Mindful Internet Use- aka why I’m Exiting the Facebook Vortex

For years, or so it seems, I’ve wrestled with my engagement in the beast that is Facebook.

Mindful prayer at the Dalai Lama's Temple in Dharmsala, India.

I’m a non-conforming type of person (for the most part) and Facebook is the antithesis of non-conformity. (Thanks @shanaphoto for the FB Vortex term!)

I’m anti-Corporation, yet Facebook has morphed into the gateway for the Corporation to feed on your social and “private” interactions.

I’m very anti-Big Brother, yet Facebook has given me the opportunity to willingly and knowingly place all my information out there for Big Brother, Big Sister and any Corporate hack wanting to crawl into my mind and extract any information for any purpose they see fit.

I’m a fairly private person, yet Facebook tempts me to forgo my beliefs in privacy in the online space (yea, I blog about my life, I see the contradiction, but I keep those posts free of names and specifics) and connect with all my friends and family for all the world to witness.

I value time above every other commodity I can acquire. I believe that money’s main purpose should be to buy us more time to enjoy that which truly makes us feel alive in life. Yet, I allow Facebook to extract valuable moments of my life as I peer into the lives of others.

I weep when I see the direction of our youth, the direction of our society, who spends most of their waking moments engrossed in one-way methods of communication rather than face to face interaction. I cringe at the thought of growing up as a teenager in the age of Facebook. Teens are vicious and with the tools of social media and an age of waning personal responsibility, a platform such as Facebook is dangerous for our younger generations. Imagine never being able to break the bonds of your awkward high school years because all those people are connected to you on Facebook. My generation, the Gen-Xers, came to Facebook after we found out who we were in our young adult lives- without the permanent umbilical cord to our past that FB provides.

I fear for the young people who may never break from their past identities because they stay connected to that umbilical cord to their younger self.

Mindfulness seems to be a reoccurring theme these days. As I move forward through my life, which is now engrossed in the digital realm- for both work and social interaction- I am forced to truly evaluate the mindfulness that I embrace in every online interaction and platform of communication.

I read this article yesterday from Tricycle and my beliefs for deliberate and engaging online social interactions were reinforced.

A Deliberate Shift in Lifestyle

As I’ve traveled through the process of becoming a location independent professional and embraced this medium of blogging over the past several years, I’ve recently come to some pretty meaningful and drastic conclusions. As the internet is evolving and interaction is becoming more mindful, I too need to continue on my path towards evolution and higher levels of consciousness. I’m making some drastic changes to my life in order to truly embrace the person I am becoming and I’m releasing some of my old habits in an attempt to let go of my past and walk towards my present. My Facebook suicide is only part of the plan

I’m going Carless. The time has come to ditch my vehicle and my dependence on this oil addiction and remove my participation in the carbon attack on the Earth. I’m no saint, by any means, I travel heavily by plane, train and mass transit- so I’ll still have a carbon footprint. But my vehicle won’t be part of the problem.

– I’m moving to a city so I can go local and live in a bubble. That’s right, I’m building my own little bubble, complete with an organic/local market, a yoga studio, coffee shops and community- all within walking distance. I make my living online now (for the time being) so where I live has no impact on my livelihood- as long as there’s a decent internet connection and a quiet space to work.

I’m purging the remainder of my belongings- well most of them. I’ve paired down over the years and all of my belongings fit in the corner of my mother’s garage. Problem is, those items are still my responsibility and are taking up space as I’m moving around the country and the world. And I still have belongings in Colorado as well, from my attempt at settling in the Rockies this fall.  Oy Vey! So, I need to release these belongings, I feel tethered to their existence and my responsibility to owning them. I’ve paired my possessions down to the sentimental objects of my past and the informational objects (books and research) of my future. Purging at this stage is getting dicey. Conundrum! My dear Little Friend will be acquiring my library- problem solved! And I believe I’ll have a photo shoot of all the sentimental belongings, publish them in a book for myself and give them away. I’m trying to place all my possessions in two trunks (on XL and one small cube) and a milk crate of books. That’s it. It may take some time, but I’m daydreaming about such a sense of freedom!

I’m working on my spiritual self in a step towards engaging in (or trying to seek) a higher level of consciousness. I’m going to pursue Yoga for its spiritual enhancements as well its physical benefits. I studied yoga years ago and feel the time has come to continue my journey. Mindful internet use is just part of this spiritual work. Both eliminating the time spent on certain websites and engaging in social media with more positive intention- rather than just filling a void- are part of this path.

- I want to read more. I read often and sporadically throughout the day. I’d like to actually make the practice a scheduled part of my daily endeavors. Eliminating FB just opens up more time for this practice.

I’d like to clear the clutter that occurs when I spend too much time online. My mind is a sponge. It sucks up all information and sometimes that’s a little exhausting. I truly do not need to know or even glance at so many occurrences in other people’s lives. I want to celebrate the positive events for my friends and I hope to continue that in a more face to face and deliberate engagement with these people who are dear to me- outside of the FB interface.

Addiction & Crutches

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding addictions. In my younger days, when partying like a rock star was a badge of achievement for my suburban rebellion, my father made the comment that drinking is a conscious decision. He made the decision at a young age to avoid the fate of his genetics and only consume one or two drinks in a social atmosphere. He avoided the over-consumption of alcohol and when he found that he craved the alcohol, he stopped drinking all together until the craving was long gone. I chose to take the same path in life. When any substance or habit became something I craved, became a crutch or something I needed to make the day bearable, I stopped that behavior completely. I reintroduced it at a later date, when I’d proven to myself that I didn’t need the habit or substance. And somethings were never reintroduced.

Facebook has become one of those crutches. I’m not a habitual FB user, I don’t update constantly with content from my personal life and I use it predominately for marketing and professional purposes. But I am a serial FB lurker. For many months (or years) I’ve lived in rural areas devoid of a proper community that reflects my artistic self. The communities may exist in these areas, but they are very fragmented and difficult to engage with on a daily basis. Social media has become my connecting point for my community.

Over the past 9 months, Twitter has become my community gathering place for conversations online. And for many days while living in the desert, Twitter became my connection to reality. I’ve met wonderful people from around the world who I communicate with on a daily basis. We chat briefly about our craft, our passions and pass along information about our lives. Sometimes, we just say hello and see how the other person is doing. Other times, we celebrate the milestones and accomplishments of our lives. And sometimes we gather in person for coffee and life-altering conversations.

That’s the power of social media, that’s the purpose and that’s the relevance.

Yet, when I log into Facebook, I’m left to simply wonder why I am there. Granted, there are a few dear friends and family who do not use Twitter (nor do they need to) and I connect with them using this platform. But those connections are happening less frequently, as I try to be more mindful of my digital interactions and curtail my inboxes. So, when I log into FB, I’m left asking– why? And I don’t really do anything productive or meaningful while I’m there. I’m simply spying on people. And what’s the value in that?

The Final Nail and a Possible Solution

After reading about mindful social media, I stumbled onto this article from Adbusters regarding the recent action of FB to remove the Palestinian FB page calling for the Third Intifada.

And while I’ve debated pulling the plug on my account for many months now, this pretty much solidified my decision. It’s time to disconnect from the beast that is Facebook.

I’ve had enough. It’s time for me to move on.

That said, there are a handful of people I interact with regularly and I will miss that communication. We’ve shifted the conversations to FB for simplicity of connection and I’m left to question whether or not I want to continue this connection with these friends. And yes, I do wish to keep in contact and I know that email is not the best means. I’m going to try an experiment and set up my own “social network” using BuddyPress. This will be used for the people I communicate with regularly on FB and want to keep the channels of communication open. Don’t know if it will work, but I’m gonna give it a go and see what happens.

So, I publish this article now as a means of helping others understand the Why behind my Facebook Suicide. This action is merely a step in my personal evolution. I hope those of you reading this from my posting it on my FB account (irony- I get it!) will continue to connect using the other means possible from the online sphere– or the face to face realm.

For others reading this, I hope this sheds some light on the motivations of using social media. Our actions online should be deliberate and mindful. Hopefully we can all find our means of connecting with like-minded folks and build our communities in the online space. And as we travel through the world, maybe we can step away from our computers and smartphones and embrace the age-old act of face to face interaction and conversation.

Make a deliberate and mindful movement towards your online engagement as you move through the digital world.

An after note: As if functioning on some similar plane of thought, I read the following two posts after finishing the first draft of this article. If you are not yet reading Satya Colombo’s work- stop what you’re doing (yea, I’m telling you to leave this blog) and go directly to his Fierce Wisdom site. Go now and read this interviewThen spend the rest of your morning- or entire work day- soaking up the amazing wisdom that is present in his words. Brilliant!

Next, head over to Julien’s site and read this little gem of an article. Go ahead, get sucked into his site as well , the writing is well worth the time investment!

The comments are OPEN on this one- fire away- it’s a hot topic!  And, as always, take the conversation to the Twitter- @crystaldstreet because this article won’t be on the FB for much longer.

Comments

  1. says

    I recently deactivated my facebook account and now that its been about a month, I don’t miss it. I feel like the connections that are important are still there and I’m communicating more one on one with people. Yes some people have faded out of my life but they were only there because of facebook anyway. I love the way you laid out your reasons for leaving facebook. Thank you for sharing. And I’m happy to see that other people are getting off the merry-go-round.

    • says

      Good for you, Melissa!! Hopefully your actions- and us other Facebook deserters- will help create a wave of people moving towards face to face conversations again. Wouldn’t that be just divine!

  2. says

    I agree with most of your points. My Facebook usage has changed over the years. As Facebook has become more “public”, I have posted less private information. But I still see it as a great tool for subscribing to my favourites blogs and promoting my own.

    • says

      Thanks, Roy! Yes, the reasons you site made it hard for me to pull away also. My profession (photography) relies heavily upon the network and my colleagues are scattered across the globe, but I just couldn’t stay any longer for that one reason. People will still find you, if they are meant to connect to your work, your voice will be heard in the digital space, with or without Facebook. Keep rockin’ it Roy! Peace.

    • says

      Rachel, that’s the best reason in the world to step away from platforms like Facebook! So glad you’ve taken such a deliberate approach and had such fabulous rewards. Maybe if more people did as you have done, there would more powerful and intimate connections in the world. Well done! And I’m loving the separation from FB as well!

  3. says

    I dropped out of ‘Fakebook’ about 4 months ago now, basically because it was sucking an unacceptable amount of time out of my life (2 hours a day usually) It wasn’t even interesting to me, it was just habit! Its best to literally just go cold turkey and drop out of the madness completely, I tried cutting it down and it wasn’t even coming close to making a difference.

    Do I miss it? No. Have I been tempted to re enter the vortex? Yes, today actually but the desire subsided very quickly. Its definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done by kicking it to the kerb. I still use Twitter but I can be in and out of there pretty quickly and its far less intrusive.

    The mental thing about FB is that if you exclude everyone you don’t actually have a real, human connection with and include ones that you actually significantly care for your friends list would number about 10, less probably.

    So yeah, bin it. Its the best thing you’ll ever do.

    • says

      Very true, Rich! My Twitter interactions are much more deliberate and engaging- and so rapid that it flows well within the frame of your “real world life”. You jump in, spread some love and gain some knowledge, and then jump out. Twitter, when used mindfully, seems to tap into the higher levels of consciousness and interaction- when you’ve built an amazing community to interact with. And while this might be possible on FB, the premise and structure does not encourage it. I don’t miss it a bit and only wish I had made the leap when I first debated it 6 months ago. FB taps into that need for social approval and validation- which is something we should be gaining internally, from our own sense of self-worth.

      Good for you on cutting the cords! Peace.

  4. says

    I found your blog via RowdyKittens this morning, and was immediately drawn to your phrase ‘leaving the Facebook vortex’ because I have been seriously thinking about curtailing my own participation on that site, this very week!

    Is this simply an interesting coincidence to read your blog post about FB now, or is it that the Universe truly DOES provide us with exactly what we need, when we need it?

    Suddenly, Facebook feels overwhelming to me. It is also very boring, to be honest. And it is indeed addictive.

    I am tired of being a voyeur. I am tired of reading friends’ whiny status updates and their endless links to negative news stories. I am tired of the lack of privacy, of myself and others.

    Surely, there are far better ways to connect with people in cyberspace, if one cannot do so in person. Of course, interacting face-to-face with people is the best way of connection, but I also live in a very rural area where it’s not often possible to see friends.

    I’ve always resisted the idea of Twitter, but a lot of very intelligent, aware people seem to be making the most of it, so perhaps I shall give it a try! Facebook seems so mindless.

    All best wishes,
    Cameron

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by, Cameron!

      And yes, I find that the Universe places information and people in my path at just the right moments. I’m so glad the article helped and making the break from FB feels good! So, go for it! The people you truly care about in your life will not fall away if you turn off the FB. And the ability to connect to other sources of like-minded people exists, though rural living does pose a challenge. I highly recommend Twitter and here’s a link to a post I made last summer about organic Twitter growth. http://www.blog.crystalstreet.net/2010/10/organic-twitter-growth-free-of-pesticides-gmo-growth-hormones/

      Twitter has brought so many amazing people into my life that I would have never met otherwise. And while I have yet to meet many of them in person, these are truly strong connections with real people who think like I do. Very difficult to find in a rural area (and sometimes in an urban area too). Find a few people, bloggers or others, who are active on Twitter and just lurk for a bit. Try to understand how they communicate, and when you’re comfortable dive in! It’s nothing like FB, much higher levels of consciousness and mindful interaction when you find the right community that fits you.

      Take care and good luck! Peace.

  5. says

    I love it! Especially what you say about young people. I’m a YA librarian and when people ask me how teens use the library I jokingly say, “Oh, they come in to get on Facebook.” Sadly, it’s not really a joke. Even though a lot of our teens do other things at the library – participate in programs, spend time with their friends, and even on occasion check out a book, they almost always start their day by getting online and checking Facebook. I’ve seen teens get into fist fights over Facebook statuses and I know a woman who specializes in Social Media relationship therapy for couples who worry about why their significant other won’t make their relationship “official” on Facebook (I’m not kidding). I worry about what social media sites like Facebook is doing to young people, how it’s effecting their abilities to have meaningful relationships in person and to feel validated without someone commenting on every little thing they do.

    • says

      Thanks for your amazing observations, Megan!

      Its truly heart-breaking to witness what social interaction through electronic devices is doing to our younger generations. I can only imagine the social and psychological issues we will be dealing with as a society in the coming years. The fact that your friend has to council people on FB relationship updates is down-right frightening. How did we, as a whole, break from reality in such a dramatic way. Maybe we should start the “Break from FB when you graduate high school” movement. Encourage recent graduates to delete their accounts and stay off the platform for one year or longer. And prompt them not to let those high school connections back into their lives unless they are F2F friends they see regularly. That would at least help!

      Good luck with those kids! Peace.

  6. says

    Thank you kindly. I admire your ability to see the truth and bare your soul with artful grace. Understanding more now why I added you to my invite list of contributors to the Edge Flow manifesto today.

    • says

      Satya! Your comment means quite a bit coming from such a prolific and soulful writer as yourself! So honored to be on the invite list for the Edge Flow manifesto- in fact- I just can’t wait to read what you’re creating! Thanks so much and keep kicking ass!

  7. says

    I’m with you, nearly 100%. In fact, I came here to leave a comment instead of checking the facebook. I’m trying to break the habit. It just always seems to pointless, going there, reading about things I don’t really care about, need to know.

    That said, here comes the nearly, it is an excellent place to share one’s work, and interact. I post things on twitter. No one cares. No one responds. No one listens. No one clicks. I’ve seen the sad metrics. You’ve been a great deal better than I about finding a community or creating, or something. I haven’t had the same luck. A question on facebook, I get thoughtful replies. And one can’t just go there to publicize one’s self or work. Seeing that gets old quick, you know?

    • says

      Eileen!!! so wonderful to see you!! Yes, I agree about the sharing of our work on FB. It’s one of the reasons I hesitated for so long. I still gather a decent number of blog readers from postings to FB, but I don’t feel that should be my only metric for staying. I believe the costs are now out-weighing the benefits. And now that Twitter has become my main mode of communication- the shift seems to fit. I’m gonna shoot you an email about using Twitter. There are a few things that I don’t think you’re doing, that may help shift your interactions there. (yea- you’re in one of my Twitter streams :) I will miss the interactions on FB, but I feel that its time for me to re-enter the face to face world with more deliberation. And- I just may show up on your doorstep to prove my point!! :)

  8. says

    i love this! this action is brilliant….

    as i think i’ve told you before, i was peer pressured into joining facebook from the start and have just never really gotten into it. it’s like aol was at the onset, sucking you in and sucking your life away. every minute you spend on that site, or another one like it, your life is ticking by! it’s a crutch to help you keep from facing and working towards your dreams and goals, which are scary. and it’s an escape from facing your reality; like a drug, like alcohol. it’s nice to keep in touch with people, but i have to wonder if those friends and those interactions are really benefiting in a good proportion to the time being spent on the site. isn’t there a better way?

    aside from my personal thoughts, the increased commercialism scares me. i’m very private as well. i don’t even like those membership cards from stores. more and more data being collected from your responses, interests, etc. and lately i’ve seen these polls showing up on facebook. coke or pepsi? mac or pc? wow! how salable are those matrices? do people really think they’re just for fun?

    i say, go out and *live* your life.

    • says

      Yes Natalie!!

      I joined in 2005 while at j-school because I had to check the spelling on a name for a class paper. I actually thought it was just a UNC database. Then I noticed all these college kids on the same website during lecture classes. It was quite strange! Sad thing is, the professors were brilliant and these students were missing all this valuable knowledge- but when we’re 19, wisdom doesn’t necessarily take precedence over pictures from our Friday night. I’m just so glad that Facebook wasn’t around when I was in high school and college (the first round of college).

      We’ll be absorbing the ramifications of this type of social interaction for many years and we’ll truly see the effects as the younger generations reach adulthood. Should be interesting.

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  1. […] Mindful Internet Use- aka why I’m Exiting the Facebook Vortex “Mindfulness seems to be a reoccurring theme these days. As I move forward through my life, which is now engrossed in the digital realm- for both work and social interaction- I am forced to truly evaluate the mindfulness that I embrace in every online interaction and platform of communication.” […]