It's not you. It's me. As much as I loved our time together, the liabilities of our relationship started overshadowing the benefits. As hard as it initially was to pull the plug, and despite the doubters, life has been infinitely better without you.

In early February, I hit the tipping point where engaging on Facebook was causing me more stress than pleasure. I'm not alone. Research shows that the more time people spend on social media, the stronger the link to depression.

The unintended benefits of my disconnection

My decision to disengage was based on an intention to lose a destructive habit. I wasn't thinking about what I would gain. However, now that I've been offline for an extended period of time, I can reflect back to see the profound impacts.

  1. I'm sleeping better.
    My brain is quieter. While I've never had issues sleeping, I don't have a wind-down period before falling asleep. Two thirds of respondents in a Penn State study reported difficulty sleeping due to anxiety as a result of social media use.

    Constant access compels people to continually check their status and newsfeed. In this study, over half of the respondents felt uneasy when they were unable to access their social media.

  2. I appreciate my life more.
    One of the most damaging psychological impacts of Facebook is our tendency to compare ourselves with everyone else. The "compare-and-despair" factor leads to feelings of inadequacy, a quest for perfection, and a reduced ability to appreciate the goodness in our own lives.
  3. I'm more productive and focused in my work.
    My productivity has skyrocketed. I've gained or recovered hours and days of work time. Consequently, my sales have increased too. The ability to multitask is a myth.

    Research from the University of California shows that when people are interrupted, it typically takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to their work, and most people will do two intervening tasks before going back to their original project.

  4. My closest relationships have strengthened.
    Initially, I worried about losing touch with my friends. On the contrary, many friendships are even stronger due to intentional outreach. I keep up with them on Instagram, and through texts, phone calls, and get-togethers.
  5. I'm more OK with not being OK.
    I've removed the pressure of the pursuit of constant happiness and success. The flip side of Facebook beyond the extreme negativity is the extreme positivity. Although well-intentioned, the constant barrage of positive messaging often negatively impacts us because we feel something is wrong with us when we don't feel "strong, happy, and blessed."

    Harvard researcher Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, shares that the constant pressure to be happy, and to suppress our negative emotions, is a contributing factor to the epidemic of depression, and the prediction that by 2030, depression will be the leading disability.

  6. I'm more present than ever.
    I'm completely present in my moments. I noticed a trend: In virtually any situation, we feel compelled to capture it in a picture. Then we post it. Then the moment becomes more about the engagement with the online world, rather than what's happening in front of us.

    We post, and then we wait for engagement, while the moment is passing us by. Our most important moments that we share with our most important people become an online event. I truly appreciate the privacy and intimacy of my life events, and the ability to simply share them with those who are closest to me. I've reestablished boundaries that work for my life.

How social media is working for me

Of course, social media still plays a big role in my life professionally, and a smaller role in my life personally. I'm extremely active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram for business.

While I have a business Facebook page, I've learned that my target audience is not the typical Facebook user. Thirty percent of users are ages 25 to 34 and are not buying my services. However, I know that the hosts of my podcast and speaking engagements expect me to leverage Facebook to promote my appearances, and I want to honor their expectations, so my social media manager maintains my page.

Conversely, LinkedIn users are my ideal demographic:

Personally, I use Facebook for closed groups, such as the Virginia Tech Parents Page, which has a wealth of information and advice about our son's college, or our son's high school sports teams. I check that weekly or if I want advice from other parents.

Figuring out what works for you

We all have to determine what works for us both personally and professionally. There may be a day when I go back to Facebook for personal engagement. My personal timeline is home to more than 10 years of photos and memories.

For now, however, I'm feeling more centered, healthy, and grateful, and much less exposed. I'm defining my engagement, rather than reacting. I'm feeling more like the real me.