My name is Chris Assaad and I’m addicted to Facebook.
Yup, it’s true, and admitting it in this post is my first step in the direction of doing something about it. I used to defend my use of social media by saying that it was strictly for my career, for promoting my work, my events and for building an online profile. At the best of times, that’s what I use it for, but at the worst of times, it goes far beyond that into the realm of undeniably self-defeating behavior… and lately, it’s gotten out of hand.
Here are some of the problematic tendencies I’ve observed in myself:
– Checking my Facebook first thing in the morning before engaging in centering spiritual practices such as morning pages, meditation, prayer or reading something soul-nourishing.
– Inability to stay focused on a particular task without stopping to check my phone and then getting distracted from the task at hand for unintended long periods of time because I’ve been sucked into the Facebook vortex, i.e. major procrastination via Facebook.
– Inability to be in the company of others for an entire meal or hang without checking my phone.
– Spending the last bit of time before I go to bed on Facebook resulting in restless sleep and dreams.
– Constantly checking back on things I’ve posted to see how many “Likes” it has gotten. Feeling happy or disappointed based on how many “Likes” a post has gotten.
– Scrolling my Newsfeed and having a negative emotional reaction to other people’s posts as a result of feelings of jealousy or envy or self-criticism regarding what I’m not doing or what I haven’t yet achieved.
– Facebooking while driving… (I know, it’s bad. Don’t judge me!)
These are just some of the patterns that I’ve been observing in myself and the ultimate bottom line is that I’ve been spending too much time on social media and not enjoying REAL LIFE as much as I could be. I’m not as PRESENT as I would like to be and that lack of presence is costing me in the quality of my interactions and the quality of whatever it is that I’m doing because I’m not giving it 100% of my attention. As an artist, I know that it’s also not allowing me the necessary space for my own ideas to incubate and come to the surface. Similarly, from a spiritual perspective, it’s very difficult to tune into the voice within when we are constantly tuning into all of the noise around us and the influence of so many other voices.
Facebook is a tool, and used properly, it can serve us in amazing ways, allowing us to connect with people across the world and to have instant access to our networks and communities. Similarly, our minds are great tools, but if the mind is the master and not the servant, it can wreak havoc on our lives and cut us off from an empowered experience where our highest self is in the driver’s seat.
A recent study by the University of Michigan found that Facebook use actually made its participants unhappier, sadder and lonelier. Interesting given that the basic premise and reason why many of us use it in the first place is to connect and as a source of pleasure.
For many of us, spending time on social media has become a substitute for living real life. But the question is…is it making us happier? More creative? Less lonely?
The truth is that oftentimes, Facebook is a place where we project a version of what we wish our lives were really like, where we hide when we don’t want to deal with what’s actually going on in our world and when we don’t want to feel our feelings. In the same way that using food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, sex, TV or any other external substance or deVICE only really creates more of a gap between what we’re feeling and the healing we truly desire, Facebook and social media have now earned their place at the top of that list.
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing over and over again and to expect different results. To the extent that our use of a tool like Facebook, Instagram or other social media isn’t serving us or creating the desired experience, it’s insane to keep it up and leave it unchecked. If this is the case, it might be worth looking more closely at our pattern of use and revisiting it.
I, for one, am definitely at that point and I’ve decided that the next step in addressing the situation is going to be a social media cleanse for 21 days (to start). As a former nicotine addict, I know that cold turkey is the only way to go and I’m not treating my latest vice with any less severity. As crazy as it may seem, the idea of going days or weeks without Facebook causes me a low level of anxiety, like “how am I gonna do it?” That alone is very telling and exposes just how deep the unhealthy attachment goes. I did a cleanse like this not too long ago and it was very refreshing. Stepping away from the online rabbit hole I so easily go down allowed me to see what I’d been missing out there in my real life and also revealed what impact my social media patterns were really having on me.
Consider the fact that merely seeing someone’s name at the top of your Newsfeed, let alone tuning into to what they are saying, creates an internal response in you even more so than thinking about that person would. Now ask yourself, do you want to be thinking and feeling about all the people on your Newsfeed whenever and however they show up there? Do you want to allow your inner space to be filled with whatever images, expressions and triggers happen to show up on social media? Do you curate your Facebook friend list, Instagram and Twitter feeds the way you do your thoughts?
If the patterns I’ve described in this post or the questions above resonate with you, perhaps you might like to take a look and see if an adjustment in your social media use would serve you. If you’d like to join me on the cleanse, let me know in the comments below. Knowing we’re in it together will give us the will to keep on keeping on when that inevitable itch arises. We can send each other love and support from a distance and report back when we are ready to re-engage on our own terms. If your business requires you to post on social media, I recommend using a tool such as Hootsuite which allows you to schedule posts and maintain your online presence “from a distance” without getting sucked into the action.
I’ve been trying to think back to what life was like before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and I’ve had a tough time remembering.
It’s time to remember. Who’s in?
Published by The Daily Love (Jan. 5th, 2014)