It takes three weeks to form a habit and it must take three weeks to break a habit too because I no longer miss social media. I no longer wonder what’s going on out there on the web, on Twitter, on Facebook. I am not curious about what happened with whatever new viral drama because I have no idea what the current viral drama might be and this doesn’t bother me at all. There is no FOMO with social media anymore. There is no Fear Of Missing Out on the online world.
There IS a Fear of Missing Out on my actual life now and some sadness that I already have let too many days and weeks and months and years slip by with the repetitive scroll with my thumb.
The Loneliness Online
I’ve shared my weekly experiences so far on this blog. At Seven Days Offline, I was hopeful but struggling. I was enjoying the break but also acutely aware of the hold social media had on me. I had to find reinforcements to break the habit of checking my phone. I learned that my problem was not an addiction to social media as much as it was a need for constant distraction. When I removed social media, I found distraction elsewhere. So I had to go further to the source and remove it all.
At fourteen days offline, I wrote about some new habits I formed to fill the space. I’ve been writing my morning pages but more importantly, I am observing the world, looking around, taking it in. I felt like a stranger. I connected with others in a new way.
On my fourteenth day offline, maybe my fifteenth day–it was last Tuesday– I had a terrible day. I have some things going on in my life that sometimes rise up from the depths, hover over me then crash down and floor me. As if out of nowhere, the weight of my world crashes on to me and I am devastated. It was that kind of a day last Tuesday. It was an email from a fax machine. I thought it was a bill, but as soon as I opened it, I saw that it was something else. It was a subpoena (more on this later).
I’m in the middle of a second divorce from my first and only husband. We divorced ten years ago. Custody was settled and for many years, everything was smooth. Recently, things took a turn for the worse and we are in the middle of another battle. The lawyers are engaged and at the ready and unfortunately, the lawyers on both sides are aggressive and out for blood. I don’t have the stomach for it. I don’t want this. I want it to end. I wrote more about the details of this day in another post called “I Want You To Know About My Bad Day” that I have not yet shared. When I share it, it will only be available to my Orchestra Tier subscribers. It’s just too personal to set free without any leash. For now, let’s just leave it that I had a really awful day that left me in tears and made me feel so physically drained I canceled my plans that evening that I’d been looking forward to for a month so I could just lay in bed and feel sorry for myself.
In my desolation, I wanted to post sad memes on social media. I wanted to vent my bad day and have friends and strangers scream at the unfairness of it all then comfort me. I don’t like talking about my pain. I clam up. I do like to write my feelings out and apparently, I like to air my laundry and seek digital comfort. I couldn’t do that. I started to think how strange it was that one of my coping mechanisms was to post sad quotes and gain sympathy from strangers. Did it make my “sad day” better to know others agreed my sad day was sad? Did I need to rally alliances to confirm my sadness and frustration? The more likes and comments, the more valid my sadness? Isn’t my sadness enough?
At one point I was standing in my kitchen, leaning against the counter and looking out into my living room, into my house. The laundry basket on the chair. The half-chewed tennis ball on the rug. The memories in every direction, good and bad. I drank water and looked around me at my life. “This is my life,” I said to myself. “I need to get through it myself. I’ve got to lean on me.” I always thought I was leaning on me. In the end, I had to make it through the day, pay my bills, dry my tears, but this yearning to vague tweet, post my feels, share just enough to garner sympathy made it clear that I was leaning on others, on strangers, on the mob for comfort and validation.
I do have people in my life I can lean on. Sometimes pride holds me back. I will confess to the world in a tweet personal things that I won’t confess to a friend over the phone. When I post something, I can throw it out there and let it explode online while ducking back offline to dodge and deny my feelings. When I talk to a friend they have follow up questions, opinions, suggestions. It overwhelms me. I want to sympathy but maybe I don’t want the responsibility of telling the whole story, facing the parts I played to exacerbate or create the drama. I don’t want to hear myself talk.
When we connect online, we are only connecting in part. We are only connecting with one side, hiding everything else. As transparent as we may try to be, we are only seeing and sharing a portion of our lives. It’s like we are looking through microscopes and can see what is on the slide in tremendous detail, but all the rest of the lab, the microscope, the scientist, the building, the parking lot outside, the overcast day, the season and the family at home is missing. Yet, because we see that slide in such detail we believe we know everything. It’s hard to imagine there could be more.
I resisted. I didn’t post anything, but I did look up some sad poetic memes to look at the way I used to play the Smiths to induce a good cry. In the morning, I felt better. All that time I spent staring at my living room, wandering around my house stuck in my head, journaling in my notebook, helped me get clarity about my situation and come to a conclusion that once decided, I haven’t wavered once. I am certain and confident and satisfied with my decision. No doubt, no second-guessing, no voices in my head or comments on my page telling me I should consider another way. It’s pretty nice.
The Closer You Get To What’s Good, The Harder The Bad Holds On
The closer I get to a goal the more resistance I deal with from both internal and external sources. Success seems insurmountable. Most of these are self-limiting beliefs: fear, doubt, insecurity. Many are self-imposed obstacles: schedules, finances, etc. Sometimes an outside obstacle will appear seemingly out of nowhere to try to halt your progress that seems so blatant and out of place you can’t help but wonder if there are greater forces at work.
The church I used to go to before if flooded in the hurricane had a pastor who reminded us weekly that the closer we get to God, the harder the devil tries to pull us back. By leaving social media am I not only getting closer to my own personal goals, but also getting closer to the plan God has made for me? Is this why I have faced not only self-limiting obstacles but also greater obstacles that seem like Acts of God, or maybe, Acts of the Devil?
It seems silly to suggest my desire to write a book is so important that God or even the Devil would pay any attention to it but that’s almost a trained response, insecurity and self-doubt disguised as humility. Why wouldn’t my writing, my ideas, my talent be important enough to get the attention of God and the Devil? After all, if my gifts are God-given then, of course, the Devil would want to subvert them, especially when I’ve given up the hard work of subverting them myself by wasting away my time and energy on nonsense and drivel.
Before Facebook and Twitter delete your accounts forever, you have a grace period of 30 days. I’m about ten days away from that final unplug. Even though I’m ready for it, even though I want it now, I have outside forces that will not allow it. My internal obstacles have been sadness about losing friends, fear of feeling isolated, concern that I will be limiting my potential future success by not using social media to self promote. I came to terms with all these and was satisfied that I was making the right decision and everything would work itself out in the end.
Then I opened the subpoena. Unless this case can be settled outside of court, I will very soon have to provide all my social media records, among numerous other things, to the courts. Therefore, I have to keep my accounts “alive.” Of all things to be asked to do, of all times…. here we are. Here I am. This is my life.
This is not anything I ever would have anticipated. Is it just a coincidence that right when I made peace with leaving social media, in the middle of a creative burst of energy and productivity, when I was building a plan to finish projects now that I had opened up an avenue to success, an outside force, a powerful force is now insisting that these accounts stay alive, spinning like malware in the background of my life.
Maybe it’s a coincidence. And maybe, just maybe, the book I’m writing is so good, will be so impactful, will inspire and motivate so many people in the direction of some kind of good in the world that I’ve got the Devil’s attention.