Like most of you, I am addicted to my smart phone. And I am addicted to Facebook.
There’s no point in denying it. The other day I caught myself compulsively reaching for the little blue icon while waiting in line at the grocery store … behind one other person. One! Can I really not wait forty-five seconds in line without having something to look at? And while I’ve occasionally gone through noble periods when I refused to look at social media when I wake up in the morning, that ship has kinda sailed lately. Typically it’s like this.
SCENE: Morning in bed.
ELLEN: [inner monologue] I’m awake … it’s a new day. I’m going to drink some water and take a look at my phone.
FACEBOOK: You should make this delicious cupcake recipe! Eric Garner’s death was a travesty! These 10 things will guarantee relationship happiness! Your friend Joe is bitter about his career stagnation! Your friend Jane broke her toe, or maybe just bruised it; she’s not sure! Baby Tommy is the cutest infant in the world! The US government tortures its prisoners of war! Look at this kitten wearing a viking hat!
And then all day I wonder why I can’t write, compose, or focus on a non-shiny object for longer than 1 minute.
When I was on meditation retreat last year, I turned in my phone (voluntarily) for seven days. I also undertook “noble silence” and did not speak except when absolutely necessary. I realized for the first time how healing, centering, and creatively/spiritually helpful it is not to talk to anyone, or listen to anyone else talk. I absolutely loved the silence and solitude that retreat afforded. Don’t get me wrong; talking with my fellow human beings is one of my favorite things in the world. But these outward interactions demand a great deal of energy.
During one of her talks, our retreat teacher mentioned smart phones and social media. And I suddenly realized that clicking on Facebook is basically like trying to listen to 999 people (my current “friend” count) talk. At once. And because I’m a fairly empathetic, responsive person, I actually try to listen! I actually think about each post and what it means! Talk about losing energy. Maybe this is why spending an hour on Facebook leaves me dizzy, slightly numb, and unsure what I’m doing today.
At the same time, I believe social media can be useful and fun. It can occupy a healthy, balanced place in our lives. But it’s like … Nutella. You have to be really, really careful or you’ll wake up from a coma with Nutella all over you. Am I right?
So I made a tiny, tiny change the other day: I put the Facebook app on the second page of my iPhone. You might not think that this would help, but it has. I can no longer perform the exact same compulsive task that I always do. There’s a teeny-tiny extra step between me and Facebook, and that teeny-tiny extra step helps me remember that perhaps I don’t need to check it again just now.
I wrote this blog post while I was resisting my Facebook compulsion. What will you do instead of pressing the blue button?
PS: If you’re finding this blog post via my Facebook link … Welcome!