6 Surprising Benefits of a Facebook Fast
Who Are You When No One Is Watching?
I read an article awhile ago about how high level developers of social media are themselves unplugging (Our Minds Can Be Hijacked), and one of their disclosures exploded my head. It was that Instagram knows when and how to manipulate teenagers when they are feeling isolated, and when they need to feel a “like.” Its parent company, Facebook, also manipulates the timing of likes.
The reach of this made me almost long for simple Orwellian scrutiny . We are not only being watched, we are being manipulated by artificial intelligence created by corporate entities. All in good fun, of course.
As I let that all sink in, I realized that, even creepier, is the mass experiment we are all undertaking with the observer effect.
Simply put, the observer effect describes how the presence of an observer influences the expression and outcome of energy.
Our immersion in social media is, of course, predicated on being observed, but I had never thought this all the way through. As a writer, I have long “narrated” my life, dashing down experiences and thoughts on notecards (and now Notes). I have even quit writing at times because my narration interfered with feeling present, but I never thought of it as influencing my actions, being the observer in my own observer effect.
With social media, of course, we are interacting with all of our contacts, their contacts, and, if we are public, an even larger collective. We are not only sorting what we show on social media, mining for the shiny moments; are we also sorting what we experience? And what is the effect of being manipulated by an intelligence with an agenda of its own? Is their very presence shaping our actions even as they occur?
So, I decided to take a break from the great seeing eye, and just feel what it felt like. I have been on Facebook continually since 2004!
My fast went deeper than Facebook, but stopped short of being disconnected from the world. I stopped all social media, but I did scroll my inbox and googled news. I simply made the criterion for anything I opened: do I really want to know this? Do I CHOOSE this?
I knew that I would have certain experiences. More time. Less eye strain. The peace of knowing nothing about my exes, or their exes. The benefits of stepping away from FOMO. But the subtlety of what I experienced surprised me.
At the very core of it all, was an element of self-care. By stepping out of the Great Seeing Eye, I was able to step within my own.
Here are 6 surprising benefits I experienced.
1. Bigger, better-wired brain. Within days of unplugging, I swear I could feel new neurological grooves forming, and this is the OPPOSITE of what I expected. I have interesting friends! I love following links and learning something new. But is being exposed to an onslaught of new thoughts really helping to expand consciousness? Maybe not. Unplugged, I could feel the pull of what was really calling me, not what was calling others. I took more time with each subject, completed longer articles, and did not click on something else right after. This careful choosing allowed me to be contemplative, to create my own original thoughts, and be in appreciation of others’.
2. A deeper AND calmer perspective on world events. Despite the intensity of what is happening now, I found that modulating my own exploration was more nourishing than disheartening. I felt almost like I was back in college, when I had the focus to read long in-depth articles, free from snipes and sound bites or anybody else’s immediate assessment. This allowed for a deeper and yet less emotionally reactive experience of the world. I felt less inflamed, more informed, more inspired to contemplate and act on change.
3. Feeling layers beneath my skin. I live in a place where people live outdoors, have spent years in the surf and the sun, like I have. They are outside the scope of plastic surgery and filters. So I felt a sense of ease and belonging physically, which translated to something deeper. In real life, we don’t see people’s best pictures, filtered, from their best angles. We see their frowns, their smile lines, and if we’re lucky, their hearts. It isn’t that I never compare myself in real life to anyone, but I am faced with a whole person, not a snapshot, and my mind just doesn’t go there first. It reminded me that I am also multi-dimensional.
4. Openness and empathy towards others, even strangers, in my sphere. Because I felt less frazzled and had less input energetically and emotionally, I felt more present. I was less irritated by traffic, more aware that someone, anyone, could be going through a sickness or a divorce or a betrayal or a loss. I could feel the heartbeat and reality of the warm bodies around me. In short, I had more love for my neighbor, and let the little things go.
5. Noticeable drop in anxiety. I never realized how on edge I felt from the anticipation of reactions to my posts. These are my friends, right? Shouldn’t I already know they like me? Love and approve of me? Are interested in my life? This is a very subtle thing, because I never REALIZED it was there. It’s just kind of a low-grade anxiety. When I learned that FB and IG could manipulate their likes to anticipate when you needed a boost of energy, this is what instigated my social media fast. Of course, I also post things I write. Recently I began a whole new path of channeling, and have had various entrepreneurial pursuits. Watching what is liked and what is ignored is often market research. But there is no escaping the investment we make in the return. And that little rush of likes may bring a burst of pleasure, but its absence creates stress and anxiety.
6. Delicious, palpable loneliness. At first, there was an abyss when something beautiful was happening, or something funny, and I wanted to snap the moment and share it, but I could not. Time did a little hiccup. THIS is where I most felt the absence of the observer effect. The moment was just happening, and this was it. No memory of that sunset. No collective ahhhhhh. At first, I would almost cast around for a stranger to share it with. Within a week, I began to feel more at peace with this emptiness. After nearly a month, I no longer felt compelled to reach for my phone. I felt a sense of peace and let the moment expand. I let it fill my own senses. Slowly, very slowly, I stopped HUNTING for moments to share, a practice I did not even know I was doing. It is the quality of just owning that moment, me and the divine creator. It was as if I were being refilled, refueled, of my own life force, instead of simply snapping it and blowing it away like a dandelion.
I had great resistance to going back online, because, honestly, I felt so peaceful and happy. But in the end, I missed being a part of it, and I was never going to have time to call all those people and see how they were doing.
I made a few changes, though.
The first thing I did was unapologetically unfriend everyone I couldn’t quite remember, or whose hearts I didn’t know and couldn’t feel. No self-doubt, no explanations, no worries about hurt feelings. Done. Now I truly LOVE all the people on my Facebook feed — all nearly 500 of them. Mindblowing indeed!
I also took Messenger and all notifications off my phone. I don’t go on social media every day. And when I do, I have a kind of peace about it, like I am bringing my OWN energy, not the underlying franticness I had been running.
In the end, for me, it’s all about focus. As much as possible in this complex multiverse, I cherish the freedom to choose mine.