Facebook, The Anti-Christ or Spiritual Teacher?

In the 8 years I’ve had a facebook account, I’ve taken two breaks.    I’m confident everyone knows what facebook is by 2016, but just in case this blog finds someone whom is totally unaware, Facebook is……. the ANTI- CHRIST!!  Just kidding.  That was going to be my original name for this blog about a year ago when I found myself very “triggered” while surveying my “friend’s” statuses (more about being “triggered” later).   Facebook was designed to connect people from all over the world. It has successfully impacted the “6 degrees of separation” , the theory that all of us are separated from knowing eachother by just 6 people.  Researchers say because of facebook, the number has decreased to 3.74 degrees of separation (Parker, 11/11). Personally, I believe facebook is having a huge social impact on the world and the research opportunities on the variety of ways is endless!  We could research the impact of facebook on marriages, friendships, family relations, marketing and visibility, mental health, spirituality, violence, etc., etc.,etc.  But, since I’m big on transparency and have been known to over-share on facebook and “real life”, I’m going to just tell you my facebook story and what facebook has taught me.

The first time I deactivated my account it was for 30 days.  I felt I had been spending way too much time lingering, looking and well, pissing people off with my politics.  At the time, I had the facebook app.  I noticed right away was how my thumb would automatically go to open the application.   “Oh yeah- I don’t have facebook anymore”, was a repetitive thought during this time.  My next awareness was, my thoughts sounded like status updates.  For example, I would be driving in the car, a judgement would form in my head and I could hear my inner voice go something like this….. “Feeling so grateful this beautiful morning” or “feeling so irritated by all the idiots driving cars”.  Basically, my initial lesson was, facebook was a habit and it had hijacked my brain and my body.  Other than that, no harm… no foul.

Fast forward several years to my most recent facebook separation and my lessons have been much more profound.  Stress, anxiety, and fear was the catalyst that led me to needing a break from this over exposing, semi-narcissistic social media trap. The fact is, without stress, I’m an emotional creature. When I was younger, I was the kind of person who would cry when I’m happy, cry when I laughed, cried when I was angry and when I started crying, I couldn’t stop it.  As I grew as a person, I studied many mystical ways to get a better handle on my emotions.  I learned about being mindful, staying in the present moment, and how to detach from outcomes and expectations.  As deeply as I had learned how to manage myself, I forgot 1,000 more times.  Facebook helped me forget time and time again as to how to stay present in my life.  When I was angry, I used facebook to be passive aggressive.  If I felt “not good enough”, I used it to compare myself to others by scrolling through and lurking at others profiles, looking for proof as to “how much better” others are than myself.  When I was depressed, I could find confirmation for all the things I was missing and/or the countless ways I’ve screwed up in my life and affirmation that if I’m miserable, I damn well caused it.  My identity got caught up in the “atta girl’s” I would get from the good work I had done in the community.  When the recognition stopped, I became jealous of other people’s good work.  Then came the “perceived” rejection.   When a “friend” would disappear from my list, I would immediately go to a dark place.  I was sure it was me.  I had done something wrong, I had offended someone,  I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, I was too annoying, I was, I was, I was……. Paranoid!  I started randomly apologizing for my facebook persona in public.  I’m certain I came off weird and out of context.  But, I stuck with it.  I gave facebook hours of my time a day; with my morning coffee, at traffic lights, when I parked my car, breaks between clients, before I got out of the car when I got home, and on and on.  I was out of control.

So, I took a break. I initiated the break while on vacation.  To my surprise, it came extremely easy.  During the 6.5 weeks without Facebook, I had the following insights: 1.  How did I ever have time for all that facebook, 2.  Wow, facebook sure caused me a lot of anxiety, 3.  I’m such a better, happier, non-judgmental person without facebook, 4.  It is impossible to be mindful and live in the moment while on facebook.  I really had thought never to return to facebook.  , I kept my business page up as I’m very aware the great purpose facebook offers when it comes to sharing information.  After all, it was my last source of worldly information because I had already given up cable tv and radio several years prior. But, I was done allowing myself the opportunity to be “triggered”.  My life was stressful enough.

And then, I went to yoga.  During class, my teacher Laura Wenger, owner of YogaFish in Stuart, Florida spoke to us about Nirvana.  Laura has been practicing Buddhism for many years and as she discussed the concept of Nirvana with us, as weird as this sounds, I came to the understanding that facebook has not been my anit-christ, nor my enemy or the cause of my discouragement.   Facebook had become one of my spiritual teachers!   Everytime I experienced any judgement, discomfort or suffering while viewing the profiles, opinions and news that would appear on my feed, I was being reminded that I have not yet “arrived” and I still had personal work to do.  See Nirvana is a state of enlightenment.  It is a state of letting go.  It is when feelings of suffering and desire are no longer present and we only experience happiness.  Happiness because there is no judgement or attachment.  When I reactivated my account, a friend commented on my first status, stating “facebook is what you make of it”.  I think she is right.  Facebook is a tool to help me promote my good work, educate and be educated, entertain, connect with friends and family and even establish new relationships.  Facebook is also a spiritual tool to show me, by my reactions to what I view, when I’m not in a good place, when I need to practice more mindful behavior, when  I need to work on my mind and when I need to take a break, and get right with myself.  Sometimes the dark, really does bring us some light.

References

Parker, M. (211,Nov 11). Facebook’s ‘3.74 degrees of separation’ is a world away from being significant from http://www.theguardian.com