Unwrapped Presence 

When you go out with friends or family, how often do you fidget with your phone? When you have to wait or sit physically still – such as at the doctor’s office, the DMV, waiting in line at the grocery store, awaiting a teller at the bank, etc. – do you take in your surroundings and wait patiently? Or do you search frantically for a distraction or force for speeding up the experience?I don’t normally aim to interrogate in these blog posts, but I’m hoping that anyone else reading this might learn some things about themselves by providing honest answers to these questions. I had to answer these questions honestly, too, and I didn’t like what I saw. When I was still on social media, it was often the first place I would go when the day started, and the last place I would touch base before ending the day. I would give half-interested “Uh-huhs” as people I loved, like my child, husband, parents, and/or friends would attempt to spend time with me over a meal, an outing, or even just a simple conversation. I found myself looking too far into the future and becoming concerned over situations that hadn’t developed and likely never would. I was constantly distracted, which for me is a lot like creating the busy bustle of noise and stimuli of Grand Central Station inside my brain. 

This was the equivalent of giving 40%-60% of myself to the people I claimed to care most for. 

The life reset I enacted in June of 2016 was kicked off as an effort to correct this. I didn’t want to be a drone wife and mom. I didn’t want to be the inconsiderate cell phone person. I didn’t want to miss out on the precious moments because I was too busy trying to create moments in a separate, alternate reality that existed on the internet or in my mind. 

This is called living in the present. It’s also often referred to as being intentional. 

Even since the life reset, I am not always 100% intentional, but perfection isn’t practical. However, I would say that I’ve increased my ability to be present, mindful, and intentional to the benefit of myself and those around me since I made the decision to try. 

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Since my son has joined us, I’ve been working hard to maintain this level of intention. My kids deserve all or most of me, as does my husband. I was chosen to live this life with them – to care for my two babies, to grow through challenges and obstacles with my husband, to set the best example I can, and to learn as I go. I am grateful I was the one God chose for this, even though I sometimes question whether or not I am right for it. I’ve had to unwrap my presence in order to be the best that I can for them. It’s simple, not easy, but I like this practice for its ability to make me feel as if I am living my life more fully for myself and the people around me. My sense of purpose and awareness grows through this practice. 

And so I challenge you – if you know you can pay more attention, give more of yourself, do a better job of listening, or simply dial down the phone/app addiction…I challenge you to take the steps to do that. Your steps may not look like mine (an entire exile on social media, and a general pullback from most social circles) but I encourage you to still take them. The people who love you will probably appreciate it. 

Free, at Last.

It’s been approximately 36 hours since I deactivated my personal Facebook profile. While this change might seem very simple and perhaps insignificant to some, it’s quite monumental for me. Granted, I’m still very fresh into this new Facebookless life I’ve chosen to live. The decision was a long time coming, and while I have a million reasons behind the choice, I’ll try to condense them into a neat, umbrella-like list:

  1. I was wasting too much time.

One of the first thoughts I’d have after waking up in the morning was about what to post as my first post for the day. I’d redirect my thoughts the majority of the time to focus on prayer and devotional, but all the while, my waking thoughts were on Facebook each day, which I found to be incredibly problematic. Things didn’t get better throughout the day, either, as I’d often be “searching” for my next Facebook post in any activity I was doing, regardless of how mundane. As I grew from a Facebook novice to an experienced user, I learned how to stop vocalizing every little thought and started to focus more on adding value through posts, but even those require a lot of forethought and planning and all of these things, no matter how great the intentions were behind them, ultimately were sucking up a lot of my time.

  1. My actions were being dictated by my presence in Facebookland.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was living my life in a way that catered toward what made for good Facebook content. This is a serious problem that I don’t believe I suffered from alone, but I can only speak on my own experience. The minute you start treating yourself, your hobbies, and your relationships like potential Facebook content…you should probably take a step back.

  1. I was tired of people looking at me.

Perhaps I sound like a Kardashian with this statement, but it’s true: I was tired of creating content for people to look at and scrutinize. It’s not that I can’t accept criticism. It’s not that I can’t disagree with folks in a healthy, mature way that upholds a level of mutual respect between us. It’s that there’s something different about the Facebook audience that is more bold, insulting, opinionated, and entitled than other mediums. When you write and publish a book, consumers and experts will critique it and you. This critique, though, often centers solely on the work you’ve created, your skill level, and your overall contribution to the art. Nobody is purposely trying to bash you for the sake of doing something to your soul. Not on Facebook. People are mean. I was censoring myself just to avoid being pounced on by bottom feeders when their opinions or actions shouldn’t matter or even be able to reach me if I don’t want them to.

  1. I’m turning more toward minimalist principles, and my Facebook consumption was not in line with these.

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I am currently on a quest to simplify my life by using minimalism as a tool for cutting excess. Facebook, to me, encourages excess: Excess picture taking, excess time scrolling profiles, excess time coming up with the perfect status, image, or video to post, excess time analyzing a cryptic message someone wrote to see if you should take offense to it or not, excess time explaining ourselves when we don’t owe anyone explanations for anything, and the list goes on. I was a member of Facebook from 2008 to 2016, and in that timespan I’ve seen Facebook content become the basis for multiple arguments in my family (shockingly enough, these arguments didn’t involve me directly) and among my friends (unshockingly, these arguments often did involve me). All in all, I don’t blame people, nor do I blame the creators and engineers who keep Facebook going. I blame the social engineering of our world that prevents us from growing into secure, emotionally intelligent people. Our society is built on the idea of keeping masses of people insecure, engaged in conflict, and perceiving the world as a place where people cannot get along. Facebook is just one of many vehicles through which this social programming reaches people.

Now, though I’m still fairly new at this off-Facebook lifestyle, I do want to make some observations about what I’ve noticed since making the change:

  1. I’m getting way more shit done.

I thought that my slowness to complete tasks at home was a reflection on my having aged, my having a child present at home, and the deterioration of my cognitive sharpness. Nope. While these things do undoubtedly take their toll and have on me in some way, they are not the underlying culprits behind why I haven’t gotten as much done in recent years – distraction is. Yesterday, I woke up and went berry picking with my husband and daughter in the morning, came home and had a quick bite to eat, chatted on the phone for 20 minutes with a friend, went out with Kennedy to a couple shops in search of art for our home, came back home and put Kennedy down for a nap, washed and folded five loads of laundry, cooked a meal of garlic and ginger chicken over rice from scratch, washed the dishes before and after I’d cooked, cleaned the master bathroom toilet, cleaned out my master bathroom drawers and under sink shelves, and cleaned out my nightstand drawers. I did all of this in one day. I also did all of this while passively watching a couple of stand up comedy specials on Netflix. Two weeks ago, if you’d handed me a list of those things and said, “Do this all in one day,” I would’ve had a conniption fit about how there aren’t enough hours in the day, all while scrolling my newsfeed or secretly itching to do so. I thought I’d go through withdrawal upon deactivating my profile, but I’m finding that now that it’s not there, I don’t really reach for it. I had a bit of an issue last night as I went to play some music and suddenly realized that my Spotify account is linked to my now defunct profile, but I’ve since gotten this straightened out and haven’t needed to refer back to Facebook for anything so far.

  1. My stress level has dropped significantly.

Celebrities say all the time that the worst part about being notable is that everyone starts attaching their expectations of you to your every action. If a person isn’t careful, they can end up in the work-life cycle of living for the approval of others rather than living for the fulfillment of self. I am not a celebrity or anything close, but my role as a health coach, educator, and longtime Facebook user made me feel I was in a position of holding up some imaginary standard for others to follow. I felt like I couldn’t allow myself permission to deviate from this in any way.

“People expect a fit Antoinette, so I’ve gotta be fit.”

“People expect me to brighten up their day, so it’s my obligation to brighten it up.” “Certain friends will become upset if I don’t “like” or “comment” on their posts even though I really don’t wish to engage with them because I don’t have interest in what they’re doing.”

Deactivating Facebook lets me get rid of all of these irrational thoughts and fears in one fell swoop, and it feels good. Especially as I refocus myself on my marriage, I don’t have to appraise my relationship with my husband by some standard of happiness that social media has set. He doesn’t need to create lengthy posts in my honor. We don’t have to be visible together on Facebook to make our marriage legit. We can just be us without the rest of the world having a say.

  1. I’ve regained privacy.

Perhaps that last statement was a proper lead in to this one. Many will argue that this, along with some of the other points I’ve brought up in this blog post, can be controlled by me the user and are therefore my own fault for violating because I chose to let the public see certain sides of me and my life. Yes, this is true, to an extent. I think we all have a sense of social responsibility to not perpetuate certain standards, too. If someone is sharing too much on social media, I think the responsible way of handling it is to address it with the person off of Facebook to let them know the dangers or drawbacks to their approach, speaking from a place of genuine care and concern. Don’t grab popcorn and sit in the front row to watch the show. It’s irresponsible to just sit back and let someone make a fool of themselves when we know better. We’re living in a time when people want to watch videos of young girls fighting and yelling obscenities at each other, or footage of adults abusing each other, children, or animals. The consumption of this behavior just gives rise to more, and ultimately speeds along the moral erosion of our world. Similarly, it’s not nice to find enjoyment in watching people act like train wrecks in the public eye. The formation or dissolution of romantic relationships, conception or miscarriage of a baby, intimate moments of a wedding, the experience of being laid off from a job, or the disagreements we have with people in our circle, whether friends or family – all of those things used to be private, and still should be. Voyeurism dictates that they shouldn’t be and that we as onlookers are entitled to minute-by-minute updates on a person’s very private life. The behaviors perpetuated by Facebook use, along with Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram use, negate this. I used to participate in this, but I no longer want to. I respect mine and others’ right to privacy.

This is the most significant change I’ve made since my life reset four days ago.