It was the end of March 2014 and the Polar Vortex still had us in its grip. I was sitting at my desk trying to complete a freelance assignment. I had slipped into a pattern of working the night shift, which involved starting work around 10 PM and wrapping up around 6 AM. I would make my way wearily to my bed, text my dad and ask him to call me at noon to wake me up. When I woke up I would immediately sign in to LinkedIn, Indeed and any other job board and apply to any job for which I felt remotely qualified. Things were looking bleak, no job prospects, weight gain that had me purchasing another pair of jeans in a size I swore I would NOT stay at and an interesting graduate project that I could not seem to gather any energy to focus on. I did however, find time to chuckle at silly six second Vines (which you actually watch at least five times to catch everything), view Instagram posts, send the expected birthday greeting when notified by Facebook and tweet random thoughts. Social media had become the place where I found my solace. I took comfort in the goings-on of other people's lives and in turn was not living my own.
Moment of Clarity
I was not happy with how things were going and knew I could not continue this way. I decided that I needed to do three things: lose weight, graduate and get a job. Being on social media all day was not helping me accomplish any of those things and in fact was getting in the way. I promptly deactivated by Facebook account, deleted my Instagram account and decided to leave twitter alone. I deleted all of those apps from my phone and was determined to get things done! Get things done I did! I lost some weight, I got a job and I am still working on the graduating part.
So…what'd I miss?
I knew well enough that I loved social media too much to let it go permanently. I mean this was my favourite Vine for a long time and you can see why. Although I had only been absent for six months so much happened in that short time. I missed out on announcements of engagements, graduations, weddings and the birth of lots of beautiful babies. I am really appreciative of those friends who reached out to me directly to share their good news. These were the posts that I loved to "like" the most because they represented the things you celebrate in life.
The challenge with passively liking posts and commenting "congrats" is that I was failing to participate. I was falling victim of my tendency of living vicariously through others. Vicarious living allowed me to travel to Australia, Europe and South America. With that passivity came procrastination, I was failing to take initiative by doing things that would move me from vicarious living to actual living. By watching others live their lives I failed to take a real good look at the critical things that I needed to do. I was not attending to my goals, my dreams and my hopes. When I deleted the apps and had to direct my focus on me I realized that there was much to accomplish and I did not have much to show.
Editors note: If you see me in person and I use the word "vicarious" in our conversation feel free to give me a shake!
While I missed the celebrations, I also was not privy to the losses. I know my timeline will no longer be filled with meaningful posts with a number of engaging discussions happening in the comments. I will no longer be able to see the poster act as devil's advocate to challenge those comments. While I was only Facebook friends with the poster I considered his posts a part of the natural flow of my timeline. Always alerting me to things I would not otherwise be aware. You will be missed Adrian, rest peacefully.
What did I notice?
I was really sensitive to the noise of the messages around me. The negativity that I was inadvertently subjecting myself to on Twitter (the mean memes and not-so-funny hashtags) was having an impact that I was not aware of until I took a break.
One day I was listening to a podcast and while I found the hosts funny I just could not get past how wilfully ignorant they were. The name of their podcast even suggests that they understand this about themselves and are quite proud of it. At that very moment, I asked myself a simple question, is this adding anything to my life? The answer was an even more simple no. Taking myself out of the social media world made it so much easier for me to delete other unnecessary things from my life. I quickly unsubscribed and have not looked back. I am currently cleaning up additional clutter in my life, physical and otherwise, and it feels better than I could have imagined.
Social media is not all negative. That is not the picture that I want to paint here. In my absence I heard about how effectively Twitter, Instagram and Vine were being used to report on the protests happening in Ferguson after the murder of teenager Mike Brown. It was the users of various social media tools that were able to highlight the discrepancies between the narrative created by media and what has happening on the ground. It empowered community members to tell their story without having it filtered through a lens that all too often turns the victim into the villain. In addition to the funny memes and throwback thursday photos this aspect of social media is what I appreciated most. It felt weird during my hiatus not to go to Twitter the minute something interesting was happening in the world.
So…what does this mean?
Right now it means I'm back. I have been back on Facebook for about three weeks and the parade of beautiful babies streaming down my timeline makes me smile daily. I also got to see pictures of my fellow cohort members at their graduation. Big up HSI 2014!
I am becoming more aware of my patterns of behaviour that hinder me and I am proactively creating strategies to perform and do better. I am trying to be more present with family and friends and make efforts to spend time face to face, less I take for granted that I already have by seeing a selfie float down my timeline.
Cool Quote Time
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
- George Bernard Shaw