About a year ago, I rejoined Facebook after years away from the social media site.
I had a good reason to do so, or so I thought. I was living in South Korea, and Facebook was the easiest way for my family and friends to stay in contact with me. They seemed to enjoy my status updates from exotic locations, and I was always fielding questions about what the culture or the climate was like. It worked out well.
But now that I’m back in Canada, I fail to see the point of it. Facebook has evolved from a space where you can keep up with your long lost friends to a place where we carefully craft an alternate reality that conveniently excludes anything the least bit negative. We present the best version of ourselves to the people we’re supposed let see our warts.
On the surface, this doesn’t look so bad. We all should realize this is the reality we’re seeing every time we scroll through our newsfeed. But our lizard brains aren’t that smart. What we see is photo after photo of people getting engaged, married, or going on exotic vacations. Particularly after a rough day, we scroll through that and think we deserve the same things too. Jealousy sets in, and we all know what happens next.
Just delete it
Although I wasn’t a Facebook user back in 2012-13, I still had a Twitter feed stuffed with personal finance and travel bloggers who threw off the shackles of a regular life as often as they could. These people lived a life of constant travel that looked very appealing to me, a small-town guy with a very regular job.
So I decided to start living a life less ordinary. I convinced my then-girlfriend to get a job teaching English in South Korea. We spent a year having an adventure which ended up costing not a whole lot more than what many people spend on their annual two week vacation.
The more I look back on it, the more I’m convinced it was pure luck that we were able to pull off such a feat. I managed to get a location-independent job just a few months before we left, something I’m still not sure how I pulled off. And she didn’t have much trouble finding a decent job either.
The point is this. Without that luck, we could have very easily fell into a situation where we wanted to do these things without having steady income lined up. That would have been a very expensive way to experience the world.
I’m not saying I regret my experience, because I don’t. It was great. But at the same time, I’ve unfollowed just about all of the travel junkies on Twitter and replaced them with investing geeks. I still think about travel, but I have very little desire to go anywhere for longer than a week at a time.
Learn to want less
I’m the first to admit this is very difficult. Let’s face it; the average person in North America has life pretty sweet. Sure, poverty exists, but there’s a legitimate argument to be made that living in poverty in North America is better than living a middle class lifestyle in other parts of the world. When you have the basics taken care of, it’s only natural to shift your fantasies towards the exotic.
I’m also a believer that if you’re not working towards something, you might as well be dead. Drifting through life motionless isn’t ideal for anybody. Working towards extended travel is a whole lot better than working towards nothing at all.
Ever since I got back from my big adventure, I deal with wanting a little differently than I did before. When I decide I “need” something, I let the feeling fester, usually for weeks, sometimes even months. I make an active effort to think about all the good things I have going on currently in my life. Essentially, I try to desire things as much as I can using the logic part of my brain.
And most importantly, I stopped mindlessly reading Facebook. That, combined with handcrafting my Twitter feed, is saving me money each year. I’m no longer envious of my high school friend’s trip to Hawaii because I don’t even know he went. Once you realize how much sway those status updates can have, it’s a powerful feeling knowing they no longer affect you.
I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, only keeping the Messenger app. That way I can stay in contact with people without getting jealous of their perfect lives. It’s working well for me, and I know it’s saving me money. Maybe it’s time you did the same.