“Trimming the fat”. If only there were another less gross, prettier way of conveying the message. Where did “trimming the fat” start anyway? How about “letting go of what no longer serves you”, as many a yogi or yogini might say? Or “eliminating waste and poorly used resources” as a business person might have heard from a mentor? We now know plenty of ways to explain this behavior of “fat-trimming”, because the practice is written about and discussed as ubiquitously as losing weight, being productive and all the other things we all want to do but for some reason (many reasons) don’t.
Magazines, books, TV shows, podcasts and, in a stroke of ironic brilliance, facebook posts, adore conveying their specific brand of wisdom to the big secret of success: Do what makes you happy (note: it is not facebook). In other words, stop doing all the things, hanging out with all the people, spending time on the tasks that don’t add value to your life. Reductionistic? Maybe. Simplistic? Sure. Easy? Not at all. Because if it were easy everyone would do it, and if everyone did it, everyone would likely be successful and/or happy (I’ve learned the two are not mutually exclusive, unless you’ve cleverly defined your version of “success” as also being happy).
My decision to live a “facebook-free” year came when I joined my GWU Alumni book club and began reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. The concept of more focus is not revolutionary, to me or to others. I’ve practiced yoga for almost 10 years and I began meditating a few years ago. As a child I would love to go for long walks and spend time by myself just looking outside and noticing the little things. Each yoga class, meditation session or walk I go on brings a real sense of peace and calm, even if my day is not. For a few moments, I’m undistracted and focused on just one thing, and it rewards me in some way every time. I understand the value of focus and activities that reduce stress and improve my productivity, I’ve even been paid to speak about them. So if I understand the value and I am able to do these things, why don’t I do them everyday? What is derailing my plans of living an optimally focused and productive life? There is something about the validation that comes with hearing (or in this case, reading) the same thing over and over, as I did in Newport’s book.
The saying “When the student is ready the teacher appears” comes to mind.
Eventually, some of us choose to actually change our behavior and do what is in our best interest. I had been tinkering with the idea of cutting out social media for longer periods of time, and Deep Work played right into my 2019 goal of building our business, so I easily made the decision to be facebook free (for the same reasons many of you may have). But in that moment and the few days following, I also became sincerely excited for what else might happen as a result. This fat I would trim might have even better consequences than allowing me to be less distracted and more focused. I imagined being authentically engaged and surprised when I learned a friend was having a baby, or when a family member called to relay stories about their vacation. I realized that, at a recent holiday party my husband and I hosted, I wasn’t surprised to hear any news. We all ask each other how we are doing, but more and more I hear the unimpressed “Oh yes, I saw that” instead of “I didn’t know you went to Europe?!”.
When was the last time you got a real-life phone call from a friend who had huge news? Or ANY news? When Will and I got engaged we were in the redwoods with no cell service. This allowed me to refrain from the obligatory facebook post until I called several of my best friends once I got home. That Monday I spent from 7am until 2pm on the phone catching up with my favorite people who are now on the other side of the country. I shared my big news and got to hear the genuine excitement and happiness on the other end of the line. Then, more news, more stories. The “remember that day when” stories. The collegiate “I can’t believe we did that” recollections. The deep, heartfelt “I’m so happy you called” sentiments. The “listen to what my kid said yesterday” anecdotes. I wanted that again.
Other potential side effects of facebook freedom flooded my brain:
- No confusion about what the marketplace, events, etc. features do (is this just me?)
- No messing with my business pages in an attempt to learn about algorithms (why can’t I just post it so everyone will see it?)
- No being bombarded with notifications for the 17 groups I belong to that I no longer read or partake in (I could likely complete a novel in the time it would take me to keep up with even a third of the discussions)
- No learning that I have 45 notifications and only three have anything to do with me (who cares if Susie uploaded a new video? No offense Susie…)
- No getting sidetracked because my feed knows exactly how to hijack my attention (also known as re-entering reality after a 30 minute digital coma, thinking “What did I go to my phone for again?”)
- No worrying about off-putting information sharing (creepy)
- No compulsively turning to facebook when I’m waiting in line, or momentarily “bored” for more than 3 seconds (maybe I’ll strike up conversation with a stranger!)
The most salient reason for leaving this activity is that it does not add value to my life.
I’ll say it again:
It. Does. Not. Add. Value. To. My. Life.
(and yes, there were claps between each of those words)
For some people, it might. And that’s just fine, stick with it. No judgement here. In fact, stick with anything that gets you where you want to go (assuming it’s a safe behavior and not something crazy like shooting drugs into your eyeballs). When I evaluated my year and how I spent my time, I wrote down the activities I want to do more of. You can probably guess that they’re the same every year: Read more, write more, drink less, be more patient, watch less TV, spend more time with friends, consume less sugar, exercise more often. I’m happy to say I’ve done most, If not all, of those things at one time or another this year, and while I’m proud of myself for doing so I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to fully commit in a way I hadn’t before. I’m talking that do-what-you-say-you’re-gonna do, change-what-you-say-you’re-gonna-change, no fear, see-the-limitless-possibilities, let-that-shit-go-and-don’t-look-back kind of committing. So, at the risk of publicly failing to take my own advice, here I am committing. Not just to skipping facebook for a year, but to all those big goals and dreams I (like most of us) have. Because when I started writing these “do more of/do less of” lists every year, I was in my 20’s.
Time is a scary and beautiful thing, and regardless of whether it’s being beautiful or scary, it can light a fire when your life is put into perspective. You’re 28, then 29, then 30…. then 35.. you see where this is going. I’d like to think that being a compulsive and dedicated list-writer is what has kept me hobby-positive and somewhat highly productive my entire adulthood, at the very least I can leave my lists in plain sight and keep the activities that serve me at top of mind. But there’s always more room to grow and I’m eager to learn if this notion is as exhausting as it sounds. I would venture to say that giving more energy and dedication to our lives gives us more, not less.
So I’m starting with creating less noise in my day, and that means adios facebook. If you’re changing your hair, working out, learning to cook, engaged, adopting a puppy, starting a new job, leaving a shitty job, taking care of a sick parent, becoming a parent, needing to vent about politics, just had a great Tinder date, just had a bad Tinder date, or if you just want to see what I’ve been up to, give me a call. No planning, no hesitating, just call :)