This is your brain. This is your brain off Facebook (for a week).

       Seven days ago I took myself off Facebook and Instagram. I was sick of myself checking my phone for absolutely no apparent reason a billion times more than anybody needs to check on anything.

       This was after several complaints to my close friend about how bad I felt after I spent time roaming around on my feed. How stuck I felt in my life compared to the innumerable successes and parties and vacations and workouts and yoga poses and adventures that my peripheral social circle of Facebook friends seemed to taut. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for my friends’ new homes or babies or marriages or puppies or haircuts, but there was something about Facebook that dimished my ability to have sympathetic joy. I would log off and would feel more isolated and despairing than was warranted.

      I know I am not alone.

       My close friend has taken herself off social media for this very same reason. She is a stay at home mom of two very young children and finds herself aimlessly roaming her feed (while probably) sitting in a living room strewn with toys and a sink filled with dishes. I asked her once what did she think was underneath the need we have to reach for our phones and check? “Probably escapism” she said.

       It was funny that she said that since during the week of my break, I felt like I was on vacation. Gone was the impulsivity, the low level anxiety, and the subtle malaise that would drift into my belly after a moment of weakness when I would be looking to cause myself trouble like a junkie looking for a fix. Why the urge to look up old friends I don’t speak with anymore? Why the need to scroll through pictures of an old life? “Why would you invite that karma back into your life?” asked my husband who has never had a personal profile page on Facebook.

       My other friend who has a very popular and engaged page equaits her Facebook responsiblity to a kind of stealth mission. “I just move in and out as quickly as possible.”  And still another has told me that she feels bad about herself and her life when she spends more than ten minutes on the thing. And she is a very successful therapist and yoga teacher. It’s like a substance. We know it’s not good for us, but it’s hard to resist whatever weird part of our pyche it is stroking. Sure, there are beautiful things about social media and there are people doing beautiful things and connecting in beautiful ways, absolutely. I am not writing this to round up a global Facebook boycott (nor would I ever delude myself into thinking that I had that kind of influence). There was a time not to long ago, when I didn’t know a thing about how to use Facebook or how or when I would. I had a friend sit with me at my kitchen table and instruct me on the basics. That was maybe five, six years ago.
Somewhere between then and now, my ignorance turned to appreciation turned to probably a low level addiction. It was time for either a Facebook break or a psychotic one.

       In the absence of the time suck of Facebook and Instagam voyerism here’s what I can say:  I feel better being off of it. “You are not missing much,” my ninteen year old son told me. I smiled and thought, true. I was missing a lot a more of life before  thinking that I had to keep up with informing people (what people?) of things that seemed more self-important than important.

       Since imposing these strong boundaries for myself I have had more ideas come to me and more space to cherish that make me go, “ahhhh.”
I have just about finished my first working draft of my memoir.
I have finished three competitive games of Monopoly with my family.
I have cooked three new delicious meals.
I have walked the dogs without putting my head down.
It’s not as if these things would not have happened before my self-declared break.              It’s more about how the life in between these things feels now. Somehow, they have become more precious to me than ever.
Mary Oliver writes, “I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance. A condition I can’t really call being alive.”  Pablo Neruda too has written, “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves…”

       Today would be the end of my Facebook/Instagram fast but, I will do without it for another month. I will be here living my life in Chicago. Going to the grocery store. Signaling left on the highway. Folding laundry. Walking my dogs. Feeding my cat. Exercising. Practicing. (Hopefully) buying new shoes. Thinking up fun new things to teach. Travelling. Writing in my journal. Reading with my newly purchased readers from Whole Foods. You won’t see selfies or fun hashtags about any of these things but that’s ok. I will do what my practice reminds me to do —  Trust that there is always something greater that keeps us connected.

Comments

  1. Oh, Tracy. I so relate to all of this. The mindless scrolling, the escapism, the what-the-hell-am-i-even-looking-for kind of feeling. You have inspired me to take a break. I see the difference in my kids when they have had too much screen time -they are anxious, irritable, wired but tired. And, hello, how did I miss the fact that I am no different?? Lol. Thanks for this. I look forward to my Facebook cleanse;) And I bet your memoir draft is AMAZING. So excited to read it one day;) xoxo

    • tracybleier says:

      Thank you Jessie! Yes, the issue seeps much farther into our lives to that of our children where I think they are the real victims and most vulnerable. We at least can know better how to turn it off, turn away – but often to give them the break they need (they don’t know they need) we have to take it away – which is like social suicide for them… Ahhh, all I can say is that the break is far worth it to see clearly. It’s a step at least toward loosening the hypocrisy of saying you hate when they are putting their phone between you and them, and you are too! Have a great breaK! Keep me posted with how it feels. xo

  2. steven bernstein says:

    You are not alone. There have been multiple studies of the negative psychological effects of social media. I also agree that like video games, social media is addictive. It is bad enough for us adults, but just think what these two disruptive technologies are doing to the brains of our kids. Finally, the scientific community is starting to confirm what most of us adults with young children have know for a while: that video games and social media are as addictive as crack cocaine. Just see what happens when you take your 13 year old child’s phone away for a week. On a lighter note, since you won’t be checking facebook, just sending you a gentle reminder that, if possible, could you bring a Zen Yoga garage tee shirt with you when you come back to CT? Will reimburse you when i see you in a couple of weeks. Thanks, Steven

    • tracybleier says:

      I often think that if we, the adults who have tools and skills that helps us live more balanced lives, are succumbing to the ill effects of social media and gadget addiction — then to imagine how for our children this kind of existence is all they know! Omg – more of a reason to help them understand how to live with these things and lead by example. How can we tell them to get off the thing, if they see us staring up at almost just as much? How can we teach anybody lessons of self-care and taking time if we ourselves are filling every waking moment with losing ourselves in virtual life? Small steps.Deep Deep breaths. Lots of practice loving ourselves as we help them navigate this complex issue.

      And T-shirt will be packed in my bag.See you soon.

  3. Elaine Pauley says:

    Tracy,
    I had a lovely visit from you and Mitchel in my dreams last night. It was a good reunion! i think that we never lose our connection with those whose influence have guided us along the way.
    We are fortunate to live within driving distance to Dartmouth College. I have taken advantage of their OSHER program for continuing education, and wrote my Spiritual Autobiography this spring as a result of a class I attended there. This fall I will be exploring poetry, as I have found if I free my mind and let the words flow, something that resembles poetry emerges. All of this, I think, stemmed from ‘The Radiance Sutra’s and our time with Loren Roche. Do you remember that day I found the courage to speak?
    I just want to say that I would not be the person I am today without the influence that you, Mitchel, and Rusty have had in my life.
    Bruce and I are well, happy, and grateful for finding ourselves in this place. Bruce has built our timber frame addition to our home. He spent all summer in meditation with oak and cherry timbers, hand planeing them into works of art. Today we are putting in one of many windows. It has been a good summer, he looks and feels amazing.
    So, my dear friend, thank you for all that you have done for me.
    With much love to you and MItchel,
    Elaine

    • tracybleier says:

      Dearest Elaine,
      This email brought tears (o joy) to my eyes and to my heart. Thank you for taking the time to sit and share what you and Bruce have been doing. It sounds utterly marvelous and I am so honored and humbled to think we had a part in helping you see the luminious gifted beings you both are in the world. Spritual Biography?? sounds incredible and no surprise that you are being moved to write poems. Poetry is life’s elixir. I turn to it so often like a salve.
      I love Chicago – it suits us well – it’s diverse and vibrant and edgy and there’s so much culture and the Lake has become a great love of my life. I am teaching still – as I find that when I am teaching I am cloeset to source – and I just completed the memoir I have been working on all these years – so with some faith and more grit work, my hope is that it will get out into the world — writing has given me great solace — AND incredible challenges! It’s been a year flux with change – but good ones. Chosen ones. We live a simple life in the city, and are re-introducing each other to each other (if you know what I mean?) Anyway – this should be an email and not a comment back. Sending you my love always and my heart to Bruce. I know we will find a way to be in each other’s company again. Blessings!
      Tracy

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