Five months ago, I wrote about my decision to leave Facebook as a significant step forward in caring for my mental health during a time when my thought patterns and feelings were reaching stressful, scary, and tumultuous lows. In an act of solidarity, Jonathan and I clicked “deactivate” together, both of us keen on reorienting our priorities and focus. Since then, we’ve moved two states away and started partly-new jobs; we’ve dealt with some setbacks and unforeseen frustrations, but at the same time have been working to sink in roots which include a welcoming new group of friends and (finally) a love of our surroundings.
Things still haven’t been easy (mental health management is a constant work in progress with no quick fixes) but the positive result is that most of the outside factors negatively impacting my heart and mind have been stripped away, leaving, well, me.
Then recently, Jonathan told me something…
He’d reactivated his Facebook — a month ago!
Is it fair of me to say I was kind of… mad? Not that he’d reactivated his account, but that he’d done so and not told me. We’d done this together (solidarité!), after all. How could he?
I was genuinely surprised to realize how upset this made me. Was it because I didn’t want him to be on it at all, or was it because I was… jealous? Did I miss being on Facebook?
Since then I have ruminated over this again and again. I know very few people who care whether I’m on Facebook or not. Regardless of my input or presence, the news (real and fake) will be shared, strangers will debate, my friends’ pretty selfies will get “likes,” and lives will be filtered or overshared for the sake of public consumption and affirmation. In other words: the (Facebook) world will continue to spin.
But, despite that, am I perhaps missing something of real value?
I genuinely wasn’t sure.
Then I heard the news that Anthony Bourdain had died from suicide. The wave of shock and sadness hit me like a train; the last many years of my life were entrenched with Bourdain and his unique, incredible, life-altering gift of storytelling. He meant more to me than I could ever truly express.
As I lay weeping in my bed, thoughts and feelings flooding me, I forced myself up and began writing this blog post about empathy and suicidal thoughts. The subject had been ruminating in my mind for days; I actually copy and pasted the David Foster Wallace quote into WordPress the day before Bourdain died, with plans to write a response to the commentary I saw after Kate Spade’s death days earlier. Within half an hour of sitting down to write the post, I finished it.
The urge to share and connect with others over this loss which I felt so deeply was strong. As I clicked “Publish,” however, I knew hardly anyone would read it. Without a means to share it directly and accessibly with my community — my people — I realized why I still felt that twinge of conflict when it came to Facebook: because I was afraid to admit that I’d changed my mind; that selfishly, I still desired a better way to connect.
Minutes later, with minimal hesitation, I reactivated my Facebook and shared my post. It’s true, my community may not have needed or even wanted my thoughts, but I absolutely needed and wanted to it share it with them.
I have recently come to admit more openly that my self-care and -satisfaction is important, and sometimes that means “likes” on a photo or comments on a blog post. Sure, I need to be careful and remind myself (sometimes daily, always loudly) that my value as a human being does not reside in receiving those things; I matter regardless of my readership or followers or friends.
In the five months I’ve been off of Facebook, I’ve written around 26 blog posts. That’s more than I’d written in the previous several years combined. It was a productive writing time for me, particularly in February right after I deactivated. I was excited to be exploring a new way of connecting with people, with new subjects and areas of interest, as well as a writing voice about which I’d nearly forgotten.
Ironically, with only a link in my Instagram bio, not many people were able to engage with it. Therein lies the rub.
I’m still coming to terms with what pushed me away from Facebook in the first place, because it’s all still there. My personal relationship with social media (and on a grander scale: my feelings of self-worth, confidence, and body image) is something I’ll be working on with my new therapist. I am feeling more and more confident that I can push past those anxieties to better live my life and share what I love.
All that said, I love sharing my writing with you. It makes me try harder when I know my friends are reading. This all may be a vanity project for me, in the end, but I’m not interested in living within a silo.
In the midst of all this, cultivating my community and support system, even virtually, matters more to me than ever.
Thank you, as always, for stopping in to read.
(Photo by Hailey Savage.)