to keep posting once/twice a week. My book isn’t going well–I think FB/Twitter/my wacky mind killed it!–so I’m going to start over with a new novel project. We’ll see how this goes. I hope you have time to work on your book soon.

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      1. For me, I actually enjoy reading other people’s blogs, occasionally for inspiration although I am always having idea upon idea anyway, and just to see what people are going through like yourself.

        Yes it’s certainly true that we can neglect our real life whilst pursuing the virtual one we have; in this, like most everything else, we need balance; sooner or later we can get out of synch, as you have mentioned, and we find that we just are not enjoying what we are doing anymore. I’m going through a bit of a stressful period at the moment because of the amount of stuff I have to do but am keeping on top of it thankfully.

        I will find time to continue writing my book, and I hope you find time to either restart your book or to start another project! I have come to the conclusion that the pursuit of happiness and the appreciation of simple peace in our lives is even more important than being busy or pursuing a career; again, we need to get priorities right always.

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  4. Laura, I can relate. I get so caught up in social media that it not only drains the heck out of me but it can really throw my mood out of whack. But of course, that happens offline, as well — it’s, in my opinion, crucial to find a balance that works for you. (I say this, however, knowing I haven’t quite found that balance yet.)

    Social media is often exhilarating for me and — due to the current step in my career, which is writing articles for a very active technology outfit — it’s essential for me to “work” social media every day in order to attract more readers (and participants). It can be exhausting, though. Heck, walking into a supermarket makes me anxious, though.

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    1. Hi, Harold–Your comment originally ended up in my spam box and I have no idea why! I’m sorry! Anyway, I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets drained/moody from social media and the grocery store. (And let’s not even talk about how I feel about Walmart . . .) Thanks for reading.

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  5. Hi Laura,

    I completely understand the brain mashing, dizzy feeling of too much media input! I’ve also limited my time on Facebook and Twitter. One thing that’s helped me is to use FB only for close friends and family. (although I still need to weed some out) Then I use Twitter specifically for ministry / platform building purposes. Though some days are still a Twitter challenge, placing boundaries on my time and usage has helped me tremendously. I know you will come out on the other side of this experiment rested with a clear mind for writing.

    Blessings… Tam

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    1. Hi, Tamara–
      I’ve found that I really can’t use Twitter at all. I really think there’s something about how quickly everything moves on there that affects my brain, possibly on a chemical/neurological level. I think that may be the case with FB, too, though it’s more subtle there. So we’ll have to see if I’m going to be able to use either outlet at all. (Sigh.) Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

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  6. I experience some of the same things. I still do a lot of my writing online, and I have a difficult time resisting the temptation. This is definitely inspiration to start trying a bit harder!

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    1. Michelle, I’m glad the post was an inspiration! For me, I’m fortunate enough to have a laptop where I do the bulk of my writing, and it isn’t connected to the internet. Anything that helps me resist temptation is a blessing!

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      1. I do think that is key. I just returned from sitting in the therapist’s office waiting for my son for an hour, where I wrote on my laptop sans Internet. I got a LOT done! Now I’m back home. The first thing I did? Check my email, lol.

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