It seems like every few months I find myself back here again.
Not on the eve of another Quarter Moon or the start of the fall TV season, but the time of year when almost everyone I know declares a social media detox.
I’m not sure if it’s the beer haze of summer fading away or the feeling of fresh starts that comes when the leaves are ready to change, but people are feeling the urge to purge. And big, bad Facebook is usually the first to go.
Believe me, I get the allure of walking away from social media. I’ve spent hours of my short, precious life scrolling through my friends’ vacation pictures, analyzing status updates from 2007 and mindlessly watching (and rewatching) videos of puppies and babies. I’ve over-analyzed friends’ annoyingly vague 3 a.m. posts and have become embittered by photos of friends out drinking when my phone hasn’t buzzed in hours.
There are days my news feed feels like a war zone of egos and nonsense, and I want to cringe. But instead of running, I’ve chosen to stand still, stay mindful and seek the true value in social media. Yes, it exists.
So here’s why I stay:
1. There’s reality and then there’s reality TV
I approach Facebook the same way I approach an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey. I know it’ll keep me vaguely interested, I’ll find myself laughing at inappropriate moments and in the end, I’ll walk away knowing that approximately 85 percent of what I saw was scripted.
Reminding myself that what’s in front of me is someone’s highlight reel and not their behind-the-scenes drama makes me less envious of their “perfect” lives. Because the truth is, we all do it. We post our best moments, our happiest memories and our greatest achievements to tell the world: “This is who I am!”
Social media gives us the opportunity to filter our lives and show others the best version of ourselves—even if it’s not the complete version. So next time that perky girl from high school gushes about her super-amazing dream guy or an obnoxious co-worker posts photos of his newly-renovated vacation house, just remember that their real stories are still sitting on the cutting room floor—just like yours.
2. You get out what you put in
Somewhere stuffed between the Donald Trump rants, Game of Thrones spoilers and obligatory “I got married/had a baby/left the country” photos, I’ve found posts that are interesting, insightful and inspiring.
I used to scroll through my timeline, ignoring most of what others had written. Turns out I have Facebook friends who are fighting to save the planet, opening small business and using their creativity to change the world. Some are raising fantastic children, while others are happy just to promote love and humor.
I now use Facebook as a practice in gratitude and appreciation. When I see something that pulls at my heart or makes me laugh, I comment and hit like—it’s that simple.
And I remind myself that I’m in control. When I don’t like what someone is posting, I unfollow them. When I want to read more about spirituality, yoga or just plain good news, I like those pages, follow those people or post it myself. Positivity multiples.
3. In teaching, you learn, and in learning, you teach
Everyone has that passive-aggressive family member who insists on handling private matters online, that needy friend who posts cryptic messages in hopes that someone will feign concern or that guy next to you at work who gets a weird joy out of tagging you in NSFW videos. Truth is, even if we avoid these people by swearing off social media, the universe will find another way to insert these characters into our lives. They are our teachers. And no amount of logging off will make them go away.
So I revel in the connections and the lessons they bring. I once posted a cartoon addressing racial discrimination and gun violence in the United States. A former co-worker wrote a less than agreeable comment, then private messaged me with multiple paragraphs explaining why she believed I was wrong.
I was miles past bothered. And we all know what can happen when keyboards and annoyance meet. But I took about 50 deep breaths and crafted a response that honored my original opinion while respecting her viewpoint. What could have become a feud became a teachable moment—for both of us.
If I’m being honest, there are days I relish being sucked into the vortex of cute baby pictures, conspiracy theories and overused memes. Life can be tough, and sometimes I just like to scroll through it. But finding mindful ways to work through the chaotic social master class that is Facebook has changed the way I work through real life.
So I don’t begrudge anyone their social media detox. Go ahead and cleanse your palate. Take some time to recharge.
I’ll be here when you decide to come back.
Author: Nicole Cameron
Editor: Evan Yerburgh