Thursday, March 20, 2014

On Envy

It is Lent now and I am trying to be more mindful about what I consume. My definition of consumption includes, but is not limited to, eating. Indeed, minding what I eat is turning out not as difficult to accomplish as limiting other types of consumption.

The most challenging item for me is reducing my use of Facebook, especially during the workday. I have gotten into the habit of rewarding myself between tasks with a quick glance at Facebook - just a quick skim to see if anything new or exciting is going on. It takes just a few minutes to scroll down my news feed and click "Like" on a friend's status or comment on a photo. I often rationalize this time by telling myself that I don't really have enough time to start a new task before my next meeting, or that I make up for the time by checking work email in the evenings when I'm not on duty. But the truth is that the Facebook link is at the top of my "Most Visited" list, and I know I frequently spend more than just a few minutes there.

Since Lent overlaps with Spring Break, I've noticed that when I do look at Facebook, I see a lot of photos of my friends on their vacations. Skiing, at the beach, in Hawaii or Mexico or Napa, attending events here in Austin at South by Southwest - my friends are an active and happy bunch.

And I find myself feeling envious of them. "She is always on vacation," I think unhappily. Or, "How can they afford to take so many trips?" Or, "How come I never get invited to all these happy hours?"

Facebook has been a terrific tool to keep in touch with people, but I often feel inadequate when I see what my friends are doing. I need to keep in mind that my husband and I have made choices about how to spend our incomes that are consistent with our values. We are putting our son through college without any loans (so far), and that means we have chosen to sacrifice on things like vacations, meals out, and entertainment such as concerts, plays, and movies.

Reducing how often I visit Facebook during Lent has made me realize I am happiest when I don't feel like I'm missing something. I think it is a good break for me.

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