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What I Learned From Leaving Facebook

And Why I'm Back

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Anne Lamott is an American novelist and non-fiction writer. 
She is also a progressive political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher.
Anne Lamott is an American novelist and non-fiction writer. She is also a progressive political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher.

There have been plenty of articles written about the impact of social media on mental health, so no need to cover that information. But I’m sure everyone has thought about deactivating their account on Facebook and taking a break. It was the height of the campaign season in 2016 and the war being waged between “friends” just got to be too much. Of course, I had chosen a side like most people, and regrettably, I posted some pretty negative and hurtful stuff. Not proud of it, and so disgusted with myself, I decided it was time to set my “addiction to a feed” somewhere else, and get my head on straight. I shut down my account for two weeks with the intention of making it indefinite, and at least until the election was over. But I wasn’t expecting to return so soon, but I’m glad I did.

Now we find ourselves on Facebook once again, being barraged by divisiveness and blame. Plenty of both to go around. But this time, I don’t need to take a break because I learned some things in those two weeks.

  • I learned “you can’t have the good without the bad” is a universal law that doesn’t go away simply because I chose to ignore it.
  • I learned that I’m always on the outskirts of the community because that’s where I want to be, not because I’m an outcast.
  • I learned that’s ok.
  • I learned that I care more about the people I care about, and care less about the people who couldn’t care less.
  • I learned that two weeks is not a very long time, but it was long enough.
  • I learned the reaffirmation of “you see what you look for.”
  • I learned that my heart breaks every day from the way some people choose to treat each other, look for the peacemakers.
  • I learned I need to be a peacemaker.
  • I learned that there is more to be gained from gleaning the wheat from the chaff, and it’s worth the work.
  • I learned that there’s a lot of wheat out there.
  • I learned I don’t have to be a narcissist to love myself.
  • I learned that keeping in touch with others involves risk, and I’m a risk taker.
  • I learned most importantly, that to share pieces of our lives, even in this virtual space, is a privilege and a way to be of service, so choose wisely what to share. Make sure it’s for the greater good.

If you’ve never put Facebook on hold, I encourage you to do it. You’ll be surprised what you discover. When I returned, my friends began to take on a different look. I was seeing more there. More deeply into what was going on with them. Understood better my role in the damaging of my own attitude and theirs. I stopped being a victim of side swipes from frustrated and sad people who were getting worn down just like I was. I had grown to love them on the media platform, but suddenly, I had put them continually on the defense. It was time for me to grow up, to stop being reactionary, and take care of my emotional health by approaching harsh posts or comments in constructive ways. And yes, members of my community that I had formerly alienated became more understanding of me too. That’s why I’m back to stay.

*Illustration by The Farmer’s Daughter

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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