Psst! This is an episode of That’s What She Said, so you can listen in below, or keep reading for the clickable, text-y version.
This morning, I walked into my bedroom and pulled back the curtains to find that the window was open while the air conditioner was running. It’s been horribly humid and I’ve been trash talking the air conditioner for a while now, but it turns out that it’s not the air conditioner’s fault. Tons and tons of energy was flying out the window instead of doing its job of making me 43% less grumpy and cooling the room.
Recently, I quit Facebook.
I had a big quitting party on Facebook Live and threw lots of confetti, then deleted every last business page and group I started before deleting my whole account. I was nervous about what would happen.
Would I suddenly be completely and totally broke, as asshole brain contended? Would I inexplicably be struck by the desire to rejoin it as quickly as I’d left? Would I feel emotionally destitute, disconnected from everyone I know and love?
Nope, nope, and nope.
Quitting Facebook led to a massive reclaiming of energy that I didn’t even know I’d been losing.
Turns out Facebook was my open window and tons of energy was flying away there without my conscious awareness.
There were many groups I started years ago to support peeps in my programs, then didn’t know how to close or back away from without things getting awkward. (Lesson learned: start dates and end dates for program communities. Boundaries, hooray!)
There were messages I didn’t see or didn’t want to answer, so I let them hang in the ether.
There was the steady obligation to keep a stream of inspiring things and stuff and links coming to the nine thousand-ish peeps on my fan page, as well as the subtle pressure to like, comment upon, click, or interact with my Facebook friends, many of whom I’d never actually met in real life.
When I deleted my Facebook account, all those threads of obligation were broken once and for all.
I thought nothing special would happen when I deleted my account. But HOLY SHIT I WAS WRONG.
I used that reclaimed energy to do a bunch of stuff, and I want to share it not because you need a lecture in order to quit Facebook, but because we all seem to underestimate the places where our energy is flying out the window without our consent — particularly online.
Going to that job you hate takes energy.
Participating in a group you don’t enjoy — whether it’s online or off — takes energy.
Sharing your work and others’ work and your inspiration takes energy.
Creating a group of people and then holding them in a safe, nurturing way takes energy.
Maintaining a relationship that has passed its expiration date takes energy.
Being a good steward of your energy means that sometimes you reclaim it so that it can be used in a myriad of new and interesting ways.
Here’s what my reclaimed energy did. (Again, not telling you to brag, but to show you how HOLY SHIT I DID NOT EXPECT THAT THIS ONE TERRIFYING CHANGE WOULD LEAD TO ALL THESE THINGS.)
Boring stuff: I cleaned the whole house and took care of some nagging real life tasks.
You know those little tasks that pile up, like deep cleaning the stove or mopping every floor in the house and then sighing with the contented sigh of a person who most definitely has all your household shit together? I did those things.
The house got cleaned, the laundry got done, the couch cushions and pillows and throws and duvets and comforters and ALL THE THINGS got washed. I diffused oils and scrubbed floors and threw away clutter and generally reclaimed my home from nature’s endless attempts to cover it in smells, fur, and dust. Physical world: check.
Work stuff: I achieved Double Inbox Zero.
Double. Inbox. Zero. It’s a unicorn floating on a cloud through a spinkle sea of rainbows and baby otters type of rare.
Fun stuff: I read two novels within 48 hours.
When you reclaim three minutes here and six minutes there and fourteen minutes over there that used to be lost to scrolling, you end up with way more time to read.
You can see exactly what I read by following me on Goodreads, or you can buy some of my books to read right here. Sample chapters of Introverts at Work and Calling to the Deep live here.
Creative stuff: I turned my yard into an art gallery.
Once Bear and I had strung the yard with pretty hipster twinkle lights and laden the edges with pinwheels, we kept going. Family motto: anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
We ordered the sort of bunting they use at car dealers and strung it up with the lights. Some flowers we planted last year magically returned. We supplemented the real flowers with wooden ones made of paint and glitter. We turned an old terrarium into a Little Free Library full of good books. It’s basically magic. But.
What to do with all that magic?
…why not turn it into an art gallery?
I make lots of paintings. Some of them suck, and some of them are for sale to benefit charity, and some of them are great, they’re just BIG and take up room in my house. Bear and I attached them to our fence and turned the yard into an art gallery. Some of his kids’ paintings were also hanging around — we’ve hung the ones we dig most on our walls — so their work joined in, too. In other words, we made our own damn plein art show for no particular reason.
In cases of creativity, you don’t need the approval of another person or professional or expert to do the thing you want to do.
To paint, to write, to sculpt, to make, to tinker, to turn a room into an art exhibit? You need no certification. You work under the authority of no one.
You have the power to make cool shit happen.
People literally gasp as they walk past the yard. It’s only eight paintings and a few nails and some $12 bunting, but it’s not something most people take the time to do. You can do that, too. You can find places where your work is piling up and make reasons to show it to people. You can hold an art party in your living room, or make a gallery from your bathroom wall, or invite people over to see what you’ve done in a one-time pop-up event of some kind.
You don’t have to give your creative power to gurus, leaders, gallery owners, teachers, event spaces, or experts to make magic happen.
Community stuff: Bear and I started holding weekly community dance parties.
Have you noticed that these go in order from normal to more and more terrifying?
Since Bear is a DJ, he suggested we have people from the neighborhood over for a weekly dance party. He could play whatever he wanted instead of the usual working-for-a-client-and-at-the-mercy-of-their-musical-tastes scenarios he’s used to handling each week. I could dance with children and puppies while doing my best to avoid small talk with adults.
We hung a giant sign on our fence announcing our Thursday plans. We didn’t invite every single person we knew because we wanted to meet new people.
OH GOD IT’S SO HARD. (That’s what she said.)
The party started at 6:30. By 6:35 p.m., no one had arrived and I deemed the whole thing a big, giant failure. LITERALLY NO ONE IS COMING TO MY PARTY THIS IS EVERY INTROVERT‘S WORST NIGHTMARE. You get brave enough to actually interact with people, and then they don’t show up. I wanted to crawl into a hole and quietly cringe to death.
Then, I stepped away for a few minutes. When I returned, there were 9 people in the yard. The little girl across the street who’d been dressed for our party since 5 p.m. (with lipstick, her mom would like to point out) came dancing over and flailed around with a small gang of kids who rode up on scooters. Hipsters from the brewery next door showed up and consumed enough beer to dance in their quiet, trying-to-be-cool way. Moms pushing strollers past the party ran home to pick up a few cans of beer and returned with their husbands in tow. Pretzel rods and chips and pizza magically appeared on the picnic table.
I introduced myself to NINETEEN strangers in the course of a few hours, and invited every single one of them back next week.
For the introverts: NINETEEN. STRANGERS.
Terrifying stuff: I submitted my poems to ten literary publications and contests.
I’ve only submitted my poems to one contest before, and that was fifteen years ago. Pushing myself to be brave enough to teach a workshop called Brave means that I’m sharing my poems with people who will most definitely judge them.
ACK I’ll let you know how it turns out.
All of the things I’ve listed happened within seven days of having quit Facebook.
I had no idea how much energy was bound up in groups and posts and links and clicks and likes and followers and all the things social media brings with it.
So when people say X ‘isn’t so bad’ or is a ‘necessary evil’ — where X is Facebook or the job you hate or the marriage you want to leave or some business bits you can’t stand or a few clients you want to punch in the face — don’t believe them.
Necessary evils take energy. LOTS of energy.
You can close your energetic windows so that your efforts take hold.
You can stop throwing your time and attention out the window because some expert somewhere said it was necessary.
You can give up the app, program, business practice, or relationship that drives you nuts.
Maybe not all at once, and definitely not without feeling terrified.
But you can give it up, whatever ‘it’ is.
You can free yourself from the chatter and the noise and the asshole brain whispers that you’re not good enough.
I promise. You can.
To your freedom —
P.S. How to quit Facebook in 8 easy steps. Also, listen in as Andrew Hellmich quizzes me on all things WHAT ARE YOU DOING AND HOW WILL YOUR BUSINESS SURVIVE WITHOUT FACEBOOK in this episode of the PhotoBizX podcast.