I took on a new challenge for Lent. Sometimes some Christians give stuff up during the Lenten season (from Ash Wednesday to Easter), others don’t, my church is indifferent on the matter. Growing up I thought I’d jump on board because…well…I don’t know. Score points? Feel good about myself? Have a New Year’s Resolution without the burden of keeping it 365 days? Understand what it feels like to be deprived of something so you develop empathy for others? Other people add stuff for the same reason, like certain altruistic acts. Now that I’m all growed up and have a different understanding of Christianity, my “giving up” was admittedly self serving. Here’s what I did and what became of it.
I gave up Facebook. I figure I could use the extra time engaging in spiritual practices, like prayer and meditation. I wanted to just sit back and think about one thing, a Lenten reflection of a personal nature. Except that it didn’t work quite like that. What started out with good intentions (just check for notifications once or twice a week, respond to those, and get the hell out of there) didn’t pan out. There’s just too much stuff going on with various groups that I’m in and there are many people that for whatever reason prefer to communicate with me on FB, or tag my name or whatever. I just couldn’t figure out how to dump it without shutting myself off from a lot of people for my personal vaguely religious whim. I couldn’t completely shut it out but I tried to minimize as much as possible. However, this experiment, though not completely successful, taught me a ton about myself.
1. Don’t post anything. I broke this because I used an app (Donate a Photo) that I let sync with FB and post pics. Yes, that was for altruism, but also, mostly, for attention. I also posted a few things on secret groups because what I had to say was super duper important.
2. Don’t comment. I broke this a few times, too. Some for good reasons (somebody asking a question), and the other times for dumb reasons (once I haaad to insert my opinion that was fairly obvious without me saying anything and the other I had to because I thought someone’s feelings were hurt and also I was ending racism).
3. Once a week it’s OK to go through and throw some Likes around. Did this more than once a week a few times due to exhaustion and not knowing what else to do to kill a bit of time.
With one week of Lent left to go, here’s what I found out about myself:
1. I have a hard time shutting up. When I see some article that’s so awesome I feel that it is my duty to share it with everyone on social media because OMG they HAVE to read it too! No, they don’t. I also want to tell people about the latest injustice and how they sh0uld help or care or something funny or whatever comes to mind, because my thoughts and opinions are super awesome. No, they’re not and no, I don’t need to do that. People can decide what they want to read and they don’t have to care about the same things that I care about. And my thoughts and opinions are no better or more magical than anybody else’s.
2. I have an obsession with licking peoples wounds. The few times I commented was to make people feel better, or so I thought. Is that really my job, though? To heal all wounds? Do they really need me to do this for them or are people quite capable of coming to their own conclusions and licking their own wounds. What makes me think that it’s my job?
3. I have an obsession with righting all wrongs. I have a way too strong sense of social justice and I don’t back down from fights. The few times I have called people out on Twitter (which I stupidly used as a replacement for Facebook) was for posting things that I thought hurt people or were racist or sexist or whateverist. That’s stupid, though. Do I really think I can solve societal problems by inserting my opinion against any -isms on social media? How narcissistic is that of me?
4. Sometimes I just want attention. I actually just posted a bored selfie on Instagram. I rarely post photos of myself, believing the words of Karl Lagerfield who called selfies “digital masterbation”. When I do post things on social media I expect to get likes or shares or retweets or comments or whatever and I wait in anticipation to see if that’s happened and when it inevitably doesn’t, because like I said I am not that interesting and my thoughts and opinions are no better than anyone else’s, I’m a little disappointed. That feeling is so dumb because it is so self-destructive and entirely self-created. But what’s a girl to do when she wants attention? Sometimes…just shut up.
5. I am part of things. The fact that I couldn’t get off FB entirely because I’m embedded is kinda neat. I’m important, except for the fact that
6. I’m really not important. I have refrained from so much posting, commenting, reading, getting sucked into arguments (only a few times) and yet…the sun still rises. Imagine that. PEOPLE SURVIVED WITHOUT ME POSTING THAT REALLY IMPORTANT ARTICLE ABOUT IMPORTANT STUFF!!!!
7. I am beginning to need it less. I am finding it less addictive when I am on because I am limiting my speech and not getting sucked in like I used to. It used to be a necessity, but now it’s just Meh. Because…
8. The vast majority of the time, reading books or blogs or talking on the phone to friends is much more pleasurable than Facebook.
So for the next week and possibly longer, I’m going to work on the following exercises:
1. Let someone else win a fight. Don’t try to get the last word. Just let it go. Then breathe, observe how life goes on and the world didn’t end, and let that sink into your brain.
2. Resist the next temptation to right a perceived wrong on social media or in conversation. I just did this because someone I thought was being sexist but I can’t solve sexism by calling people out. It’s not my job. At all. And I don’t want to go down the slippery slope of being a person who thinks everyone has the right to say what they want as long as what they say agrees with me. Everyone does have the right to speak and I have to live with the fact that sometimes it’s not going to be what I want and I need to shut my pie hole. That’s life, I can’t control everything, and that’s a good thing. And I need to get better at really listening before interjecting my own opinion. Also, sometimes I have to let the little stuff slide so I have energy to fight the big stuff.
3. Resist temptation to lick someone’s wounds. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I need to break myself of my addiction to being Helper To All Things And All People All of The Time. People are fine without me and will be friends without me and my platitudes and BS words of comfort. Maybe they will even like me better if I just shut the hell up and let them have their peace. Again, let the little stuff slide so I have energy for the big stuff.
4. Take all that time and energy you put into social media and do something that’s more fun. Ride a bike. Skype with an old pal. Spend a few minutes meditating, or even just taking some giant deep breaths. Finish a painting. Read a book. Upload all those photos you have on your camera. These things all give you sense of completion, which Facebook never does, and that’s much more important I realized. Just give yourself some freedom to not get sucked into the vortex, because you know you will.
And now…I’m finally shutting up.