Over the course of the last month, I realized something I think I’ve known deep down for a very long time…
I’m absolutely miserable every second I’m on Facebook. Turns out: it’s rather simple.
At the start of the year, when everyone was making their resolutions for 2018, I saw some clichéd meme floating around social media, the way memes do. It wasn’t particularly insightful, nor did it have anything unique to say. There was no hint as to who said it; the source was everyone and no one in particular. To summarize, it read:
In 2018: unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself.
Nothing new, but it stuck in my mind nonetheless. I immediately thought of Instagram. Were there people I might benefit from unfollowing there? I do follow a lot of fun, talented, accomplished, beautiful people, I thought… some I know, most I don’t. Don’t I sometimes feel like garbage scrolling through their pictures?
I mean, yes, sure. I follow a model so beautiful, with a body so bangin’, I feel a dip in my self esteem at least once a day. I’m constantly asking myself: why am I not a better, more clever writer? Why can’t I make beautiful art? Why can’t I be this confident? Why don’t I live in a beautiful tiny cottage in Santa Monica or on a sandy beach in Australia? Why am I not effortlessly chic and cool? Why can’t I jump right into crow??
By all accounts, you’d think my Instagram feed would make me feel like crap. But… it doesn’t. In truth, with the exception of those occasional feelings of jealousy or wanderlust or inadequacy that come with being a human person in this world watching other humans, my Instagram feed actually fills me with joy. Much of the time I’m entertained, most of the time I am inspired, all of the time I feel connected.
Yes, yes, I know: it’s not “real.” People generally show the best parts of their lives, censoring the rest. I get it; I’m not naïve. It’s simply that I’ve come to realize even seeing a curated and refined version of what life can be encourages me to search and push for how to achieve the same things within my own life. Yes, some of it will be fruitless (on my best day I’ll never have hair like this), but much of it — in one form or another — is within my reach.
Which brings me back to Facebook.
In December, for the first time in 18 years of desperately needing it, I visited and spoke with a therapist. (Shout out to my friend Cassie for gently shoving me through that door.)
Finding this doctor and speaking with her candidly is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. (Depression and anxiety is a conniving, sneaky beast. But that’s another post for another day.)
It’s in these past few weeks of introspection and discussion I realized why and how my depression and anxiety have been slowly worsened and sharpened by the hours upon hours I spend on Facebook. Suddenly I started to ask myself why? Why am I scrolling through this mess? Why am I clicking on these horrible, click-baity articles? Why am I letting myself be visually assaulted by bad memes? Why am I losing myself in these negative, blind-rage comment threads? What am I gaining from being here??
Despite whatever customizations I know are possible and the fact I do have friends who post thoughtful, smart, fun things, my personal Facebook feed (unlike Instagram) is mostly a compulsive, messy, angry cocktail of garbage. Part of it is my own fault; I’m a bait-taker with 20 years of experience typing my opinions away into the void, causing shit and hurling logic every-which-way like it’s a life skill I’m honing; clicking articles and simultaneously thinking “Stacy, this is trash, I’m so disappointed in you”; losing sleep as I drown in combative, anonymous fights.
By way of algorithms too complicated for me to understand, Facebook has become the embodiment of my anxiety, the stoking point for my depression.
Cutting it out will not solve my problems; there is much work to be done. But in stepping back and considering a life without Facebook — something I have utilized daily and depended on as a social tool for a solid 14 years (my entire adulthood!) — I’ve come to see how little I’ll miss it when it’s gone.
I sent a text to my best friends through a thread we all share, telling them of my decision to leave Facebook for my own mental health and emotional wellness and it hit me: Two of them have long since said “goodbye” to the platform, and the other five of them barely post more than the occasional photo or article as it is. Their lives just aren’t splattered online anymore. Perhaps because they’re too busy living?
Completely giving up social media and my presence online sounds appealing to some degree, I admit, but I’m not quite there yet. Instagram is the haven of manageable loveliness and motivational butt-kicking I need on a daily basis. My blog is the writing outlet I need to feel sane and something I’m passionate about doing more, doing better.
Today, Jonathan and I deactivated our Facebook accounts together, and it felt really, really good.
I can’t say I’ll be done with Facebook forever; there may come a time where I feel better emotionally and the lovely connection to my network outweighs the struggles I’ve been facing lately. **
But as it stands now, Facebook and my addiction to it widdled away at my personal sense of value. It gobbled up immeasurable amounts of my time — time better spent diving into the seven books stacked on my bedside table, or devouring the incredible content in the multitude of online magazines I love, or being present and active and truly engaged with my friends, directly. Or, hell, going outside once in a while!
I’m ready for that.
I’m ready for more.
** Editor’s note, 2020: my Facebook is now reactivated, but that’s because I needed a fucking picture of something from college that exists nowhere else, and also because of the treasure trove that is Facebook Marketplace. Luckily, though, this plan worked: it doesn’t even occur to me to go there most weeks, and I consider that a step in the right direction towards a full recalibration of the spirit.