The past several months have been a tumultuous roller-coaster ride in several facets.
Our family’s schedule has been all over the place, either completely crazy or absolute stillness: no in-between. I’m working on finding balance there.
My health has been a wreck, with the onset of calcaneal spurring and plantar fasciitis, which is a fancy way of saying I could barely walk for 6 weeks. I’m finally coming out of that.
Lastly, and this is the hardest one to admit… my doctor said I had a small bout of depression.
I had broken down in his office because I was so frustrated with life right now. My health problems were bad and getting worse. I felt overwhelmed with the kids and church duties. My husband was (is) completely stretched thin, as he works hard to finish his final semester of seminary, work at a church, and plant another church, all simultaneously. And also, I had been hurt very badly on an emotional level by three “friends”. The doctor prescribed me some anti-depressants, and I walked out of the office in a daze.
Was I really going to go there? Did I need medication?
In the end, I took them for 3 days, but never quite felt right about it. I consulted a pharmacist friend who told me I could stop taking them without adverse effects at that point, so I stopped.
Instead, I quit Facebook.
You see, I don’t think I was depressed at all. I think I was just desperately seeking connection and looking in all the wrong places. I would check Facebook ridiculously often… an embarrassing amount… I’m talking like 5-10 times an hour… Every time I felt lonely, frustrated, or upset in any way, I would tune in to the little blue app that offered the promise of “friends” and “likes”. I was self-medicating with social media, and failing miserably. During one of my reading/prayer/Bible study sessions, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. “Walk away from it,” he coaxed. “You won’t find the answers there.”
So I quit cold turkey, with no preparation or ‘letting people know’. When deactivating my account, I was given the option to retain the use of Messenger, so I did that — to give people a way to contact me for those who did not have my phone/email info. I left my account totally off for about two weeks’ time. It was in that two weeks that I spent a lot of time with God, figuring out what He wanted me to do with my time.
I rested. I prayed. I recalibrated. I spent time with Godly friends. I read an amazing book that has helped me immensely. I started writing that novel that I’ve been tossing around in my mind for half a decade. I prayed some more.
During my two weeks of detox, I came to some life-changing conclusions.
I was trying to make connections with people, so I was pouring myself into a thousand other people’s cups at once. Each person was only getting a few drops. Instead, I needed to select a few cups and really fill them up. My life was full of empty relationships because I didn’t have time to really invest in so many people. 50 years ago, you wouldn’t know details about a person’s life unless you heard it directly from them. Hearing about a friend’s vacation, how their garden is growing, or the struggles of parenting their tween are the sort of things that you would only share across a kitchen table (or perhaps through a personal letter). Today, all of that is basically public knowledge. I felt close to people because of the way that social media gives you a peek into people’s lives on a personal level. But the truth is that I didn’t really know them very well. I just knew what they were doing, not who they were.
One thing that I really missed out on during my two-week detox, however, was the Facebook Groups feature. I was in about 70 groups, ranging from homeschool support groups to health groups to local yard sale groups, and dozens more. But I had a few very important, core groups that I really felt I needed to be a part of: our local homeschool co-op, where we plan each week’s meeting and curriculum; my prayer circle, a group of close friends where I can really be open; my Bible study group, another group of great Christian women who meet every Thursday, and a few others.
So I started focusing my prayers on how to get that feature without all the other stuff. God and I came up with this solution: I reactivated my Facebook account, and started deleting. I removed every friend, every page I ‘like’, and every group with the exception of the 6 that I thought were vital. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and downloaded the Facebook Groups app instead. I never check newsfeed, and I try to be mindful about checking the groups too often. I don’t want to slip back into the habit of checking because I’m lonely, instead of checking because I really need the information.
In the (almost) month since quitting Facebook, I can tell a huge difference in the way I’m looking at the world. I am less stressed. I have more free time. My phone battery lasts almost 3 days now! I have more attention to give my family. I can rest in the knowledge that I have a few deep friendships instead of 600 surface-level acquaintances. The few friends who have chosen to stay in touch have done so via messenger (or text), because they truly care and value our friendship.
It was only a month ago, but I look back at that woman who was crying in the doctor’s office and it feels like I’m a million miles away. One simple change (in mindset and behavior) has completely shifted my trajectory. An estimated 55 million Americans are on anti-depressants. I know many of those have real mental health issues to overcome and genuinely need medication, but how many are simply lost, looking for real-life connection in a world that only connects digitally?
For many, this might be the answer. It was for me.