One of the strongest things we can do is to simply put down the thing that is too heavy – the thing we cannot carry right now. I’ve come to believe this is every bit as important, if not more important, than picking up something new. Because it’s those things…those heavy things…those unwieldy things…that exhaust us and slow us and so often break us little by little.
For me, one of the things I cannot carry right now is social media. I don’t know that I was ever all that good at carrying it. But it’s the 2010s and even your parent’s parents are on Facebook so what possible excuse could one have for not documenting every second of one’s existence? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat…I’m exhausted just thinking about the work involved.
It’d be so great if I could say my ‘putting down’ of social media was based solely on an intellectual or spiritual awakening…something about remaining present in every moment or devoting my time to the starving and sick and disenfranchised. But the title of this series is ‘tbh’ (to be honest)…so I’ll be honest.
My truth is that social media fed my shadow self far more often than it fed my light..and it needed to go. Some of the shadowy things social media fed inside me: jealousy, judgement, covetous indignation, dejection, hopelessness, loneliness, resentment, and fear…to name a few.
I noticed, and what’s more, I cared about the number of likes on a photo, the number of followers someone else had, my content compared to your content, my fun compared to your fun, my [lack of] friends compared to your [plethora of] friends. Which is: A. Sad and B. Exhausting. I’d almost always come up wanting. I’ve never been a gatherer of people and I never excelled at playing the social media game, which is to say: I cared too much and posted disingenuous photos when sloshed and said what I shouldn’t and allowed social media to govern my self-worth too often.
I grew up in tandem with the evolution of social media. Gone are the glory days of AOL Instant Messenger when the worst that could happen was an ex-boyfriend pasting song lyrics about his new girlfriend in an away message. Those were the days…mostly because I thought I was very crafty and no one would be able to decipher the secret messages I created in my AIM profile using various fonts and colors and italicized lettering.
It was the first time teens were given the opportunity to express themselves electronically while communicating with all of their peers at once. I took full advantage. At 14/15/16 years old (when texting meant hitting the number 7 four times to type the letter S so no one did it all that often), I expressed every ounce of my hyper-hormonal dramatic angst. I may as well have been standing on a table in my high school cafeteria with a bullhorn screaming, “MY HEART IS SO BROKEN!” or “I’M SO IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY I’M GOING TO EXPLODE.” And everyone else was doing the same. AIM was the perfect medium for me.
Then came MySpace and eventually Facebook and Twitter and then Instagram and SnapChat. It seems to me, as social media evolved, people changed as well. Somewhere along the line, everybody got cool. Or at least really good at playing cool and projecting cool. Unwritten rules developed. Virtual personas were more accessible than actual personas…the name of the game became: impress, project, and show everyone how great your life is. I liked it better when everyone was telling the truth in away messages and 3×5 profiles and bold-face, underline, Helvetica pt. 10.
I’ve used all of the social media platforms to some degree, but primarily settled on Instagram, which was also the last domino to fall in my laying down of this thing that had become too heavy (Pinterest doesn’t count, right? I ♥ Pinterest. I’m keeping my Pinterest.).
Social media was keeping me stuck and I needed to not be stuck.
In the pursuit of sobriety, I started paying attention to my triggers (i.e: the things that made me want to go home and drink two bottles of wine and forget for awhile). In doing so, I discovered I have a pretty gnarly case of the ‘fuck-its.’ Which is to say, “my life is so much worse than her life…so fuck it.” Or “The rest of the world is in love and I’m going home to an empty apartment…so fuck it.” I’d compare and contrast and bemoan and grow jealous and decide my life was crap anyway…so fuck it. A lot of that derived from scrolling through social media and deciding that everyone else was leading a phenomenal existence and mine sucked balls.
I know. I know. I know. Nobody posts a picture of the McDonald’s combo meal they picked up on the way home from a job they hate or the workout they didn’t do or a selfie on a day when not even the most intense filter could fix the massive zit sprouting from their chin. I can logically know those things. But time and again, I’d find myself truly believing that everyone’s life was as unblemished and adventurous and friend-filled and pinterest-worthy as they made it seem. It would send me reeling. It’s hard to feel good about your pretty-ok day when (seemingly) everyone in your entire universe is having a #UNBELIEVABLE #AMAZING #PERFECT day.
Sometimes I’d post something really real. I’d share something a little broken…a little sad…a little off-kilter. I’d express my feelings as though I were standing on a table in the cafeteria of my high school with a bullhorn…because it’s how I really felt and I WASN’T having a hashtag awesome day. I’d share a little of my truth hoping to help at least one of my few followers who could relate and think “OMG, me too!” But I found out really quickly people in my social-media sphere preferred it when everyone stuck to the status-quo and kept things light and lovely. Or at least that was my interpretation.
I no longer felt inspired by the fitspo…I felt judged and inadequate. Wedding pictures killed me a little inside. Travel posts only served to remind me of all the places I’ve never been. The faces of smiling couples evoked an urge to punch someone in the throat. ‘These are not my people.‘ I’d often think, feeling a bit foiled. ‘These can’t possibly be my people because my life is so messy and their lives are so perfect.’ Social media stopped making me feel connected and started making me feel other. Different and falling behind somehow.
I wasn’t happy for anyone and I was losing the ability to even fake it.
I couldn’t possibly be the only person in the world struggling against the fabric and nature of social media…the show-offy, in your face, ‘see how wonderful my life is’ shit that was becoming a drain on my psyche, could I?
Seek and find. It’s the universal flow. The absolute. Frustrated with the surface-level noise flooding my feed, I sought truth-tellers and souls with whom I could relate. God responded in spades. I found teachers and guides of the highest caliber, who’s work lead me to discover more light-seekers and people with stories as fucked up and messy as mine. They put their stuff on display – their ugly stuff, their sad stuff, their heavy stuff. It felt like air. If felt like ‘Yes!’ It felt like, ‘OMG, me too!.’
I devoured the work of others and tried in small ways to embody their boldness and honesty. I saw what they were doing and decided, yessss! I want that. I want to do that. I want to be part of this tribe of truth-tellers and light-seekers and purveyors of love.
Absolutes developed quickly. I knew I needed to stop drinking. I knew I needed to meet myself. I knew I needed to start mothering myself. I knew I needed to start practicing telling the truth. I knew I needed to get down on my knees and pray every damn day. I knew I needed to write with regularity and to purge when need be. And I knew I needed to stop trying to carry what was killing me…which in part meant getting the hell off social media.
And it WORKED. You know the relief you feel when you’re able to finally set down the 17 bags of groceries you decided you were capable of toting into the house in one trip? It felt like that.
I worried for awhile that my addicted brain was orchestrating some kind of sneaky back-alley deal. Was disconnecting from social media a form of isolation? And doesn’t addiction thrive in isolation? I guess it could have gone that way…but for me it didn’t. Social media wasn’t connecting me to anything except 24 hour pity-parties and discontentment.
I didn’t immediately quit drinking…that took awhile. I haven’t mastered the art of telling the truth yet, either. I pray when I remember to pray (not often enough) and sometimes that just looks like me laying in bed with my eyes closed and saying, “thanks” before I drift off to sleep. I have been writing and purging…but more often than that, I read and absorb and gather my teachers and open my heart.
Tbh, social media made me feel like shit. So I put it down. I’ll pick it up again someday when it feels lighter and easier and less like a weapon of mass delusion.
If you’re like, “OMG, me too!” here are a few of my teachers…the women I’ve come to love from a distance…my kind of tribe:
Holly Glenn Whitaker – founder of Hip Sobriety, co-host of HOME podcast, yoga instructor, badass bitch ♥
Glennon Doyle Melton – author of CARRY ON, WARRIOR and LOVE WARRIOR ♥
Rebecca Campbell – Rise Sister Rise ♥
Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong of SheRecovers
These are all great places to start. Find someone who speaks to you, who tells your truth, and allow them to become a teacher and a guide. Allow someone who’s done the thing you don’t know how to do to teach you how to do it. And for God’s sake, if something feels too heavy, put it down.