By Chad Foreman
I did try to use Facebook wisely. I even wrote an article about how to use social media as a spiritual practice. I ran my own Meditation group, I followed inspirational Zen, meditation and Buddhist teachers and I engaged in discussions about meditation and spirituality.
However, following people easily turned into jealousy, discussions became heated debates and arguments and the endless scrolling become mind numbingly distracting. It didn’t take much investigation to find research that shows Facebook has a negative impact on your mental health.
Social media addiction is a real thing and has been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It can lead to depression, feelings of inadequacy and destroy your attention span. Psychologists have even created a Social Media Disorder Scale; which is a 9-question survey designed to distinguish healthy and unhealthy social media use.
During the past year, have you …
1) …regularly found that you can’t think of anything else but the moment that you will be able to use social media again?
2) …regularly felt dissatisfied because you wanted to spend more time on social media?
3) …often felt bad when you could not use social media?
4) …tried to spend less time on social media, but failed?
5) …regularly neglected other activities (e.g. hobbies, sport) because you wanted to use social media?
6) …regularly had arguments with others because of your social media use?
7) …regularly lied to your parents or friends about the amount of time you spend on social media?
8) …often used social media to escape from negative feelings?
9) …had serious conflict with your parents, brother(s) or sister(s) because of your social media use?
If you answered “yes” to five or more of these items, you meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis of a “disordered social media user.”
It all depends on how you use social media and if you asked me a few weeks ago I would have denied having any problems with it but it’s my feelings of relief and freedom now it’s over that lead me to believe it was a problem for me.
Facebook could easily be called Egobook.
People mostly post projections of themselves in the best light and create images of happiness and joy that are really misrepresentations of their real lives. I’ve wanted to inspire people to meditate and grow and show the best parts of myself but it’s definitely not the whole picture. My life is not as perfect as my Facebook made out.
Not to mention Facebook is designed to be addictive and engage you for as long as possible. In 2019 Facebook experimented in Australia hiding all likes on posts to help users not be as addicted. I remember the few weeks this happened and it was definitely a different experience posting things without being able to see people’s likes. The experiment didn’t last long and it’s back to showing all the likes again.
Researchers say: “Despite the emotional toll, more than 70 percent of users check Facebook daily. So why on earth do people keep coming back for more if Facebook causes them to be sad? Researchers say it stems from a psychological term called affective forecasting. Studies confirm that people predict Facebook is going to make them feel better. They assume–albeit incorrectly–that 20 minutes of Facebook activity will boost their mood. They don’t recognize that it’s actually robbing them of joy.”
I feel like I’ve awakened from a trance. I went for a hike in the national state forest the other day and I realised I usually have my phone/camera with me and share pictures on Facebook. That seems harmless enough, but I experienced a different quality of experience by just walking, being present to nature and my wife instead of the usual preoccupation of looking for a good photo spot and striking a full lotus pose for the classic meditation pic. Instead I was just walking in nature being present to its beauty and not caring about the photo opportunity or how any of this will look on my Facebook. I returned to the simplicity of the moment and being free from the grip of Facebook definitely helped.
It seems Facebook had infiltrated my consciousness so much it contributed to framing my reality in much the same way the ego frames everything from its perspective. Having done lots of inner work to become aware of my ego with its prejudices, beliefs and stories I could see that somehow Facebook had coloured my perspective in a similar process.
Before Facebook mountains were just mountains, then Facebook came along and mountains were photo opportunities, now Facebook is over for me mountains are just mountains again.
Instead of reading random things from my Facebook newsfeed I’m actually reading books again, instead of relying on inspirational memes I’m opening the Tao Te Ching, tales of Zen masters or classic Buddhist teachings from my bookshelf. I’m being much more intentional with what I’m reading. I feel my ongoing education and learning is much more directed and focussed doing it this way. I’m also spending more time developing meditation courses, writing blogs and even throwing in an extra meditation session or two for myself often experimenting with different techniques.
I also don’t have Messenger anymore because it was connected to my disabled Facebook account and I’m loving not being ‘on call’ for everyone. Email is great. There’s less urgency and even though I respond daily to emails I don’t feel as compelled to respond immediately like on Messenger.
I replaced the Facebook app icon from my phone with Duolingo, which is a language learning app. Every time I compulsively looked at my phone to open Facebook I saw the Duolingo icon and would take a German lesson instead. I figure if I put as much time into learning a new language as I did scrolling on Facebook I will be able to speak German in six months.
One study found that not being on Facebook meant being less aware of political current affairs – GOOD! – I’m tired of the polarization effect of political views – it truly divides people, I’m sick of being acutely aware of how corrupt laws and politicians are or how our leaders are destroying our freedoms etc. It really is not healthy to consume so much political discourse which is mostly promotional propaganda or demonizing negative smears. There’s rarely a reasonable middle ground on Facebook but that’s probably the case for most media these days.
Ok, so I know it might seem I’m social media bashing, but I wanted to share my experience of leaving Facebook, well being kicked off really and how it’s had a positive influence on my life. Also I wanted people who did follow me on Facebook to know I didn’t block you I’m just not there anymore.
My essential meditation teaching is returning to the simplicity of the moment with mindfulness, openness and joy. I feel my life has become simpler again and focussed on positive things. The trance of Facebook has lifted, I’ve regained that portion of my brain and attention that was bound by Facebook.
I also teach that meditation is just the beginning. It’s from a clear space of mindfulness that we can see clearly what helps us to grow and what holds us back, what helps to nourish our mind and body and what depletes it. Your diet is not just what you consume as food but also what you consume as media. Making healthy choices is the best option in life but not always the easiest. For me at least, getting off Facebook has been a move in a positive direction.
Written by Chad Foreman
Chad is the founder of The Way of Meditation and has been teaching meditation since 2003 and is determined to bring authentic meditation practices into the lives of millions of people in the modern world. Chad is a former Buddhist monk who spent 6 years living in a retreat hut studying and practicing meditation full time. Chad now offers Private Online Meditation Coaching and has also developed an incredible course called The 21 Day Meditation Challenge to help guide people gradually from the basics of mindfulness and relaxation to profound states of awareness. And now you can read Chad’s free e-book Insights Along the Way.