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A year without Facebook. Well, almost....

It’s ironic, I know, that I will post this blog on social media. However, I am hoping that perhaps some of the positive changes that this little project made to my life can impact on someone else.

You see – I quit Facebook. For a year (well almost)

It started on Christmas Day in 2021. Hubby and I were home together and cooking up a storm, walking the dog and watching movies. All around us we could hear families celebrating and laughing. This was the first time we had stayed home and done nothing for Christmas Day. We were not allowed to cross the border to see our families. Like I did every other day, I scrolled Facebook on the couch, mindlessly consuming content. Pictures flooded my screen of all my friends having Christmas Day with their families, smiling faces and hugs all around. I was pissed. I was sad.

I turned off my phone and told Hubby that I was quitting social media. He laughed at me and said it couldn’t be done. So, I decided that I would not look at social media again until 2022.

The first few days were bloody hard.

When I woke up in the morning, I reached for my phone to scroll Facebook and Insta before I even got out of bed. Remembering my commitment, I put the phone down and got up, making a coffee and sitting on the balcony. I could hear birds chirping and watched the dog’s ears as he tried to make sense of where the birds were and if he was at risk of them stealing his biscuits. It was peaceful.

A few days later I ran 100kms in the Mornington Peninsula. It wasn’t a race; it was just something I wanted to do. I was joined by some friends for sections and made a day of it. I wanted so badly to share it on Facebook, but I resisted. Instead, I asked myself why I needed to share it. I realised that it was all ego. I wanted to share that I had run 100kms whilst everyone else was indulging. I wanted to ‘show-off’ that this is what I was doing. It felt good to not post it.

I made it to the New Year and decided that I would keep going. I avoided all the NYE’s messages and posts on Facebook and instead sent private messages to my friends.

I gave myself some rules. I would continue to use LinkedIn as I use this a lot for business. I would continue to market on socials for my book (I’ll be honest and admit that’s not me posting – I have someone to do that for me) and I would set up notifications for the groups that I am in where I wanted updates. Turns out there were 3.

I went on an epic hike with a special friend – the photos were incredible. I kept them to myself apart from a few that I messaged to friends.

Hubby’s 40th Birthday arrived. I didn’t feel the need to post how much I loved him and wanted him to have a good day. Instead, I looked at him over morning coffee and told him. I didn’t need to share photos of his party.

I didn’t feel the need to share that Covid finally caught us and give day by day rundowns of our ‘iso life’.

I ran ultra’s, solo hiked trails, climbed mountains and socialised with friends. I shared it with those that asked or told tales in person.

We won our cricket grand final – I didn’t need to share it with anyone except my cricket family.

I started a new job, travelled interstate so many times I lost count. Sometimes I thought about posting “another flight” or “another hotel” but I didn’t. I rubbed shoulders with sporting celebrities, had career highlights. I shared these in private messages with friends.

I’ll admit I succumbed a lot. I decided I still liked Instagram and would look at that, and just avoid Facebook. My accounts are linked so I could post on Insta and it would automatically load on Facebook. I had a few runs where I just couldn’t help myself and had to post it. I had to rub it in that I was in the mountains again after 2yrs in lockdown. I wrote some blogs that I shared on socials. I shared an epic adventure that was my first multi-day run. I made friends jealous with photos from Fiji. Some mornings I found myself still reaching for my phone to see what was happening.

I found myself asking the question, why was I posting on social media? Was I doing it to share my adventures or was there ego involved? If I am honest with myself a lot of it was ego. I wanted to show off that I could go on multi day hikes, run ultra-marathons and have holidays. More and more I found myself turning away from social media and instead of taking a photo on my morning run, I would stop and smile at the sunrise and know that that exact moment was only for me – and me alone. I started going to social events and not even taking my phone out of my handbag. I walked the dog and (heaven forbid) left my phone at home!

It wasn’t always easy. I missed a lot. I missed a few birthdays, I missed deaths, I missed my friends holiday photos. I missed race updates, I missed dog videos. I had friends who actually got annoyed with me because I wasn’t checking their social media updates and didn’t know what was happening in their lives. I had friends assume that I had seen their posts and get mad I hadn’t made contact.

What did I learn from this project? We have lost the art of 1x1 contact. I found myself calling or messaging friends to see how they were or what they were up to. A lot of my friends don’t do this anymore. We think that by broadcasting our lives onto social media, everyone will know what we are doing and react accordingly. I found myself reading a book in the morning with my coffee rather than scrolling through the ‘picture perfect’ social medial lives. I found that unless my friend contacted me directly about something in her life, maybe I wasn’t special enough to warrant knowing about it.

I found peace in the day, not spending every spare minute picking up my phone. I ate my lunch in silence whilst looking out the window. I stopped judging other people’s lives, or the life they share on socials. I stopped comparing myself to other runners and stopped weighing my adventures up against theirs. I stopped getting FOMO for every adventure my friends were on. I stopped caring if people thought I was ‘badass’ for getting up at 4:30am to run trails before work. I stopped caring if people knew about my weekend run.

And you know what happened? My runs got better. I ran stronger. I ran happier. I long ago gave up Strava and now I was only sharing my runs with my coach or a runner who had joined me on the day. My messages to the coach starting to read messages of pure joy at being out in the bush and having zero expectations. I found that one of the best ways to remove the ego from running is to go for an epic run, push yourself hard – and then not tell a soul about it. Then you know it is just for you and there is no ego.

I found deeper conversation with my hubby, rather than sharing social media videos with each other. When I went to dinner with my friends we had so much to talk about – because I hadn’t already seen the highlight reel.

There is a podcast by Noah Rasheta called Secular Buddhism. Episode 127 talks about becoming ‘nobody’. Essentially we try so hard to be ‘somebody’ but that somebody is different to everyone – your somebody is different to what your partner see’s you as, to what your friends see you as. It’s all a perception. What if we were just nobody and didn’t try and be ‘somebody’ to everyone. What if we were content just being us? Not trying to show our ‘somebody’ to the world.

A new favourite book of mine I recently read, Death by Comfort, by Paul Taylor talks about the staggering statistics of social media. According to a study cited in this book, we are looking at our phones 85 times a day and 91% of us cannot leave our home without our phone. As a society we are becoming lazier and more comfortable than ever before. What if we put the phones down and got uncomfortable instead – taking ourselves out of our comfort zones to go somewhere alone in person, meet strangers, push our bodies or try new hobbies. What might we gain instead?

Three years ago, I started women’s cricket with Bentleigh Cricket Club. I knew no one, went to training by myself and was totally out of my comfort zone. Three years later and some of these ladies are my closet friends and the club feels like family. What might be out there if we stepped back from the screen?

I am not ready to delete my social media accounts just yet. I still pick up the phone to see what’s happening in my running group, my writing group and I’ll admit those Facebook birthday notifications have saved my arse a few times. I may post something in the future; but I know that I will now question why. I will ask myself if I am posting it for an ego stroke, to get likes, to make people jealous, or am I legitimately wanting to share something. I’ll keep using socials to market my book, share my blogs and raise money for causes dear to my heart.

What I will also continue to do is stop the scrolling. I have found peace in the lack of having a phone glued to my hand, my eyes and ears ignoring the world around me whilst I consume content I don’t need to. Instead, I urge my friends to send me a message when good things happen, share photos with me privately and we can have a conversation about them. Reach out to me when life is shit and I will try and cheer you up or I will sit in the shit with you. Let’s meet for a run, coffee or a wine instead – even virtually.

Let’s bring back the one-on-one contact that so many of us don’t have in our lives anymore.

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