To Facebook or NOT to Facebook? By Deborah Berryman

It’s a question I mull over every now and then, and it’s safe to say my relationship with social media falls squarely under the banner of ‘it’s complicated!’

Each holiday I take a break from being online as I relish the peace and space. I’m not long back from another week without any social media which was fab, and it was actually during a break in India last Christmas that got me really thinking about this – if I enjoy time away from Social Media, why don’t I do it more often? And then a bigger question, why do I even feel the need to have a break from Social Media anyway? I got real curious, and here was the list of reasons that popped up, and it was a pretty compelling read (to me anyways) –

  1. It consumes WAY too much of my time (avg 20mins a day) which doesn’t sound like much, but when I’m ‘too busy’ to do all of the things I want to do, that’s a big chunk!
  2. I worry I’m missing the important stuff going on in my life with the people I hold dearest that are here right in front of me, simply because I’m scrolling through to see someone’s avocado on toast (with my scroll-face on, yeah you know the one)
  3. I often feel overloaded with messages (direct or indirect) about how/what I should eat, feel, think, look like, wear and show up in life – and I make a lot of effort to stay away from that stuff in TV, Papers & Mags so go figure! Instead of feeling inspired, I can sometimes feel depleted.
  4. There’s A LOT of noise – opinions, arguments, advertisements, self-promotion – it can make my head-spin and pull me out of hearing my own inner voice
  5. On a bigger-picture level, I’m genuinely worried social media is helping to spread our culture of narcissism (Cat Fish anyone?!)
  6. Social media is designed to be ‘addictive tech’. I have an addictive nature – it’s probably not a good combo.
  7. I don’t think I’ve ever come off social media and felt ‘that was a really good use of my time on a busy day – I feel totally recharged and uplifted!’

Maybe you can identify with some (or all) of these?

Now on the one hand, social media can be amazing when it comes to connecting with people – I love the fact I can stay in touch with good souls (old schoolies and people I’ve met travelling) who I may not see because of geography or time, but I still hold dear in my heart because of our shared, joyful history. I love the sharing of ideas, laughter, concerns, gratitude, tools for living well, and beauty, and the fact that grass roots movements can be started through these means and create meaningful change.

And on the other hand, I’m worried about social media’s potential to create DISCONNECTION as we bury our faces into screens while the world, our loved ones and our lives pass us by. I’m also deeply squeamish about the hollowness of connection through technology, the one-dimensional self-image often portrayed (apparently everyone’s having a REALLY great day, every day – amazing!) and the barrage of self-promotion…sigh. There’s a huge gap between the photo shopped edition of our lives and reality, and sadly I think we all suffer in that gap.

Now please don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a ‘them out there’ problem, no sir-ree! I know myself well enough to know that when I get my annoyed and judgey-head on, it’s a sure sign I’ve tripped over a part of myself that I don’t like. And so it hasn’t gone unnoticed that I do the VERY SAME squeamish stuff that makes me feel uncomfortable. Check this out for duplicity –

  1. I share articles I love and say, ‘hey, you should read this’ (*SHOULD alert!)
  2. I mostly share happy pics and news, and not so much when I’m feeling fat, grumpy and old!
  3. I’ve even shared a pic of avocado on toast! (oh the shame!) but can’t ever recall posting a pic of the empty M&Ms packet (large pack obvs!) that I’ve demolished fuelled by my PMT.
  4. I use SM to inspire people to try out yoga or meditation – because I love it so, it’s been a lifeline for me and I genuinely believe it will save the planet! (opinion alert!)
  5. I self-promote and share about retreats and events I’m teaching
  6. I share my opinions, thoughts and experiences about the challenges of life and being human
  7. I share believing someone will also take 20mins out of their day to read their Wall (including my post!) with their scroll-face on

Ay currumba! So there it is, the great irony! As with most of the important things in my life, it turns out I’m part of the problem – which is both depressing and liberating in equal measure.

The more I thought about it, the more irritated I became, I’m not sure who at – me or ‘them’? (you know, them out there). Probably both. You can see the challenge. So question was, how do I (we) make peace with all of this?

For me, I took a 6 month break from social media to give myself some headspace – I just wanted to get real quiet so that I could get clear about this little mess of confusion.

You know there’s a fine line between being authentic (This is me) and narcissistic (Look at me!), and while I’ve always aimed for authenticity, I wanted to take a good hard look to see whether I was still showing up on that side of the line – why am I sharing in this space? (It’s a healthy question to ponder)

I also thought taking a break would let me see how I felt about NOT being online – Did I feel clearer and did I use the time more productively? Did I still feel SEEN? And in truth, yes I did! I felt much less distracted, much more present and more tuned in than ever before.

BUT…(and here’s the complicated part)… I also missed staying connected to the online community which has gradually become an integral part of my life. I’m often blown away by you people, and how thoughtful, kind, compassionate, enthusiastic, honest, intelligent, funny and thought-provoking you are. I get emails from people that are raw and brave, and I have zero doubt this is one way we can show up for each other. We can reassure each other that we’re not alone, and people care, and more importantly, strangers care. I think that’s huge to know, because it helps maintain my faith in the goodness of people. I see people rooting each other on in the comment threads, offering support, or condolences, or ideas which is so beautiful.

I’m sharing this because I still feel a bit of a complicated mess about social media. And from what I understand, a lot of you guys do too. It’s been a struggle AND it also hasn’t been.

Wrestling with these complex and often contradictory thoughts can be a complete pain in the bum, but the process helps us to stay grounded in PRACTICING our values instead of simply PROFESSING them. To stop pointing the finger and take care of our own stuff. And I hear that part of being a grown up is learning how to sit with these contradictions in ourselves and in others – to accept there are pros and cons in most things, and that the grey area is the new black or white (who knew!)

So here’s where I’ve ended up in the last few months –

Social media has the POTENTIAL to be a force for good, and is a great alternative to mainstream media that sadly seems obsessed with exploiting our natural hypersensitive to fear and anxiety, stirring us up big time. I want to be a part of something good and I have a genuine desire to reach out and share honestly so I’m going with it. No part of me wants to “overshare” my woes publicly (seriously, we’ve all got our $hit to deal with, you really don’t need to hear my fairly benign and frankly boring worries!). But nor do I want to pretend my life was shiny. This, I find, is a hard line to walk, but I’m willing to work for it.

I also really want to bring a balance to the ‘Love & Light’ message of yoga, and say “Yes, that’s true and it’s beautiful – but yoga is also about ‘Fear & Darkness’, let’s acknowledge and embrace that about ourselves too”.

Social media can be such a source of lightness which I relish, but I’m staying sensitive to the reality it can also be a source of pain for many people, especially if they’re feeling badly about themselves, or moving through a dark time. It can really seem like everyone else is having this idyllic, carefree, fulfilling life with their bare feet in the sand, and their annoyingly perfect dog in the background. Or that everyone is funnier, more cutting edge, better informed, more engaged, cooler or hipper or hotter or glossier or whatever-er. It can become a source of feeling “less than” and that breaks my heart a little.

I believe we’re all CRAVING connection and we all want to be seen and heard; to know that we count. We want to tell our story. I want to tell my story. And checking in with you to see where you are in your story, even if it’s a one-dimensional view, gives me comfort. I’ve always loved writing, and being able to use this space to work out some of the challenges I face as a much flawed human being – to share my story with MYSELF and have you witness it, brings a sweetness to my life.

So, even if it’s sometimes hard to share our full-selves through social media, I trust that you’re out there as a whole person, struggling and not struggling at the same time. And it’s good to see you and feel you through what you share. It is indeed a rich (and complex and messy and heartfelt and shadowy and beautiful) story that we all share.

So for now I’ve stopped overthinking it and lightened up!  I like connecting with my online community, it’s full of really cool people and it’s a space where everyone gets a choice to speak up (or not) and listen (or not).

I’ve got the dog wagging the tail and I’m choosing the quality of my online time carefully – the stuff/adverts/ people that don’t feel nourishing to me I’ve just unfollowed or hidden away, and I make sure there are times my phone is nowhere near and is ALWAYS on silent. I’m popping in to check in with you guys or posting something when I feel inspired, and at the same time following that pull to spend my short time on this planet with the people I love and doing the many cool things I still want to do (I will learn to play that damn guitar!)

If you’ve been so gracious to stay with me to this point, let me say a great big THANKS for letting me meander and share this messy, beautiful reflection, and for being a part of this online community. And if you gave up part way through, GOOD FOR YOU!!! 

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