In which I renew my commitment to the full experiment…

I realize the focus of my writing has widened beyond just the 99 day Facebook experiment. It now includes the journey of healing I’m beginning with my anxiety and depression. More on that in a minute.

I am two-thirds of the way through the experiment. If you were to look at my profile page on FB, the only posts that I have made were the two that I shared with close friends back when I went to the ER for my heart. All of the other activity is from me being tagged in photos or status updates by other users. To an outsider, it would appear as if I haven’t logged on in weeks… in reality, I have been silently reading the activity of my closest friends for every day of the past few weeks. In my mind, I have justified it because I have not been posting anything for myself, but if I am honest I realize that I have been cheating on the experiment. Facebook has continued to be a time-waster for me. It is interesting, though – I no longer think in status updates. At the beginning of the 99 days, I would have a thought cross my mind and immediately be tempted to type it out for my friends to see, but that urge has completely faded. In contrast, I’ve seen a couple of people’s activity over the past week or so that have caused me to think, “Wow, that person must be really lonely or have nothing to do, because she has posted 4-5 times per day every day this week.” Then I realize, that was me just a few short weeks ago. What in the world?? Why was I so desperate to be noticed? And now, as I fall back into my old habits of reading the site daily – what am I so worried that I’ll miss? I have read absolutely nothing that I couldn’t have learned from other sources. So today, I once again commit myself to staying away from the site.  I will reclaim the bits of time that I have spent peering into the carefully crafted windows of others’ lives.

I have been taking a daily anti-depressant for three weeks. I do feel that my mood is lightening. I don’t feel quite as sad, lonely, and hopeless as I have in times past. My medication dosage may need to be tweaked here and there, but I feel like we are on the right path.

Within the next week or so, I will be seeing my electrophysiologist to discuss the results of the thirty day event recorder that I wore to detect any lingering heart abnormalities. It will be interesting to see if it caught anything of note. Personally, I’m almost more excited to eat at the Caribbean restaurant near the doctor’s office than to find out my results. Maybe that is because this cardiac journey has been a very slow one and I’m used to living in uncertainty… but those arepas, plantains, and black beans sound so good!

Trading in my telescope for a magnifying glass…

Time for an update:

I am taking my health quite seriously. A small, credit card-sized heart monitor has joined my daily fashion for a month, and any irregularities are transmitted via land line phone to my heart specialist. The guess is that I may need another surgery for arrhythmia, but we will know much more when/if the monitor catches anything. I have been feeling OK physically and my other cardiologist says he is optimistic. I’ve just begun walking in the mornings after my oldest gets on the school bus. My hope is that the exercise will strengthen my weakened heart muscle as well as boost my mood. Speaking of…

I have an appointment with my general practice doctor tomorrow. The meeting is specifically to discuss my depression and anxiety and attempt to form a plan for recovery. I have been wary of adding medications to my routine, as I jumped from two pills per day last year to now nine (all additions as a result of the discovery of my heart issues). But I have been learning that it is normal for heart patients to experience depression, and that it makes even more sense that I would struggle with it since I was prone to mood disorders before my problems arose last October.

As for the Facebook experiment, well, I am failing. Sorta. The parameters that I set for myself initially allowed contact with friends via Facebook Messenger, but I have found myself also reading my News Feed in the past few days. What jumped out at me was, “Wow, there is a LOT of crap here that I don’t care about or want to know at all.” Since I was already on the site, I edited my Friends List by unfollowing most people. The majority I chose to follow were friends that have made the effort to contact me over the past few weeks, friends that I would consider close, and friends whose posts inspire me or always make me laugh. In other words, I am choosing to invite positive, meaningful relationships into my daily life (when I officially return to FB, of course). I did not unfriend anyone. They will still be able to see my posts if or when I return to posting my own content, and I can look them up specifically if I want to get caught up with their lives. I also weeded out about half of the businesses that I had liked.

I have also decided to take a break from job hunting. The search has been fruitless for months, and I think it is a major contributor to my growing depression. Instead, I have been taking that energy and pouring it into the development of a realistic family budget, the drastic pruning of our expenses, and the discovery of new ways for us to save on necessary purchases. We withdrew a chunk of money from retirement and paid off a large amount of credit card debt. The rest has been transferred to cards with zero interest. In our efforts to save monthly, I was ready to cancel our Hulu Plus subscription… until someone told me about how to earn a free month of the subscription with Bing Rewards. I rid us of that expense, which makes our cord cutting feel like it is even more freeing. I found the app, Price Cruncher, which allows for grocery price comparison. One (long!) Saturday of shopping at seven different grocery stores was eye-opening, and shopping the weekly ads has become a new habit. I’ve also been baking more bread, hanging our laundry out to dry, and making homemade versions of peanut butter, Nutella, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and shampoo. Our chickens should be ready to start laying eggs within a month or two, and that should give us a source of small income. Of course, we will also have an abundance of eggs for ourselves, so I have been collecting egg recipes to use for our hen berry harvest.

All of this shows me how important it was for me to walk away from social media for a while, at the precise time at which I did. My focus was waaaay too broad for my own good. I was spending excessive amounts of time trying to take in as many details of the online world as possible, while living in denial and ignoring my own needs. But in the last several weeks, I’ve walked away from the telescope and picked up a magnifying glass. I have chosen to focus on the small little corner of the real world in which I live. That world is messy and broken and ugly and breathtakingly beautiful. So now, I hug my loved ones and get my work gloves on, because there is some hard work to be done.

Life’s Most Valuable Resource, wasted. This is sobering.

My Facebook Fast was briefly interrupted last weekend as I had an ER visit and was kept for observation. That event is for another post on another day, but I did reach out to about 20 close friends on Facebook at that time. I’m now back on the bandwagon and not missing it a bit.

However, facing a serious health crisis while lying in an ICU bed tends to make one think of mortality and how one’s life is spent. Am I living life well? What would my young children remember of me if I were suddenly gone? Would they remember me hugging on them, cooking with them, doing adventurous things with them? Or, would they remember seeing my face buried in a laptop or phone, attempting to communicate with faceless “friends” in unknown places?

Most people say that Time is life’s most precious resource. It is given to all of us, but we never know how much we have. And when it is gone, it is gone. You can’t get it back. I have been squandering my time away like I have endless stores of it, but my recent health issues have reminded me that my account does have a limit.

Back in January, Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary. TIME.com posted an article at that time on their Tech page, entitled “How Much Time Have You Wasted On Facebook?” After linking your Facebook profile to their site and estimating how many minutes per day you typically spend on Facebook, a counter begins. You can sit and watch the minutes, hours, and days accumulate as the app scans the timestamps on your Facebook posts and activity. It also shows a counter for how many things you have posted on Facebook since joining the social media site.

I am embarrassed to share mine. What a terrible waste.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 11.03.20

This simply has to change.

I don’t know how many days I have with my husband. With my children. I have faced some serious health issues in the past ten months, and this app now tells me that I have given almost that much time to my computer.

If I am drawn to Facebook primarily out of a need for relationships, then this same need is the exact reason why I should walk away from the site, possibly forever.

In the past couple weeks, I have figured out ways to seek out connection with the important people in my life. I don’t need Facebook to do it for me. When I see the people that matter to me, we actually have real conversations because we have not shared every sordid detail of our lives with each other online. The hardest part has been reminding those still active on the site that I haven’t read their timeline and they have to remember to tell me about things they’ve shared. But all in all, these are very doable adjustments.

I’m so flustered by the Wasted Time Clock pictured above that I can’t even figure out how to end this blog post. Please, be gentle with any judgement you may be tempted to dole out because of my poor time management. Instead, may I suggest that all of us examine ways that we are not present with the loved ones that surround us, and that we try today to eliminate a distraction or two so we can see them and love them, right here, right now.

Because time is ticking away.

If a tear falls without being mentioned on Facebook, does it still count?

Today was supposed to be a Girls Day Out.

My two daughters and I had a lazy morning at home, eating breakfast and watching cartoons in our PJs. We had tickle fights, played, and sang songs together. I leisurely got myself ready for the day as the older one brushed her hair and got dressed. The most stressful moment of the morning was convincing the two-year-old that the white butterfly clip I wanted to put in her hair would not hurt her head. Finally, with hair fixed and shoes on (which is quite a task), we were ready to head out to the car.

All I needed to do was find my keys.

I’m not sure how much time passed before I realized they were not here. My guess is that they are in the other car, the one that my husband drove today that is now parked 15 miles away. He is on a Daddy-Son outing and won’t return until tonight.

No more Girls Day Out.

This really shouldn’t be a big deal. At least, not as big as it felt to me. I’ve always dealt poorly with forced spontaneity. When plans change quickly, I feel unsettled and disjointed. And because I’ve walked away from Facebook, I have been feeling more isolated and disconnected from the outside world, so I was really looking forward to being out with real people and socializing. Not to mention the fact that these special days are something we have taught our kids to highly value. I had talked up our Day Out with our seven-year-old, and now, I had to cancel.

As all of these thoughts came rushing into my mind, I cried. As much as I knew this would soon pass, that the girls would base their reaction on my lead, and that the day could easily be salvaged, I needed a moment to grieve the plans that would never happen. So, I whispered a couple swear words and tears fell.

But, here is where I was surprised: I immediately felt like I needed to share the negative experience on Facebook, and I was frustrated that I could not do so because of my commitment to stay away from the site for 99 days.

I wonder why??

Do I need permission to feel sad?
Someone to give me a new perspective on the situation?
Virtual pats on the shoulder to tell me everything will be okay?

This realization threw me. Am I scared to feel emotion alone?

The girls and I are resetting the day. The relatives we were traveling to see are on their way here. We may spend time making something special in the kitchen today, and I think my grade-schooler and I will play a much-loved board game during the toddler’s nap.

I may take a couple pictures, but with the intent of preserving the memories of the day, not sharing them instantly with friends online.

Goodbye, Friends.

That is what it felt like to sign off of Facebook.

I felt like I was saying goodbye to my friends. Like I was cutting myself off from them. By logging off, I was knowingly choosing to be out of the loop, to no longer be involved in their lives.

This, of course, is ridiculous. Most days, I’d scroll through the endless News Feed to read how someone had a hard morning with their kids, or was excited to try a new restaurant, or had read a silly fake news article. Not exactly the kind of sharing that makes me feel like a close, trusted friend.

But the fear of Missing Out was so great that I would continually check that endless stream of status updates and links. On the computer. On the phone. During the kids’ nap time. While in the drive thru. In the kitchen while cooking dinner. Just before going to sleep. As soon as I awoke. At family gatherings. At stop lights.

No. Not okay.


Two days ago, I read an article titled, “Could you give up Facebook for 99 days?” The article introduced the “99 Days of Freedom” experiment, and I was intrigued. Basically, it is a challenge for Facebook users to sign off of the website for 99 days. The press release says the experiment is designed to determine how life without Facebook impacts user happiness.

Whatever the outcome, I knew it was time for me to log off. Following the instructions of the “99 Days” folks, I changed my Facebook profile photo to their image. They also ask that you provide a link to your own personalized countdown clock. But before posting the clock, I wrote this personal message to my friends:

Friends, it is time that Facebook and I took some time away from each other.

I love Facebook. I really do. When you’ve lived in as many places as I have, and made close friends with people that live all over the world, a platform like this is an awesome way to keep in touch. I can share photos and videos of my silly life with you. I can share my random thoughts with anyone that might be interested. I can link to stories or articles that resonate with me, in the hopes that it can speak to you, too. And I have a window into your life, where I can see whatever you choose to share with me.

It can also make it easier for me to sit on the sidelines of my life. My default coping mechanism is to duck and cover, doing the mental equivalent of pulling the covers over my head when I fear a monster is in the room. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and pretty significant insecurities for a very long time. Editing one’s online persona is pretty easy to do on a site like this, but those of you that know me well and love me anyway won’t be surprised at all by me sharing this. I struggle with investing in face-to-face relationships when I’m in the dark hole, and for that reason and others, I am walking away for a while. I have pondered this quite a lot recently, and when I heard of the “99 Days of Freedom Experiment,” I knew it was right up my alley.

I’m not going to lie, I have tried this before and failed. It is hard for someone that feels desperately lonely to disassociate from the place where she feels the most connected to dear friends that live at a distance. I’m posting this long-winded message partly for the accountability, because I should be offline until mid-October if things go as planned. But, I’d also appreciate the chance to communicate with you in other ways until then.

I will still be available through Facebook Messenger and Chat, and I will continue to manage a page that I have been helping with as a volunteer. My contact info is available in the “About” section of my Timeline. And, while I’m really, really hoping this isn’t the case, if any emergencies or traumatic events happen in my family, I’ll be back immediately. I’ve learned from previous situations that I rely on this support system more than you could imagine.

That was yesterday. Sadly, I’ve missed Facebook. A lot. I’ve had a random thought enter my mind and thought, “Damn, that would have made a good status update.” I cheated three times yesterday and looked to see if anyone had made any encouraging comments on my note. (Answer: a couple of people had written, but I was disappointed there weren’t more comments.)

I also received a few personal messages from friends that could relate to the emotional struggles I laid bare. I connected more with those friends in those private notes than I had in months of observing their lives on the site. And I found myself being far less distracted with my children through the day. I took the time to complete tasks that are usually glossed over because I’ve wasted time online. While snuggling with the youngest two kids and singing songs with them at bedtime, I realized how disconnecting from the online world had enabled me to connect with the priceless world around me.

I have no idea what the next three months will bring (THREE MONTHS??!?), but I’m willing to give it a go.