In all the years I was drinking myself to hell, I never once received an ‘intervention’ about my issues. I’m not sure I would have taken one very well if I had, but it never came up anyway.
Last night, I had an intervention of a different kind! It feels rather scary to share it here, but I need to.
I had loudly announced my imminent departure from Facebook. This had been a decision I had been thinking about making for a while, as I had started to become frustrated with my relationship with Facebook and how much it was affecting my productivity, and other areas of my life. I was using it not as a tool for communication and connection, but for procrastination and escape.
My relationship with social media, and with computers and technology in general, has always had an element of procrastination and escape to it. Solitaire, the card game that used to be a standard feature on Microsoft computers was my escape from university assignments (along with cider and weed – I often wonder if I could have got a first had I been a bit more focused and clear headed!). The arrival of myspace into my life the year after my brother died provided me with the perfect distraction from having to deal with my emotions, and introduced me to the first of my online rock fan friends. One particular connection I made through myspace transformed my life in ways I had never thought possible, and healed a lot of very painful wounds deep inside me. It stopped being a distraction, and became something profoundly important in my life.
A little while later, I discovered rekordsrekords, the Queens of the Stone Age fan forum. This came at a time when I desperately needed to break out of a big, agonising emotional rut I was in, and my life was transformed. I had a raft of new friends, a world of craziness to dive into whenever I needed to be entertained or distracted. I had new friends to actually go to gigs and festivals with, discovered so much great new music, and made some lifelong connections (10 years and counting at least). I often wonder how I managed to retain my job when I first entered this world, as I would often get to the end of the day not entirely sure I had done any actual work, having been very active on the forum, or writing long and highly entertaining emails to friends I had made through there, a lot through the day!
So the world of social media has, to a very large extent, been both about distraction and connection for me…often at the same time.
Back then, I needed distracting a lot because I was very unhappy a lot of the time. I couldn’t deal with being in my own company, so I used social media.
Now though, I don’t really want to be distracted. I want to get things done. I want to create meaningful connections with people. I want to share a message, and reach people who I can maybe help.
I was starting to fear that my relationship with Facebook was mimicking my former relationship with alcohol….that I was horribly addicted. Robin Sharma, who I have been listening to a LOT lately, talks about the ‘addiction to distraction’ that is so prevalent in our culture, and it is something I can really identify with. I was starting to fear that I was losing the battle with distraction.
This is not what I want for my life. I have big goals I want to achieve in my life. I want to create, to inspire, to experience the world, to live a life of meaning and joy. Being distracted by a million clickable links, silly quizzes and notifications doesn’t get stuff done, will not help me achieve any of my goals, won’t bring me meaning and joy. Staying focused and creative, living in the moment, and experiencing the world that is happening where I am will.
I decided I needed to escape from the escape.
Inspired by a post by Mark Goodson, his first on Medium, in which he described Facebook as an octopus with “tentacles (which) reach in many directions and they all share one predatory instinct: to strangle“, I decided that I needed to escape from the grip of this particular octopus.
I reasoned that the only way to do this effectively was to remove all traces of myself from FB for at least a month. The last time I did this, I wrote a book and thoroughly enjoyed my Facebook free time. I got Marcus involved in my decision to leave, which resulted in it being a 2 month commitment, and announced my intention to remove my personal profile, my group and my business page. After all, how would I maintain a FB free life if I was logging in every day to post in my group and on my page? It seemed to be the only way.
The fact that most of the people who come to this website do so through my sharing on Facebook was not allowed to permeate through the decision. I had made a decision and I was going to stick to it!
So with no real plan as to how this was going to work, or how I was going to communicate with people beyond writing more on here, I announced I would be leaving on Friday.
Some people seemed to be inspired by this, some tried to persuade me to stay. A couple of people pointed out that this might be a bad idea for my business. I had a message from my brother telling me that he was going to be calling me last night about my decision. I knew what he was going to say, and started saying it all to myself throughout the day. Doubts started to grow as I waited for my ‘intervention’, although I told myself I was going to stick to my plan.
When the call came, it was even more impassioned than I had expected it to be. My brother is someone I frequently turn to for advice on lots of things in my life, including business. I totally respect his ideas and know that any opinion he ever shares has been well considered, and comes from a place of total, unconditional love for me.
It became quite apparent that he thought my decision to leave was a terrible idea, and that he was not going to get off the phone until he had got me to see that as well.
I love my brother!
We talked at length about the issue. We talked about my fear of addiction, and that recognising that I might be slipping into addictive behaviour shows self awareness, and is an invitation to change my behaviour. He showed me that if I leave Facebook, I am actually letting down people who might value what I share. I know that there are people out there who do just that, although sometimes my self doubts stop me believing this. We talked about how I can use the tools that I already know about, already have at my disposal, both inside me and in the form of apps and browser extensions, to exercise my self restraint muscles and regain control.
The intervention from my brother didn’t get the result that I had hoped for, but it got the result I need. I will not be deactivating my account, unpublishing my page, or archiving my group. Instead, I will be using a range of tools to develop the self control that I know I have, I have just not been applying to my FB use. I have removed myself from some groups I was in, unfollowed some pages that were offering me far too many tempting distractions, and set up browser extensions to restrict my usage, forcing me to be more strategic and efficient in my time on Facebook and other procrastination friendly sites.
I have had a real awakening this week into myself, and I am very grateful for it. I have realised that I definitely want more from my life than a really detailed Facebook profile. I know that I really enjoy time when I don’t access Facebook, but when I have it in my pocket I cannot stay away, so I need to remove it from the phone I carry with me. I have learned that while I can massively overthink some ideas to the point of killing them, I can also sometimes be far too impulsive, and I need to get better at creating balance between the two. I have learned that while the solution to some addictions is complete avoidance, some are better treated through behaviour modification. I have learned that my brother is one of my greatest allies in my life (although I did already know that, but I am even more certain now!), and I maybe need to turn to him for advice more, or at least consider what his advice would be.
What have you learned about yourself this week?