Wednesday, May 4th, 2011...7:25 PM
Letting Go, Holding On
by Chris Heidel
“Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding on to.” –Anonymous
In March, I challenged myself to give up something for Lent: my serious Facebook addiction. So, for 40 days, I managed to let it go. I continued updating my Libra Fitness Facebook page, and I snuck a peek at a few things over those 6 weeks, but for the most part, I went cold-turkey. The first week was really hard, but after that, it was merely annoying. Who knew Facebook had been my lifeline to the outside world? It was how I got my news, how I stayed up-to-date on my friends’ lives, how I planned my social life. So, I spent about 30 of the 40 days mostly being annoyed, resentful, and uninformed. It was not until after Lent that the power of what I had done hit me.
When I returned to Facebook, I was so GLAD to see my favorites: that funny friend from high school who always makes me smile, my local buds whose daily life experiences I had not been able to follow, NPR, New York Times. I WAS BACK!!!!
Then there was the noise. Wow, most of what was in my news feed was noise: clutter and nonsense that did not feed me in any way or worse–brought me down or wasted my time.
Over three years, I had accumulated 687 connections. Many were genuine friendships with people I already adored or had come to admire, including some powerful connections with people I have never met in real life. Without Facebook, many of these connections would not have been possible. Nevertheless, I realized that I had been amassing “friends” on Facebook like dusty trophies – all too often feeding voyeuristic and narcissistic parts of myself. Besides, though my OCD made me feel like I had to try, how could I genuinely engage with almost 700 people in a meaningful way? None of this was serving my greater good, or anyone else’s for that matter.
I thought about how I encourage my personal training clients to surround themselves with people who honor their commitment to themselves. I decided to take my own advice. For me, that meant paring my friends list down. I picked an arbitrary limit of 200 friends and started cutting. At first it was easy. I let go of those I barely knew or business contacts who were more appropriate for LinkedIn anyway. Then, I made the most powerful decision, saying good-bye to those who seem to utilize Facebook primarily as a vessel to complain about divisive politics or their melodrama-filled life or who otherwise did not make my day better for having seen the majority of their posts. The hardest to let go of were the last 100 people. Here’s where my arbitrary number seemed silly. After all, I still considered some of these people to be my friends, but I was committed to making the list manageable for me. So, gone were the friends with whom I had no heart connection.
Now, when I look at my news feed, I see only what truly feeds me or gives me information I can use to feed someone else: interesting links to articles I might not otherwise read, challenges to have a better day than I might have created for myself, notification of the passing of a friend’s loved one, beautiful photos of people’s gardens and children and special family gatherings. Sure, I will gradually add more friends, probably many of those I let go. I know already that there are some I will miss, but the process of choosing to add someone will now be more thoughtful.
Christians observe the ritual of “giving something up” for Lent for a variety of reasons, including a yearning for a renewed closeness to god and a rebirth of the spirit. I didn’t know it until Lent was over, but I achieved a sort of rebirth. Facebook is still important to me, but unlike the addiction it had become, now it increases my sense of wellbeing and is an element of my day that feeds my heart and soul…a place I come away from better for having been there.
About the Author:
Chris Heidel is the owner of and primary personal trainer with Libra Fitness, a private, in-home studio in Austin, TX. Chris focuses her business on developing mentoring relationships with her clients built on trust and meaningful support to help them set, achieve, and maintain realistic fitness goals. Chris truly believes that while getting in shape isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris is certified through the American Council on Exercise.