As I was getting ready for work today, catching up on some things on the computer- including wasting time scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across something I thought was interesting. It’s called 99 Days off Freedom and is a campaign to get people to go Facebook-less for 99 days, reclaiming the lives they had before they got swept up in social media. There is more to it than that. It’s actually meant to study how staying away can impact your happiness, in response to Facebook’s research on the happiness of its users.
It’s been well-established that the Internet, and most of all social media, is addicting. You can argue that it’s different from drug or alcohol addiction, but the fact remains that there is an obsessive-compulsive quality to it, and being away from it for any significant period of time can lead to some discomfort.
For me, I have to admit that I waste a fair amount of time on social media. Yes, I have a professional page, and I spend some time posting to that, but most of my media use is personal. Seeing what college friends are doing, following sports, and reading trending or weird news stories. I enjoy it. I do, but I’ve admitted for a while that it also takes away from life as I know it. I can’t help but feel annoyed by a lot of the posts I see. I’ve unfollowed friends for posting too much, posting inappropriate things, or for just being annoying (and I’m sure some have done the same with me!). I feel jealous when I see some people’s huge houses, glamorous vacations, or perfect (and usually childless) lives. It’s natural to feel that way, and this phenomenon is also well-established. Following everyone else’s life (at least how they’re presenting it), of course, leads to comparisons with our own. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy for any friend who has achieved success, feels fulfilled, or is doing great things. And I have friends (in real life) who are celebrities in some realm of the world, professional athletes, high-powered business people or attorneys, doctors, and so on. I also have friends who don’t seem to be doing much- at least in a traditional sense- and may never grow up. They’re still single, doing who-knows-what for work, and travelling the world, yet they seem very happy doing it. More power to all of these people. I don’t wish to be a hater and I’m thrilled for all of them.
But of course I also understand that what you see on social media is not always real. We have control over our online personas, which have become so important to us. Social media allows us to put our best foot forward at all times- or at least that’s our intention. So you have to take what you see, hear, or read with a grain of salt.
The bottom line for me is that social media has become something more negative than positive in my own life, so I’m taking a substantial break from it. I realize I waste time, feel overwhelmed by work I have to do at times, and feel guilty or bad about “not having enough time” for other things I want to do. I can’t say I’ll quit it forever, but since it’s the New Year and I’m feeling hopeful and motivated- like many of us, it’s time. I also believe this will help to facilitate some of my other goals- 1) to expand my practice and achieve greater financial security this year; 2) to get some projects done in my house so that we can sell at some point; 3) to spend more quality time with my children and wife; and 4) to get into better shape. I have specific plans for each of these things, but stepping back from social media will free up a lot of time, allowing me to be more productive and giving me back a lot of the time I have been claiming not to have.
If this resonates with you, I invite you to take the challenge. Or, if there is some other behavior or habit in your life that you think takes away more than it adds to it, think about what you can do about it. The power is in your hands and only you can take control of the situation. If you have tried, you struggle, or you think you just can’t do it, reach out to a professional like a psychologist, who can help you to change that- building your self-confidence, examining why, developing strategies, and holding you accountable.
All the best for 2015,
Dr. Jesse Matthews