I've been very active on social media for years, I've even used Facebook to launch a business and was quite successful at it. In the beginning I felt I was thriving; I was getting traction in the fitness world, I was posting and blogging and vlogging up a very lucrative storm. I spent years developing a following and platform I was extremely proud of, but the more time I spent focused on my online presence, the more I felt my personal life was deteriorating.
Actually that's not fair to say, because although I wish I could take credit for the figurative slap in the face, I can't. Out of frustration, one day my husband told me he'd had enough. Had enough of not being able to look at me without the presence of a phone or laptop. Tired of asking me questions while my attention was elsewhere. Tired of me spending more time talking to people outside of the house rather than in.
I protested. After all this was my business. A business that brought in an income. Facebook is engineered in such a way that if you aren't posting at least 5-6 times a day your visibility, and your cash flow, suffer dramatically, so how could I slow down? I couldn't let go of what I'd built. Then I realized it wasn't just the business that motivated me, it was the validation. It was knowing that if I was feeling down or insecure I could post a picture or phrase and instantly have people tell me how much they liked it. Loved it. That they loved ME and my face and my words and that was POWERFUL.
I'd also come to discover that I had social media related anxiety. If I went too long without checking notifications or responding to messages I would get extremely anxious. I couldn't break free from it, it was like a tether that I couldn't untie. I remember being on vacation looking for wifi to download emails and check Facebook messages and realizing that, woah, I'm not running a business here, it's running me.
Facebook had corrupted me. It made me value the opinions of strangers over those of my family. It gave me a false sense of ego, that I was somebody and that people cared about what I had to say.
What I was experiencing is exactly what Facebook is engineered to do. It uses our very strong motivations to connect and to seek validation and gives us 24/7 access to fill that void.
Here are 5 signs you've also been corrupted:
1. You see life in terms of 'posts'. Hey I should take a pic of that and post it. I changed my hair I can't wait to put this online. My kid said something hilarious, I bet my Facebook friends would think so too.
2. You get anxious if you haven't checked Facebook for a while. For example, you're on a long drive and are unable to use your phone. As soon as the vehicle stops you check social media immediately to relieve your anxiety.
3. Social media has the power to ruin your day. Been in an argument online? Does it bother you enough that it puts you in a bad mood? Do you obsess over it? It's because you care too much about people that aren't really in your life.
4. You find yourself hating the Internet and the people in it, but you're unable to stop interacting with them.
5. You're jealous of people without Facebook accounts. You fantasize about being able to do that and to disconnect yourself.
And that's the crux of it right there. If you deleted your Facebook account, NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN. No one would care. No one would notice. Because it isn't real life, it's an online life. One that you might have made a few connections in or maybe even a few friendships, but without Facebook those true friends will still be there. As with anything, Facebook has a powerful duality because you can, in fact, do wonderful things and develop worthwhile relationships. I'm not recommending you delete Facebook, or implying that the connections you've made aren't real, I'm telling you that there needs to be a balance.
Here's how to achieve that balance:
1. Only check messages or notifications. If it directly applies to you, respond, but leave it at that.
2. If you see something that angers you, KEEP SCROLLING. You and I both know that no good will come from arguing online. Hide it from your newsfeed if you need to.
3. Set a schedule. For example, only 5 minutes at a time, and only if your kids are sleeping.
4. Turn off all push notifications. Don't let Facebook interrupt your day, wait to check everything until you actually have time to do so.
5. Engage in positive conversations. Remember those good online relationships? Talk to THOSE people. Post on their wall with a compliment. Spread joy. Embody what you'd like to see online.
Social media should be a positive contributer; a good thing in your life. If it's increasing your anxiety or you find yourself caring a bit too much about online interactions, it might be time to take a step back. Set boundaries and take days off from your newsfeed, see if it makes an impact. It's made a positive impact in mine. I make a bit less money and post a lot less content, but my life and relationships have improved significantly, and that's a price I'd pay ten times over.