The Yin and Yang of Facebook

Last night, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I began to get a feeling of “down-ness.” That’s when I knew it was time to put down my phone and go do something else. Usually, when I scroll down the pages of kids and dogs and people doing fun stuff, I smile. I enjoy all the cool stuff people are doing, the funny things their kids say, and the wonderful array of accomplishments people are rightfully proud of.

Sometimes though, I start to feel bad, depressed, down on myself. The negative thoughts creep in: We haven’t been on vacation in a long time. I don’t have friends to go do that sort of thing with. My kids aren’t in that many activities. I’m not working out enough….

Never mind that none of these things are true. It isn’t logic-based, it’s purely emotional. Logically, I know I do lots of cool stuff, too. I know everyone’s lives are complex and different, and just because it seems like everyone on my feed is running a marathon, doesn’t mean I should, too. I know everyone has hard times, even if all they post on Facebook are the glories.

I used to keep scrolling and commenting when I felt bad, trying to logic my way out of the feeling, continuing to post positive comments, thinking that would turn my head around. It doesn’t. The only cure for what a Buddhist would call “comparing mind” in this instance is to get away from it. Put the phone down and go do something else – play with the kids, read a book, go outside – something to remind me that my life is mine and not what I or anyone else portray to the world.

I do it, too. Most of what I post on Facebook is the cool stuff – the kinds of things we used to photograph and put in a paper album. I post the soccer games, the first day and last day of school, my family’s accomplishments, and our vacations. That’s the stuff I want to look back and remember, after all. When I feel like crap, like I don’t know where my career is headed, like I’m unsure how to parent my kids, like I need to get reconnected with my husband but don’t know how….I don’t post that stuff. Why?

Part of it is protective – putting the vulnerable moments out there on the internet leaves me exposed and, well, vulnerable. Part of it is, when I am having a hard time, the last thing I feel like using my energy for is crafting a Facebook post. And part of it is, maybe I don’t want to remember that stuff. Maybe typing it and releasing it into the abyss of the internet makes it more real, forces me to admit its existence, and prevents me from ignoring it.

Something I’ve learned recently, through my readings on Buddhism is this: if you ignore the hard things, if you push them away, they only get stronger and bigger. If you want them to get better, you have to face them head on, examine what they really are, and compassionately absorb them.

Facing something hard, like my periodic insecurity about certain aspects of parenting, doesn’t mean I have to throw it all up on Facebook every day. There are other, more personal ways of doing that. But the point, the thing that motivated me to sit here and write this today, is I know I am not the only one who sometimes can’t handle her Facebook feed. And it has nothing to do with the people on my feed. It has everything to do with me and my mood. If you, like me, sometimes find yourself feeling bad while scrolling but you continue to scroll out of habit, just step away for a while. You don’t have to cancel your account or ban social media from your life for a month. Just step away for now, because what you see online isn’t real life, and it will never be real life anymore than a paper photo album ever was, no matter how technology progresses. That bad feeling is telling you it’s time to get a little perspective.

Being Impulsive

I’ve decided recently I need to be more impulsive. It’s the exact opposite of what parents spend their lives trying to teach their children. When I was eight years old, I stuck a pair of tweezers in a light socket…impulsively, since at eight, I was really “old enough to know better.” When my mom asked, “What were you thinking?” I did my characteristic shrug and “uh uh,” (which is eight year old for “I don’t know.”) But I actually had a better answer than that – the same one I thought every time one of my parents asked exasperatedly, “What were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t.”
It was the honest truth. I wasn’t thinking at all. If I’d been thinking, I wouldn’t have stuck the tweezers in the socket, but all that went through my brain was, “they fit so nice.” I circumvented the higher functions of my brain and stuck ’em in.
Okay, so as a kid, learning to be not so impulsive has a survival advantage. Let’s fast forward a few decades. In my thirties, with young children, I took impulse control to new heights.
Want to go back to sleep? Nope.
Want to sit down and rest? Not a chance.
Want to eat a whole meal without being interrupted or sharing it? Never gonna happen.  
As a parent, I found doing what I wanted when I wanted to do it impossible, so much so that I forgot how. Recently, I realized I never do what I want to do, unless there is a good practical reason. But what if there is just not a reason NOT to do it?
Take a bath in the middle of the day? Sure!
Lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling for thirty minutes? Why not?
Stay up past my bedtime to write a post on being impulsive because I was inspired by the Jenny Lawson book I was reading? Great idea!
Jenny does impulsive things like dead raccoon rodeos at two AM, but I have my own slightly more subdued version of impulsive acts.
It’s just that, as adults, we don’t do those things. We don’t do cartwheels in the sand just because we have the sudden urge. We don’t walk barefoot through the wet St. Augustine, because shoes are overrated. We don’t just sit and stare and let our thoughts meander where they will. Try it. Sit in a chair in your living room and just space out for a while. See how long it takes someone in your household to ask you what’s wrong. Just sitting and spacing out is something I used to do as a kid (especially in high school chemistry class) a lot, and I’m rediscovering it. It’s pretty cool.
So there you have it: my argument for impulsive behavior – it doesn’t have to be a good idea, it just has to be not a really bad idea. Because “not bad” can sometimes make you really happy.