Facebook Free July

Last summer I took a Facebook break after an online posting battle with someone, whom I love very much, left me rather ashamed of myself (not ashamed of my opinions and views, but for hashing them out in such a public forum).  The break was a liberating experience, and I posted about it here and here.  I learned a lot about myself from that break, and I decided that I would take another month-long break this summer.  This time the break is less to learn about myself but more to focus on myself.

This break has been a lot easier than last summer.  I didn’t have to “detox.”  I haven’t logged in a single time to check on anything.  I haven’t felt the need to unfriend anyone.  None of that; it’s been a fairly low-key event.  I did have a work friend ask me if I was mad at her when she discovered she couldn’t post anything to my wall – I had to laugh because there is nothing she could do that would anger me.  It’s just a break.  I’ll be back.  How else will I keep in touch with my family and friends spread across the country?  I hate talking on the phone!

I’ve once again missed numerous July birthdays and other important events.  Lesson learned: I need to rely less on Facebook to inform me of important dates.  Hm… maybe this is where a calendar would be useful?  Novel idea.

I am taking a Mindfulness class this summer, and today our instructor sent us a really great article on using social media in a mindful manner.  The article, written by Lori Deschene, is found here:  Ten Mindful Ways to Use Social Media.  I’ve reposted it below.  Definitely some good tips in it.

10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media by Lori Deschene

  1. Know your intentions.

Doug Firebaugh of SocialMediaBlogster.com has identified seven psychological needs we may be looking to meet when we log on: acknowledgment, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance, and inclusion. Before you post, ask yourself: Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?

  1. Be your authentic self.

In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you. If you need advice or support, ask for it. It’s easier to be present when you’re being true to yourself.

  1. If you propose to tweet, always ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Sometimes we post thoughts without considering how they might impact our entire audience. It’s easy to forget how many friends are reading. Two hundred people make a crowd in person, but online that number can seem insignificant. Before you share, ask yourself: is there anyone this might harm?

  1. Offer random tweets of kindness.

Every now and then I ask on Twitter, “Is there anything I can do to help or support you today?” It’s a simple way to use social media to give without expectations of anything in return. By reaching out to help a stranger, you create the possibility of connecting personally with followers you may have otherwise known only peripherally.

  1. Experience now, share later.

It’s common to snap a picture with your phone and upload it to Facebook or email it to a friend. This overlaps the experience of being in a moment and sharing it. It also minimizes intimacy, since your entire audience joins your date or gathering in real time. Just as we aim to reduce our internal monologues to be present, we can do the same with our digital narration.

  1. Be active, not reactive.

You may receive email updates whenever there is activity on one of your social media accounts, or you might have your cell phone set to give you these types of alerts. This forces you to decide many times throughout the day whether you want or need to respond. Another approach is to choose when to join the conversation, and to use your offline time to decide what value you have to offer.

  1. Respond with your full attention.

People often share links without actually reading them, or comment on posts after only scanning them. If the greatest gift we can give someone is our attention, then social media allows us to be endlessly generous. We may not be able to reply to everyone, but responding thoughtfully when we can makes a difference.

  1. Use mobile social media sparingly.

In 2009, Pew Research found that 43 percent of cell phone users access the Web on their devices several times a day. It’s what former Microsoft employee Linda Stone refers to as continuous partial attention—when you frequently sign on to be sure you don’t miss out anything. If you choose to limit your cell phone access, you may miss out online, but you won’t miss what’s in front of you.

  1. Practice letting go.

It may feel unkind to disregard certain updates or tweets, but we need downtime to be kind to ourselves. Give yourself permission to let yesterday’s stream go. This way you won’t need to “catch up” on updates that have passed but instead can be part of today’s conversation.

  1. Enjoy social media!

These are merely suggestions to feel present and purposeful when utilizing social media, but they aren’t hard-and-fast rules. Follow your own instincts and have fun with it. If you’re mindful when you’re disconnected from technology, you have all the tools you need to be mindful when you go online.

Lori Deschene is the founder of @TinyBuddha on Twitter and tinybuddha.com, a multi-author blog that features wisdom and stories from people all over the world.  From Tricycle magazine.

A Month Without Facebook {and what I discovered}

I managed to go approximaely 36 days without Facebook.  I did log back in (briefly) once to check out some photos that were mentioned to me, and another time to do some “cleaning”, but I deactivated right away.  Well, we’ve decided to host a gathering at the end of the month, and so I decided to reactivate for the ease of inviting people.  I’m not going to lie – I rely on Facebook to communicate with most people outside of my few close friends and family.

The first few days were tough.  It took some time on my part to stop thinking in terms of Facebook updates.  Sometimes I still do, but I no longer have the desire to actually post them.  I probably missed a few birthdays, but I’m sure no one noticed my lack of “happy birthday” posts on their wall.

I wish I could say that without Facebook I was a more productive person, but that would be a big fat lie.  Facebook was merely substituted with other forms of time suckers – Pinterest, Instagram, WordPress, craft blogs, online shopping…  In this regard my experiment was a failure.  Facebook-free does not equal a more productive Caroline.  

It did equal a happier Caroline, though.  Not having a barrage of information about politics, social welfare, news, religion, etc. was incredibly liberating.  I freely admit that I don’t purposely seek out news information.  This isn’t because I am uneducated or because I don’t care, it’s because I care too much.  If I know what is going on in the world, I stress. Stress makes me unhappy.  I don’t like being unhappy, so I don’t go to news websites or read the paper.  We don’t have cable or basic stations, so I don’t have news via television either.  I would usually get my news updates from Facebook, and not having that made me feel so much better.  More ignorant?  Yes, probably.  But happy.  Ignorance really is bliss.

In this regard, I also felt as though my blood pressure remained at a healthy level.  I didn’t have to read anyone’s rants, and I didn’t post any of my own.  This is probably the most important result of my Facebook hiatus.  For me personally, Facebook is not the place to have an opinion.  It is the place to see my friends’ beautiful babies.  It is the place to rejoice in my friends’ happiness and support them in their sorrows.  It is a place to connect, but it is not a place to hold court.  Some people might be capable of having stimulating, productive, meaningful conversations on Facebook.  I am not one of those people.  

So there it is.  I am now back on Facebook, and I am a much wiser person after my break.  I am now an observor, not a participator.  I will be the first person to “like” your first day back to school pictures and wish you congratulations on the birth of your baby, but I will not be sucked into drama and I will not let Facebook make me unhappy.

Don’t Count Your Chickens… But Absolutely Count Your Blessings

I’m overwhelmed.  My department of three is reduced to a department of one for the next two to six weeks.  Unplanned illness and planned surgery swept through our department, and I am the one left standing.  I do have someone helping when she can, which is greatly appreciated.  I will never refuse help.

I’m also halfway through my horrible statistics class.  The midterm was brutal.  By far one of the most difficult tests I have ever taken.  I managed to get a B (yay for weighted curves!) but I am so unmotivated to buckle down and finish.  I need to just do it.  Just finish.

So instead of focusing on the overwhelm, I am going to focus on the happy.  There are so many people, places, things, and thoughts that make me happy.  It is too easy to overlook them when life gets rough.

Lulu.  She is my sun.  My blonde haired, blue-eyed, sarcastic, hilarious, beautiful, and frustrating world.  Everything begins and ends with Lulu.

Husband.  I’ve loved him since our second date in 2002.  12 years of knowing, 8 years of dating, and 5 years of marriage later – I still love him.  And when I want to punch him, I think about some of the other husbands I know, and then I only want to smack him.  Also the best father in the world.  We aren’t perfect, but it works.

Mom and Dad.  They made me.  They raised me.  We all survived those first 18-22 years of my life (barely) and I am a good person because of them.  It wasn’t always easy and fun, but they never gave up on me.

MIL and FIL.  They made Husband.  They raised him.  They all survived and he is a good person because of them.  They are amazing grandparents to their three grandkids.  They are kind and generous.  They accepted me into their family since day one.

Nieces and nephews.  They range from 6 months to 13 years.  Nephews are smart and funny, and love Lulu so much.  I don’t get to see nieces as often as I want, but their photos and videos always light up my day.  Just knowing those four amazing little girls exist makes my world a better place.

Linsey and Alysha.  My best friends.  I can’t wait to grow into old ladies with them.

Family and friends not mentioned above.  They are my support network.  Nothing would work in my life without them.

Iowa City, lately.  Not my favorite place during winter, but so so nice the other four months of the year!  Sometimes I remember to just look around, at the trees, hills, creatures, farm fields, and old houses.  It is so different from what I grew up knowing, and I am constantly in awe of it.

My job, and the people who come with it.  It’s the first job I’ve ever had where I feel like I have a future.  Despite being overwhelmed because of unforseen circumstances, I do truly enjoy coming to work every day.  A really amazing support network resides here, and if it weren’t for work I would never have applied to grad school.

Grad School.  I don’t know if it will prove a blessing or a curse, but grad school is something exciting on the horizon that I am looking forward to. It is my second chance to prove to myself that I am that smart girl who existed so long ago.

Fabric.  Cutting it up and sewing it into something beautiful and useful and cherished is delightful.  I like to imagine the pretty things it will become.

Books.  All sorts.  And when all else fails, I can escape reality through the words of Austen.   

Writing.  I am not a great writer, and I have no aspirations of ever having a well read blog, but writing is my personal therapy.  Perhaps deep down a pet dream would be to have a blog like hers, but I am realistic (and not remotely as talented as she is).  

Modern science.  Without it, I would probably be a raving lunatic!

And, since everything begins and ends with Lulu,…

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Thinking Outside the {Facebook Status Update} Box

Today marks Day 2 of my Facebook detox (as my best friend called it this morning).  Facebook detox is the perfect way to describe it.  Especially after the eye-opening realization that came to me yesterday:

Facebook = Crack

I never realized how much I relied on Facebook in my down time.  Need a quick break from working?  Facebook!  Waiting in line somewhere?  Facebook!  Walking from point A to point B?  Facebook!  The kid is watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates for the 765th time this week?  Facebook!

I also never realized how many Facebook status updates I composed in my head throughout the day.  I certainly never posted every thought that popped into my head (unlike some people who seem to think every thought is worthy of the FB status update) but I definitely constructed them in my mind.  The kid did something funny?  Facebook!  Something pissed me off?  Facebook!  Read an article?  Facebook!  Saw a good deed?  Facebook!

Facebook = Crack

(I would like to note at this point that I have never used crack.  I do not actually know from firsthand experience what the effects of crack are on the human body.)

My friend was listening to NPR on her drive in to work this morning, and there was a story about stress and anxiety.  Most of the people polled said news media and stories were the main sources of their stress and anxiety.  The main blame was social media.  I would love to find the print article or listen to the story.  I did a quick Google search, and millions of articles came up about the effects that social media has on stress and anxiety.  Millions.

 

social media

 

I browsed a few, but I certainly don’t have time to read 48 million articles.  I am guessing that many of these articles are actually about social anxiety disorder, without the media part of it.  I wonder what the implications of social media are on those with social anxiety disorder?  That would be a discussion for someone much smarter than me.

I hope that as I continue my detox I can stop thinking about status updates and what to do in my downtime and start focusing on being present in the real world.  The real world with all of its random, crazy, ugly, beautiful and exciting chaos.

EDIT:  My friend sent me the news article I mentioned above:  Bingeing on Bad News Can Fuel Daily Stress

The Pit of Emotion

I internalize what goes on around me.  If a co-worker is cranky, I get cranky.  If my husband is stressed, I get stressed.  If my best friend is sad, I get sad.

I internalize the things I read, the websites I visit, the conversations I overhear.  If I read an upsetting news article before bed my brain will refuse to shut down for hours.  I have a love/hate relationship with social media – Facebook, Pinterest and the like.  These things are chock full of perceived reasons to feel dissatisfied with your own life.  Even if those reasons have no basis in reality.

I’m pragmatic.  I know that life is not a beautiful Pinterest board, that children are not always well-behaved, houses are not always clean, news is not always good, and people around us are not always cheerful and happy.  So WHY do I take all of these external forces outside of my control and embody them to live and fester and create this gaping pit inside of me?  I feel like I exist with a swarm of butterflies in my stomach.  I’m always slightly on edge, slightly nauseous, waiting for something to happen.  The past few months have been awful in this respect.  Good news followed by bad.  Death, birth, sadness, worry, excitement… it’s all there, inside of me, churning away.

I’m working on finding ways to chill out.  Day 1 without Facebook is helping.

Maybe cutting back on caffeine would help, but then I would be bitchy instead of anxious.  And believe me, nobody wants that.

Pretty

Dear Lulu,

Wearing makeup has never been a big deal to me.  My mom has never worn makeup.  She has never owned makeup in my lifetime.  When I was little I always wanted to have play makeup, but my mom wouldn’t let me.  Ponies, Barbies, and a multitude of other girly things were okay, but never makeup.

When I was thirteen she decided I could wear makeup, but I had to buy it with my own money.  Thirteen is an awful age to go through as a child, and  I am sure it is just as bad for the mother.  (I guess I will find out in ten years.)  Anyway, at thirteen I went and I bought some powder and eye shadow and blush, and I’m sure I made myself look like a clown.  You see – my mother never wore makeup.  I had no one to teach me how to apply it.

I did eventually figure it out, but in all honesty, makeup has never been a big deal to me.  I wear it when I want to look especially nice – when I go out at night or on days that I am feeling a little blah.  Truth be told, I would rather get an extra 15 minutes of sleep every morning then put makeup on.  No one seems bothered by my bare face.

Do I look better with makeup on?  Probably.  Do I feel better with makeup on?  Not usually.  I feel better with that extra 15 minutes of sleep!

I am telling you this because lately you have taken an interest in my “beauty routine”.  If I put on lip balm you want some “lips” too.  When I use body spray you “need some”.  Powder and blush are demanded as well.  And I have no problem with you taking an interest in these things.  I bought you your very own Lip Smacker (because as a 32-year-old I think they are the best chapstick ever).  I will poke your nose with my powder puff and pretend to put blush on your cheeks.  You like being a part of what I am doing and I hope you always will.

But this morning, after I bopped your adorable nose with my puff, you said something that I had hoped I would never hear from your lips.  As you gazed into the mirror you smiled your dimpled smile and said, “Now I’m pretty!”

The words echoed in my head, and I swear my heart stopped beating for a second.

No no NO baby!  You are three years old.  This is NOT the lesson I am teaching you.  This is NOT what I want you to learn from watching me get ready in the morning.  This is NOT what you are to take from my powder bops and blush dabs.  Your worth is not and will never be based on your prettiness.  Makeup does not make a woman pretty.  Makeup might make a woman feel better about herself, but it does not define who she is or what she is capable of.  Women do not need makeup to be pretty.  Repeat this with me… Women DO NOT need makeup to be pretty.

Confidence makes a woman pretty.  Kindness makes a woman pretty.  Intelligence makes a woman pretty.  Love makes a woman pretty.

So, my darling blonde haired, blue-eyed, dimpled little girl… you are the prettiest creature in the whole world.  All on your own.  And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Dear Lulu

Today was a long day for the both of us. And a big day too. You see, today you experienced your first instance of disappointment and heart break. I didn’t see it coming. I would have protected you from it if I had known. As the tears gushed down your cheeks I could only watch helplessly from behind the two way mirror. I wanted to go in and scoop you up and let you cry your bitter tears on my shoulder. But I didn’t. We both had to learn this lesson today… you will have disappointment in your life and I can’t always stop it from happening.

I could have stopped it from happening five months ago. I could have dropped $50 on a polyester costume you will wear only once while standing shyly in front of an audience of strangers and not dancing. I can envision it – you would have looked adorable. I would have been a proud momma. But I thought you were too young for a recital. I still do. It would be your first recital and you wouldn’t remember a moment of it. Snapshots aren’t memories, just random moments captured on film. I want you to remember these things.

So I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry you felt left out today while some of the other kids got their costumes. You weren’t the only one left out though. And I’m sorry the teachers chose to make a production of handing out costumes instead of doing it after class when I could have rushed you safely out of the way. I didn’t know they were going to do that.

You won’t remember today, but I will. I will never forget how my heart ached as you flung yourself into my arms and sobbed for the costume you won’t get. All I can do is promise that there will be costumes. When you are older. When you can remember. I won’t forget, baby. I promise.

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I Take Zoloft (and that is okay)

I recently read an article a friend had posted on Facebook about depression and the academic world.

You can read the article here:  On Depression, and the Toll Academia Exacts

I am not in graduate school yet – that is coming this Fall.  But this isn’t what hit home to me. The girl who wrote the article shared so many feelings that I relate to. And it got me thinking – how many other people feel the way I do?

You see, I’m not the sort of depressed where I can’t get out of bed in the morning.
And I’m not the sort of depressed where I have to take crazy mood altering medication just to function at a reasonable level.
Nor am I the sort of depressed where I’ve ever considered taking my own life or needed a trip to the psych ward.

No, I’m just the sort of depressed where sometimes I have to choke back the unexpected sobs before they break free. Sobs whose origins I don’t always understand and that go as quickly as they come. The type of depressed where I have to bury the things that bother me deep inside a vault so that I don’t act like an irrational woman on a daily basis.  The type of depressed where I can tell when I haven’t taken my anti-depressant that day because relatively benign things start bothering me.  The type of depressed that stress exacerbates.

And a Midwest winter doesn’t help one bit.

Despite the times, people still don’t seem to want to talk about depression.  Anti-depressants are the main stream, yet no one wants to admit they need them.  I can’t tell you the exact reason I need them, because I don’t think there is one.  I do think genetics plays a major part in whether or not someone will be depressed at some point.  And there is no shame in it. 

Truthfully, I am not ashamed of who or what I am.  I try to make light of my depression, but I don’t hide it.  I take my “happy pills” on a daily basis and, whenever someone I know brings up depression and/or anti-depressants, I am very frank and open about how these things have affected me.  I am not pro “putting everyone on drugs because they are sad”, but if someone can truly benefit from medical intervention, I don’t see the harm or shame.

I can’t help but feel that so many men and women have to feel similarly.  I am not unique or special – just your average woman who is trying to be the best wife/mother/employee/person she can.  Maybe people feel that talking about depression will just come off as whining or complaining.  Maybe people who aren’t depressed do feel this way when someone brings it up.

But I don’t feel that way.  And you can always come talk to me.