Contemplative Photography & Reflections

A Facebook Experiment in Self-Compassion

Last month, I reached my limit. My stress level was high. I felt upset, confused, frustrated, and disappointed and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t selling more calendars. I had made a substantial investment to have my 2018 calendars printed and wondered why people in my Facebook network hadn’t bought more. Other people seemed to be more successful selling via social media during the holiday season. What was I doing wrong?*

I had learned about the “trigger” words to avoid so Facebook won’t squash the reach of a post. The workaround was to pay for an ad, so I took the time to create nice ads only to receive messages about them “not delivering”. Grrrr! Then I learned about the bidding system that prioritizes which ads would be seen. It’s complicated, but the bottom line was that people weren’t seeing my posts or ads. I seriously began to suspect I was chosen without consent to be a subject in a secret Facebook study. By New Year’s Day, I’d had a number of mini-meltdowns and was (and still am) nearly $200 away from breaking even on my investment, which was terribly disappointing.

I was fed up with Facebook.

On the other hand, I was so grateful to everyone who did buy a calendar(s) or share my posts. Every time I received a sale, I literally jumped up and down, clapped my hands, and exclaimed, “Thank you!” It meant so much to me.

But I also began to feel jealous of people who were getting more sales and “likes” than I was – or likes from certain people – and couldn’t understand why, after posting free, uplifting content every day, more people didn’t support their local artist friend by buying a calendar. I’m not proud of those feelings, but I’m being honest.

I reminded myself of the real reason why I post daily to social media. It wasn’t to get likes. It was because photography, writing, and sharing the inspiration that comes to me through them is my spiritual practice. It’s something I can’t not do. It’s who I am and how I express myself. I’d keep doing it if nobody “liked” my posts – which, due to Facebook’s frustrating algorithms – sometimes happens! Reminding myself of this made the jealousy and comparisons seem so superficial and yucky. It was humbling. How could I let my spiritual practice – my true purpose – get hijacked by ego?  

I didn’t want to feel that way or be that kind of person. If my interaction with Facebook took me out of alignment with who I want to be – if I had so much trouble maintaining what Buddhists call “right relationship” to it – the answer was clear: Take a break. A Facebook fast. It would be my “new moon project” for 28 days. Posting to my “business” page was allowed, but no personal posts. Just jump on, post on the River Bliss page, and jump right back off without looking at anything else. Including my daughter’s pictures of my granddaughter.

In the nine years I’d been on Facebook, I’d never taken a break and even wondered if it would be possible, especially around the holidays when there’s so much to share! But it ended up being astonishingly easy! Now that the lunar cycle is over, and we’re almost halfway through the next one, I’m in no hurry to jump back in and so far have only stuck a toe back in the water.

It feels good to get unhooked. Amazing, actually.

There were some things I truly missed during my fast. I missed knowing what’s going on in my friends’ lives and being able to offer a word of encouragement to those who could use it or simply to acknowledge that they are seen, heard, and accepted. I missed the enriching and inspiring content certain friends share regularly and the opportunity to radiate love and acceptance to more people than I otherwise would interact with daily.

I think those are positive reasons to engage with social media. But do I need 562 “friends”? I think not. So before I return to Facebook, I intend to clear the clutter from my friend list and only keep those with whom I have or have had a real connection and/or those who inspire and uplift me. Common interests, resonant energy – things like that.

Being on a Facebook fast allowed me to gain perspective on what I like and dislike about the platform and why I engage in the first place. I couldn’t care less about the vanity posts that showcase the masks of idealized self-images we put on to impress others and to feel better about ourselves or to get “likes”. Political posts are a another issue. You can scroll through without much effort, but I have no desire to come across intolerant or hateful posts – which actually doesn’t happen much in my newsfeed. Mostly, I’m interested in authenticity and inspiration and the opportunity to be authentic and to inspire.

As with all relationships, I want my engagement with social media to feed and grow my soul, not my ego. Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem, “The Invitation” (of which a few lines are excerpted below – click on the link to read the full poem) sums up the kind of connections and sharing I seek on social media and in general:

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

Source: Oriah Mountain Dreamer. The Invitation. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. Print.

I don’t care about the parties you go to and who you know. I want to know what fuels and inspires you and what you have overcome to be who you are today, how you are the hero of your own life story. I want to know who you are on the inside…because the outside is only a shell, and that’s not the level on which I seek connection.

I want to understand your story and thereby better understand my own, as well as the greater story we are all part of. And I want to share my story with you so you might better understand yours through our similarities and contrasts. I want to feel inspired by the challenges you are able to overcome and connect through your suffering, which (at the most basic level) is also mine and only looks different on the surface. As the R.E.M. song goes, everybody hurts. But when we share our pain or connect with others who have experienced pain we are familiar with, it eases the suffering a bit. At least we don’t feel so alone.

I want my Facebook feed to be filled with authenticity, inspiration, radiance, resonance, and hope. As I declutter my friend list, that’s what I’m looking for. It doesn’t mean only keeping people who appear to be most “like me”. Some people I respect deeply don’t share my world view, and they help me to break down the illusion of “other” and practice equanimity, tolerance, and love.

As I mentioned above, so far I’ve only stuck a toe back into the Facebook stream. Quick peeks. In those glimpses, one friend wrote about some incredible, synchronistic events she’s experienced that suggest her daughter, who passed away over a year ago, continues to communicate with her. This same friend also has shared her pain over losing her daughter. I find her journey through grief inspiring and her accounts of after-death communication uplifting.

Another, new friend posted about learning of her brother’s death, which hit her hard. Last week, her family received the call they knew they’d receive someday but hoped they wouldn’t. Her brother had been estranged from the family for the past 25 years, and she shared her tears and questions about who he was with courageous vulnerability. The next day, she shared joyful revelations about what she had learned about her brother’s life from a stranger who was a close friend of his. These revelations flew in the face of everything she assumed about her brother’s life and is clearly part of her healing journey. I believe we are ultimately part of the same journey and the same story, and witnessing healing and transformation in others helps to heal and transform us.

And then there were pictures of my granddaughter playing with some toys she got for her birthday. Feel-good posts.

These are all reasons why I am going to slowly break my Facebook fast. But as I return, I’ll be conscious of staying in alignment with my true self (not my ego!) while engaging with social media. If I cannot do that and find myself getting hooked again, then I’ll need to either adjust my friend list, educate myself, work with my mind to adjust my attitude, or take another break.

I’m glad to have interrupted the trance I had fallen into by stepping back and turning off what was sabotaging my peace of mind. To say no to what doesn’t feel right. Sometimes you have to get a little distance or take a time-out to regain perspective and a healthier balance so you don’t lose yourself. To remember you have a choice. My Facebook fast was yet another method of decluttering – not physical things this time, but my time and my thoughts. Letting go of what doesn’t serve us, whether on a physical or energetic level, is truly empowering.

It feels so good that I didn’t stop there. Today I’m on my tenth day without chocolate because apparently I’m quite sensitive to that, too (in a different way). And again, it has been so much easier to give up than I ever imagined. But that’s another story for another time.

*This blog post is NOT an invitation for solicitation from anyone who charges for services related to social media marketing, website optimization, etc. I am taking care of all that with the help of trusted professionals. Solicitous messages will be reported as spam and deleted promptly, unread.


© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) is a contemplative photographer, writer, and educator who lives on the Hudson River. Her work combines her passion for photography and writing with her deep interest in the nature of mind and perception and her love of the natural world. 

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