It’s all in the mind

4 Feb

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” -Buddha

I have a cold right now so my mind is a bit fuzzy.  Still, February is the month to focus on the Mind.  Some of the goals include:  to be more focused, to spend my time doing things I love, to learn more, to rest my mind when needed, to take in the benefits of a regular meditation practice.  I have been a bit baffled as to where to begin.  So I’ve decided to do something really concrete that I KNOW is going to only benefit my mind: I am taking a much needed Facebook break.

412-facebook-cartoon

Cartoon by Cathy Thorne.

Cutting out Facebook is definitely taking something AWAY rather than adding something to life, the preferred approach that, for me, is more likely to result in lasting change.  But sometimes this type of drastic measure is needed.  Using Facebook doesn’t really add anything helpful to my life, other than being able to send messages with some friends or keeping up with my book club.  I waste time on it, I often feel bad about myself when looking at it, and I get annoyed with all of the political posts.  I don’t see a reason to be on there very often, and yet I am on there every. single. day.

There is always something happening on Facebook.  People posting pictures of their recent tropical vacation, George Takei’s latest meme, comments on photos, and so on.  If you don’t check in regularly, it creates this feeling of missing out on something important.  Logging in and seeing notifications and messages can be very exciting.  If you are like me, Facebook is extremely compelling.  I have a very visual mind and while I enjoy seeing the pictures and updates, it also has a powerful, almost hypnotic effect on me.  I have had vivid dreams about people I’m “friends” with on Facebook, people I haven’t seen or really even thought about for years.  I can waste amazing amounts of time just shuffling through things and looking at basically nothing.  Then there are the darker results.  I compare myself to others.  I judge others.  I get grumpy.  My specific triggers?  I hate seeing pictures of tropical vacations (jealous), pregnancy posts (jealous), and posts about football (stupid).  Don’t even get me started on the political posts (shutup!).  The non-comformist in me kind of hates the trite way Facebook promotes traditions such as posting about what you are thankful for on Thanksgiving.  But I still look at the photos, I still comment about what I’m thankful for and I still get grumpy and judgy.  To be clear, I don’t wanna feel, think, or act in this way.  Nor do I want to waste a lot of time.  But still I go to Facebook and waste time, feel awful and know that I’ll keep on doing it.  Ugh.  Besides, I am also so freaked out about the ever changing privacy settings that I rarely even post anything of substance on Facebook, instead just writing about my dogs and sometimes about food.

Recent research shows some disturbing things about the use of Facebook:

  • A research study demonstrates activity on social media can give us a quick hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for reward-based learning.  Dopamine transmission occurs with drug use, sex, and other addictive types of activities.  It is both funny  and disturbing to recognize that there are real, physiological results of someone “liking” your photo on Facebook, writing on your wall, or sending a message.  It feels good and can therefore become quite compelling, if not addictive.
  • A study  by Stanford’s Alex Jordan finds that Facebook users consistently over-estimate the fun their friends are having and underestimate their negative or unhappy experiences. Jordan concluded that Facebook could be exacerbating the tendency to assume that everyone else is happier and enjoying themselves more than you are.  Jordan comments that the research participants “were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life”.   Information on this research study can be found from this article and also this one.
  • There’s also a study about the use of Facebook by those with narcissistic tendencies.  People displaying narcissistic tendencies tend to have more friends on Facebook, they tag themselves on more things, and regularly update their newsfeed as well as their profile picture.  Additionally, they tend to respond aggressively to comments made about them.  I begin to wonder about what comes first- the narcissistic tendencies or the overuse of social media, especially for younger folks.

So there’s lots of great reasons to cut down on Facebook time.  Here’s how I’m going to do this:

  • I am going to keep my account open, but will only login two times a week to check on updates from my Book Club or anything else.  I will only be on for 10 minutes during those two logins.  
  • I will keep this up through the end of the month and then reassess.
  • During all of that time I would normally be on Facebook, I will free up much needed space in my head.  I can instead read, go on a walk, write on my blog, talk to people in real life, etc.

Lastly, check out this very awesome video if you haven’t before.  

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