What I Gained From Going Facebook Free

At the end of July (and the beginning of my digital sabbatical), I took a family vacation to Mexico. I decided that this should be a time of rest and refreshment, not obsessively checking social media. I wanted to focus on the sights and sounds around me, rather than checking in on people halfway around the world. This was my time for me.

  • Because I unplugged from the virtual, I was free to experience the actual. Stepping away from facebook has helped me to spend time taking in my surroundings and experiences. I have more time to experience life  when I m not cyberstalking my friends. My mind is more engaged in what I am doing when I don’t have the details of other people’s lives occupying my attention. Rather than  reading about other peoples’ lives, I had the time and focus to live my own life.
  • Living facebook free has helped my mood. I’ve heard news about “facebook depression”, a depression caused by reading about how great everyone else’s life is. It is most common among teens. However, I am not a teen and I have experienced this to some degree. By not interacting with facebook as much, I am not able to compare myself to others in that way. When I’m not comparing, my life does not look so bad.
  • Less facebook, less anxiety. Believe it or not, I feel obligated to read every status update. If I only check facebook three times a day, then I go back and read every status since I last checked. This is a huge undertaking (and a huge waste of time). Not having to worry about “keeping up” was liberating. I learned that life does go on even when you miss status updates.

Does this mean that I will never use facebook again? Not at all. I have contact with people that I love and enjoy reading their comments. However, I will be much more mindful about how much time I spend on facebook. I will be careful to live my own life, and spend less time comparing it to the lives of others. I will make sure that my presence offline is richer than my presence online. I will focus on living life, not just reading about it.

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The Minimalist Vacation – Insights from Playa del Carmen

At the end of July, I spent a week in Playa del Carmen with my family. This vacation was truly minimalist. During this time, there was no facebooking and no tweeting. There was minimal internet usage. There was a ton of time for myself and my family.

Our typical day consisted of a light breakfast followed by a dip in the pool. Then we had a nice lunch and some time in the pool or on the beach. After the afternoon swim, we would prepare dinner and wither relax or swim until bedtime. Our schedule wasn’t crammed with excursions to this place or that one. There was time to write and to just sit and watch the waves crash on the beach.

There was also minimal shopping. Partially due to my minimal budget, but partially because I did not want to spend my vacation in stores. I wanted to spend it on the beach.

By going facebook free and refusing to fill my vacation with endless excursions, I had time to live in the moment. I will remember those lunches on the beachfront patio forever. Those memories mean more to me than the few souvenirs that I purchased. The experiences made the vacation, not the shopping. I had lunch on our beachfront patio. I took boat ride. I swam in the ocean. I got lost in my book right there on the beach. I took a long walk with a 7 year old. I wrote in my journal every night. These are the things that I accomplished on this trip. And these things are enough.

Hypocrisy?

Sometimes, life throws you a curve ball.

I have made a difficult decision in recent days. Because of my financial situation, I have chosen to return to the business of jewelry sales.

Wait. WHAT??

Yes, I will be selling jewelry.

Given my commitment to simple living, how can I (in good conscience) sell jewelry? How can I pursue minimalism while selling stuff?

Part of me does feel bad about selling people stuff. But the stuff itself is not evil. It’s the overconsumption of stuff that is problematic.

At the same time, I feel good about what I am doing. I will be an independent consultant for a Christian company. Their emphasis is on service. They support missionaries. I’ve worked with this company before. Their Christianity isn’t just on the surface. These people are real.

So while my business is about stuff, my life will not be. Minimalism will still be my personal way of life. I will continue to pursue simplicity as an individual. This may even help my business. Instead of shopping all the time, I can organize, make phone calls, etc.

Yes, part of me feels guilty for selling stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s just business.

On Not Working For Things

I grew up defining life in terms of things. I was to get my education so that I could get a good job. I had to get a good job so that I could have a nice house, a nice car, and lots of nice things.

I am not opposed to work. (In fact, I’m looking for work!) I am not even opposed to having “a good job.”  I am opposed to the idea of working for things. I believe in having a job that you enjoy, one that is fulfilling. This is how I wish to approach my career: I want to find a job that is good for me. I want to find a job that I find enjoyable and fulfilling. I want to do work that makes a difference. Ideally, I want to work for social justice.

Working for things will never be enough. Because when it comes to things, there are never enough. There is always the desire for more stuff. Stuff begets stuff begets stuff. The only way for there to be enough stuff is for you to decide that enough is enough.

I do not want to define my life by what I have. Instead, I want to define my life by who I have become. Instead of having a huge house, be a person who has a full and meaningful life. I want to travel and learn and experience life. I want to be be kind and help others.

There is so much more to life than stuff. At this point, I am excited about all the people I am going to meet, all the places I will go, and all the things that I will experience. I am really looking forward to the lives that I will touch. I am looking forward to the fulfillment that comes from living the life of your dreams. These are the things that I would be willing to spend the next several years of my life working for. I’m just thankful that I didn’t spend a lifetime working for stuff, only to realize that it’s not enough, and never will be.

Less Stuff, More Focus

I am at a point in my life where I need to focus. Rather than accumulating more things, it’s time that I work toward building a life that I enjoy. This will require dedication and focus.

As usual, stuff is threatening to steal my focus. Just this weekend, I was incredibly tempted to purchase a pair of shoes just because they were on clearance. It’s the never-ending lust for more, more, more. This is the reason that I embraced minimalism anyway — to escape the consumerism that held me captive for so long.

So now it’s time to get my focus straight. My focus is not on accumulating more things (even if they are on clearance). Instead, I will turn my focus to the life that I want to live. That begins with some serious soul-searching, because I do not know what my ideal life looks like. I don’t even know what my purpose in life is. This is where my focus should be, rather than buying yet another pair of shoes.

At this point in my life, I am like a bouncing ball — all over the place. I have some background in Biology, so I am looking for lab jobs. I have some administrative and clerical experience, so I look for administrative jobs. I have a passion for social justice, so I look for jobs at nonprofits. I am looking everywhere, with no real idea of what I want. This has to change.

According to Good to Great, by Jim Collins, I have to focus on doing the thing I do best in the world in order to have great success. I don’t even know what that is! But I do know that rather than bouncing all over the place, I need laser-like precision about what my strengths and priorities are. This will never happen if I am so busy shopping online and in the mall every day. I can’t focus on finding my passion if I am constantly having to maintain and organize an ever-growing mountain of stuff.

And why should stuff occupy such a huge amount of my time and energy? Stuff is not helping me determine my strengths and passions. Stuff is not helping me to be successful in life. Stuff does not make me successful, nor does it indicate that I am successful. Stuff just takes up space.

As I contemplate the type of life I would like to live, I have been consulting some great websites and I would like to share some of them with you:

The Simpler Life

Reading for Your Success

The Art of Non-conformity

Advanced Riskology

Suzannah Scully’s blog

Similarly, If you know of any websites that may be helpful, please leave the link and your thoughts in the comments section.