When you should use Facebook vs. when you shouldn’t.

After a month off Facebook, I’ve gone from a Facebook addict to a
light Facebook user. For the most part, there is a lot of stuff I
don’t miss about Facebook. However, it has some features that are
extremely useful and I miss those. Below is a list of good reasons for
using Facebook vs. reasons that’ll inevitably end with you donating
hours of your day to the time wasting gods (or some sort of relative
to the god who makes your socks disappear after you do the laundry).

When Facebook is useful:

Using Facebook Groups to network – Though I haven’t been on a group in
a month in a half, they can be really useful especially for industry
related questions. For example, I found community and limitless
resources for my career in the virtual assistant Facebook groups on
Facebook. They gave me insights into finding work that I found nowhere
else. However, the drawback of Facebook groups is all the
self-promotional crap people post – seriously it can be nauseating at
times. The other drawback? They’re addictive!

Keeping up with friends abroad – Let’s be real, our social circle
isn’t limited to the people we see in our immediate lives. The idea of
never going on Facebook therefore, isn’t really feasible since you’d
have to be OK with essentially cutting off all your friends from afar.
“So why not give them a call?” you ask. The reality of it is that
people exist on certain social spectrums. A person you hung out with
for a week on vacation who you intend to see again someday may not be
someone you call, but may very well be someone you want to visit or
host in the future. There is an in-between friendship phase that you
can maintain on Facebook that you can’t anywhere else.

Tracking your social calendar with FB Events – You know what sucks?
Missing your friends going away party because you never got the
invite, because the event was on Facebook. It happens, and it’s
unavoidable. You can ask people to invite you separately, but I think
that’s kind of an unfair request unless the person is a good friend.
That being said, I always thought FBE were really awful, suggesting
tons of stuff that isn’t relevant to me. I’m wondering if just
switching over to stuff like Hangtime wouldn’t improve this problem
altogether for Facebook users and non-users alike.

Selling stuff – Facebook ads is an insanely good resource for selling
your products. I know of a lot of people who just use Facebook ads
alone to market their products.

Promoting your work – Despite that people don’t often comment on your
work, you wouldn’t believe how many people have actually taken the
time to look at it or read it. I often find this out in real life when
people refer back to things I posted months ago. That being said,
Facebook is a great way to get eyes on your work. It could be replaced
with e-marketing, but I feel like you should only e-market your best
stuff so that you don’t become a regular inbox offender. With
Facebook, it’s really other people’s choice to read your stuff or not.
It’s not your fault your sexy prose is showing up in their feed.

When Facebook is anything but useful:

When you’re bored – I used to go on Facebook whenever I was bored. Now
instead of distracting myself from boredom, I ask myself why I’m
bored. In fact, my month off Facebook gave me some serious insights
into what’s important to me which has lead me to take on another

When you’re doing something you don’t like – There were so many times
when I wanted to distract myself while studying for my exam or doing
freelance work I was getting stuck on, but I resisted. I came to
realize that if you don’t like something, it’s better to get it out of
the way faster.

When you’re with people in real life – I don’t mean friends. I mean
people in general. During 2012’s hurricane sandy, it took me not
having a phone for 3 days to realize I didn’t know my nieces.  You
never know who you’re not getting to know when you’re getting to know
people you don’t know.

When you’re using it without intention – Today I go on Facebook with
particular goals. To check my notifications, to see how my foreign
friend is doing, to ask a question in a group, then I leave. I don’t
aimlessly wander on Facebook even it if means that there are a lot of
people’s post I’ll miss in the feed.

There are probably many other reasons to use Facebook or not to use
it. What’s your take?

Social Media – A Month Review (June)

I went off of social media for the month of June. It’s now July, and after trying Facebook again for about a day, I realized I didn’t really want to go back to using it. To this day I still relate Facebook to unhappiness. I checked into Instagram and Twitter again. Neither of these sites bothered me nearly as much. Eventually Instagram got kind of annoying – I noticed opening it once inspired me to open it multiple times throughout the day even though I had no reason to think I’d gotten any new notifications. Twitter? To be honest I’ve never been addicted to the site, nor has it ever made me unhappy. I haven’t been on it since July first though 😀

So what did I do/learn during my month of social media?

  • One of the most important takeaways from the month of June is that I’m a highly sensitive person. I’m sensitive to any stimuli that comes my way so it’s really important for me to filter what I come into contact with. I recently saw a talk by Marie Forleo that suggests that highly sensitive people shouldn’t check their social media or e-mail when they first wake up. She says that these external forces can have a strong influence on HSP and we deserve to start the day on our own terms without the interference of others. I used to wake up to Instagram, which meant that I woke up immediately comparing myself to other people’s fantastic travel photos. No thanks.
  • I started learning Chinese. My skills are now super basic, but it’s something I began to work on every day. I put all my language learning apps where my social media apps were. I don’t intend to switch things back.
  • I saw most of my friends and became very close to a new person.
  • I went on 2 major getaways.
  • I jumped into a new entrepreneurial venture and launched my first project – it wasn’t successful but I didn’t expect it to be because it was my first.
  • I designed my first lesson plan and taught a group of tweens introductory Japanese (my mom really helped me with lesson planning, I must confess).

What I didn’t expect:

  • I didn’t expect that it would be so easy to be off of Facebook. I really anticipated that I’d kick and cry and scream, but I after a day or two it was really easy. I’m especially surprised that I’m not tempted to go on it now that the cleanse is over.
  • When I first started the cleanse, I noted that I began sleeping through the night easier. I think there’s something about not looking at a glowing light before going to bed.
  • I didn’t anticipate cutting social media would improve my focus. I have a lot more tolerance for “just googling it” and getting to the bottom of whatever question I have.
  • I got better about not wasting time in general. If I opened an article and started to feel like it wasn’t going to tell me information I didn’t already know, I’d quickly close it and continue my search to find what I was looking for.
  • Despite that I had a lot more time, I still felt overwhelmed. I just found other things to take social media’s place. The difference is that if I got busy with something, like finishing up my Teaching English as a Second Language degree, at least I got something in return. I’d compare it to buying food vs. clothes. When you go out to eat, the food is good but you have nothing to show for it later. When you buy clothes, you have those clothes for days to come, unless your friend steals them or something.

So that’s it for now. I’m going to take a slightly different approach for July which I’ll write about later. June was super social and I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of my extra time as much as I would have liked to.

On feeling boredom

“As we rise in the social scale the pursuit of excitement becomes more and more intense. Those who can afford it are perpetually moving from place to place, carrying with them as they go gaiety, dancing and drinking, but for some reason always expecting to enjoy these more in a new place. Those who have to earn a living get their share of boredom, of necessity, in working hours, but those who have enough money to be freed from the need of work have as their ideal a life completely freed from boredom. It is a noble ideal, and far be it from me to decry it, but I am afraid that like other ideals it is more difficult to achievement than the idealists suppose. After all, the mornings are boring in proportion as the previous evenings were amusing. There will be middle age, possibly even old age. At twenty men think that life will be over at thirty… Perhaps it is as unwise to spend one’s vital capital as one’s financial capital. Perhaps some element of boredom is a necessary ingredient in life. A wish to escape from boredom is natural; indeed, all races of mankind have displayed it as opportunity occurred… Wars, pogroms, and persecutions have all been part of the flight from boredom; even quarrels with neighbors have been found better than nothing. Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”  

– Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness 

I read Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness back in 2008. It was a year after I graduated college, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was at this high paying, but completely and utterly boring, 9-5 job where I basically spent all day reading food blogs and pretending I was actually interested in being a journalist – I wasn’t. I was really frustrated with myself that I wasn’t doing anything productive, even my food blog wasn’t really going anywhere – and I ate out at fancy restaurants almost every night so I really didn’t have an excuse for that.

Despite that my day-to-day life was on the surface pretty dull, I had anxiety attacks all the time. These were mostly about my future, how to respond to an email, or what someone thought of me. I also added color to my otherwise boring life by hanging out with badly behaved drug addicts and nut cases who regularly had me staying up till all hours of the morning. In short, I seemed to be an expert at finding ways to make what could have been a perfectly calm life a complicated mess. What can I say? I needed action baby!

Which is why it was probably a damn good thing for me to read Russell’s chapter on boredom and excitement. Russell argued, as can be seen in the quotes above, that it is our fear of boredom that gets us to do so many of the stupid and awful things we do – you know like date alcoholics with “ex” wives or blow up countries.

After reading The Conquest of Happiness I came home from work and just decided to go to bed, because I was tired from staying up all night. I felt a weight lifted from me and even wrote an essay, which I published on Myspace, about how I was going to accept boredom in my life. I decided I’d take it easy and start to accept that my life wasn’t really going anywhere at the moment. About two weeks later, I was laid off from my job, kicked out of my apartment, invited to take a trip through Mexico, and found my calling as a narrative filmmaker while wandering around the Cancun airport reading an article bout epiphanies.

When I think of accepting boredom today, my point of view is slightly different.  Boredom is one of the top things that makes me long for social media. Now that I’ve been keeping in touch with people, even after just 3 days of not using social media, loneliness isn’t as much of a problem for me as I thought. Boredom, however, is a huge deal. Whenever I don’t think something is exciting, whenever I don’t want to do something, I hunger for social media to entertain me. And I’m happy, so happy, that I don’t have it in tow to keep me from feeling this boredom.

As I’ve been noticing this boredom, I keep wondering what I need to fix about my life to make it go away. How frequently is it happening, you might ask? It happens a lot when I’m writing copy which makes sense because I don’t really like this type of work. So that’s something I need to address, and hopefully will address if things go as planned this fall.

But lately I’ve taken another approach to examining this boredom. While I do think I have a lot to learn from it, the other part of me knows that I’m being too critical. The truth is I got to this boring and stable place because the person I was before, the person who was struggling to make ends meet as a freelancer, the person who couldn’t afford to replace her camera, desperately wanted a stable income for awhile so she could focus on other things (like this blog for instance). I prayed for a stable job everyday. And you know what? I got it. I got exactly what I asked for. So why am I already bored?

It’s disturbing how quickly gratitude and excitement are replaced with boredom after you’ve achieved a goal. The problem with social media, which often propels us to compare our situation to another’s, is that it makes us forget all the work we’ve done to get ourselves to where we are. All the personal decisions we made based on our unique situations fade away when we compare ourselves to someone else whose life seems more exciting than ours. Suddenly, my 9-5 at an office seems boring compared to the girl on the road with a laptop even though, just weeks ago, I had learned that freelancing wasn’t for me.  Driving down the road, stuck in traffic I get mad that I’m doing the grind with all the other fools yet just weeks ago I longed for a reason to put on shoes and leave the house.

So social media or not, I’m going to try to recognize those moments in my life not just as boredom and things I need to fix, but also as opportunities to feel grateful that I’ve worked hard enough to achieve what I desire…and then get bored of it.

I guess for me, boredom is the ultimate sign of success.

“I do not mean that monotony has any merits of its own; I mean only that certain good things are not possible except where there is a certain degree of monotony… A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”                                                                                – Bertrand Russell

Getting in touch when you’re not in touch on social media

I imagine after my first week off of social media, the first week in my life since I’ve stayed off any kind of social network since Friendster debuted in 2002, that I will have contacted every person I’m friends with to catch up. This isn’t because I’m some awesome super friend who always remembers to keep in touch. Rather, it’s that I really FEEL the absence of these people in my life now that I’m off social media. It’s been 3 days and I’ve called, emailed, texted, and made plans with many of my close friends. In fact, I may get to see almost all of them – at least the local ones – this month.

One does wander if one distraction creates another distraction. I did feel that I was cheating on my social media diet a bit when I sent off a slew of texts and What’sapp chats to people, but…regardless that I wasn’t seeing the people in person, it felt far more personal than talking over social media. I caught up with a friend from France and we got a feeling for what each other’s years were like and if we could see each other in the future – unluckily for me he may be visiting the U.S. right as I’m leaving it. I guess What’sApp chatting is better than no chatting at all, right?

I also only got text hungry during moments of boredom when I had to work and wasn’t already socializing with others. I find that the desire to pick up my phone and chat with people is nill when I’m with people in real life. In fact, I’ve often been leaving my phone in another room and forgetting about it.

This all being said, if I can successfully make plans with and see most of my friends this month, I will have really achieved something. After three days, I already feel much more in control of my relationships.

The week I went out every night (almost)

I got the idea to ditch social media for a month after waking up one morning feeling horribly depressed and lonely. Memorial weekend had just passed and I had convinced my ex-boyfriend to go hiking and wine tasting with me. Unfortunately, I came to realize it’d been selfish for me to suggest this. He was in the midst of moving and driving 1.5 hours out of town made him super restless and he wasn’t able to really enjoy himself – though eventually he really made an effort to relax.

Thing is, if he hadn’t gone with me, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all. That would have been worse, to be honest.

But you can’t put that kind of pressure on one person. It’s not his fault I don’t have enough friends to go on nature excursions with.

Feeling like crap the next day, I decided I would join every relevant meetup in the city and start a social media cleanse on June 1st. I went on my first meetup on memorial day and went to an event almost everyday that week:

Monday: International Meetup – I was really nervous about going to this meetup because I didn’t want to leave the house and I didn’t know what to expect. There were only two people at this meetup because it was memorial day, but I got to know the organizer, Jonathan, who is a salsa dancer and organizes a lot of meetups in Philadelphia.  Went to gym.

Tuesday: Meditation Meetup in my neighborhood. Lovely group of people, happens once a month. The focus was on self love. That night I had terrible nightmares. I was resistant to the message, and ended up confronting a dark side of myself that night.

Wednesday: Book Club Meetup (been a member of this for awhile), but I pushed it back to next week (makeup meeting) because I needed a night off and knew it’d be awhile. Went to gym, felt refreshed.

Thursday: Dinner with my ex’s dad. They moved that day.

Friday: Went to gym. Pool party at my childhood friend’s house. Connected with a old friend from ten years ago.

Saturday: Tedx Women of Walnut Street. Went to a conference with my friend. She left a bit early and I stayed for drinks and made 4 new friends who I hope to get together with sometime this week.

Sunday: Went hiking with the old friend I reconnected with on Friday. We also had dinner and wine.

After this socially packed week, I realized that I don’t always get my energy from social interactions. I wold have literally burned the fuck out had I gone out on Wednesday and I loved that I was able to make it to the gym that day. Likewise, I kept thinking about working on my creative projects and since I had so much freelance work to do on top of my 9-5, I didn’t really get to work on any creative projects.

This week, I’ll go lighter on the social interactions and make make more time for writing. Since writing is all I did today (Monday) it looks like this week is off to a good start. I think this week I’ll try doing my creative writing BEFORE my freelance writing to see if I’m less resentful about doing my freelance writing then.


Why I’m going off social media

I’m going off social media for the month of June.

I fully realize that this is what everyone is thinking whenever I or anyone talks about a social media hiatus.

I give exactly….zero fucks.

But at this point, I’m not leaving social media to make a social statement. I’m leaving it because I feel like I’ve lost something. Which is totally not your fault, has nothing to do with you, and is not a judgment whatsoever on how you use social media.

I just don’t like what it’s doing to me. Here’s why:

1) I’m not taking as many risks

As a born introvert turned extrovert, I taught myself how to get what I needed in the real world despite my fears and desire to return to my special fantasy world. It took me years to do this and anyone who knew me as a kid and sees me today can see how much I’ve changed. Unfortunately, social media has made it more and more socially acceptable, not to mention much easier, to get things done without actually having to talk to people. In a way, I’ve regressed in the last few years. I’ve avoided places where I’d have to talk to people a lot, and grown shy at networking events where just years ago I would walk in and introduce myself to everyone in the room. I’ve grown comfortable with not going out and just talking to my online friends. This is OK except that…

2) Social media gives the illusion of being social, but…

All the sudden you realize you haven’t hung out with one of your in real life friends in a week. But you’ve been “social” all day, to the point that you’re behind at work. Ironic isn’t it?

Not all social interaction is the same! Social media is great for keeping up with and meeting new friends, but it doesn’t replace real life contact with friends.

3) I’m “over-influenced” and distracted

When I was a little girl I didn’t like the idea that I had to study art in order to be a complete artist. To me, I was worried that learning about what other people were doing would start to influence what I was doing and thus destroy my own original ideas. I worried that I would no longer have access to my own voice if my head was cluttered with what others were saying. Looking back, I think my five year old self was onto something. With social media we’re always looking at what others are doing instead of focusing on ourselves. I look forward to simply focusing on myself instead of constantly wondering if I should be doing what someone else is doing.

4) Most of social media is junk food for your brain

The majority of things I click everyday have good intentions, but after awhile it’s hard to pretend that I’m any better than people who binge watch reality TV shows.

5) I need to weed out the constant influx of shallow bullshit

While I see value in the social media junk food like kitten videos or photos of double rainbows – because that shit makes me happy – what I can’t stand is the influx of gratitude posts and inspirational quotes people share. It’s gotten to a point where anytime I see an inspirational quote I want to break my screen. I don’t care what you think life is or how I should live my life. Why don’t you get a fucking life and stop posting inspirational quotes?

6) I’m addicted to it and keep fantasizing about how much happier my life would be without it. 

Enough said.