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Does It Bring You Joy?

I read a post on SheWrites that resonated with me a lot.  Emily Lackey applied the ideas in The Life-Changing Power of Tidying Up to social media.  She asked a simple question: did it bring her joy?  Facebook itself didn’t make the cut.  Twitter was cleaned up to a manageable size; a feed that made her feel happy when she looked at it instead of like crap about her own life.

I loved the idea until I went to apply it to my life.

The reality is that there are a lot of things I read each day that don’t make me happy.  They definitely don’t bring me joy, and on many occasions, they make me downright frustrated.  They make me feel like crap about myself.  But the thing was, there wasn’t a single blog or person that I encounter that does that 100% of the time.

There was no one to unfollow, no blog to delete from my feed, no site that I needed to stop visiting.  Unlike the simplicity of the KonMari method where a shirt is either worn or not worn, blogs and social media feeds were much harder to cull because sometimes they fit me and sometimes they don’t.

I agree with Lackey that mental clutter is detrimental to our well-being just as much as physical clutter, but I still couldn’t see anything or anyone to cut.  Not when I knew that every single story that I follow is valuable to me in some way.

Here’s the thing, I went to a reading last week for two authors.  They’re married and sometimes work together, but mostly work apart.  I’m not going to name them because… well… this story isn’t really about them.

Anyway, one of the authors is wildly popular and the line to get him to sign books looped around the whole room.  Admittedly, we were there for him, too.  But his wife turned out to be the more interesting speaker with the more interesting book.  She had a much much much shorter line, and many times she was left at the table with nothing to do except smile at the people in line to see her husband.  We ended up going out in the hall to buy her book and got back in line to have her sign it.

As we stood there, I noticed something.  The first writer had exuberant fans who were clearly happy to get a chance to see him.  They walked out of the room in droves, clutching their signed books and looking pretty damn happy.  But the second writer had thoughtful fans who were clearly moved to get a chance to see her.  People lingered in front of her for a long time, sometimes very emotional, telling her their own similar story.  It was a smaller group who walked out of the room clutching her book, but they also looked deeply at peace; like they had plugged into something that recharged them and focused them and connected them to something larger than themselves.

If you only look at the numbers, the first writer is the more successful writer.  But if you drop the numbers, if you don’t look at success as checking off boxes, the second writer was clearly the one that stuck to people’s hearts.  No small feat.

It was what I thought about when I tried to declutter my lists and sites I visit.  The person clearly got rid of the people she sees to be first author types — wildly successful so they make her feel sad in comparison — and kept the second author types — people she loves connecting with.  And that is certainly one way to do it.

But I thought about it this way: what if that wife stopped writing because she saw her husband was so successful that it didn’t feel worth it in comparison?  Then all those people wouldn’t have gotten to have their moment with her at the table; her book wouldn’t have come out.

Instead, she sat there and smiled at his success, and enjoyed her own, smaller version, which turned out to be equally if not more important.

I don’t know the point of all of this except to say that I couldn’t cut one site or person out of my reading list.  And that success comes in many different forms if we’re willing to be open minded.  And for some reason, the story of the reading popped into my head the moment I tried to cull my lists to only people who make me happy.

Do you think you can apply the KonMari method to social media?


1 Charlotte { 08.18.15 at 8:55 am }

Yes. I can and I did. I agree with you that not everything can make you happy or fit you all of the time. What I found is that for me, overall, Facebook didn’t fit me at all. While there were some people I enjoyed following, in general it made me feel like I was peering in on a club that I didn’t belong to. Because I didn’t utilize it the way the majority of people did (I rarely ever posted anything or commented to other’s postings) that when I did try and interact it was more of “oh, where did YOU come from??” And really, I am way past having some internet application make me feel that way, even if I did glean some joy some of the time.

2 A. { 08.18.15 at 9:00 am }

I don’t think I could because I don’t think “joy” is the only valuable experience to be sought, particularly from reading. Some things are for catharsis, some an empathic experience outside of myself, others an achieved awareness (of something negative) and motivation into action, but all of those (unlike simple “joy”) start in a very uncomfortable place and end somewhere positive. I think all the maniacal Serenity Now, surround-yourself-with-positive-POSITIVITY(!!!) stuff is a decidedly American mentality. Europeans seem to be a little more comfortable recognizing that normal human experience ranges over a vast continuum, portions of which are dark, which does not mean that ought to be dismissed. Do I need to shave my feed? Totally. That, however, is because I realize that not everything I spend my time on is valuable, but I spend my time on a number of valuable things that don’t bring me immediate joy.

3 Jess { 08.18.15 at 10:06 am }

I’m not sure, honestly. I feel like since social media I have time sucked away from me and I am less productive, and I need to figure out a way to manage that on my own. Facebook is one of those things for me that is a double edged sword–I can keep in touch (superficially) with a lot of family members and friends who don’t live right here or who I don’t see on a regular basis in the flesh, but it can also become this morass of awful. Although I find that I’m getting better at ignoring the awful. I should do the “hide” thing more, but I actually feel guilty doing that. I feel like I need to figure out the activities that make me happiest, and make more space for those and ignore the siren song of my facebook app on my phone. Not so much for the direct comparisons, it’s been a long time since Facebook made me super sad or deficient feeling (although it can make me angry), but for the utter time suck that takes me away from more joyful activities.

4 SRB { 08.18.15 at 11:35 am }

Obviously, this is easier to apply to physical objects, though I can’t say the hoodie I throw on everyday brings me JOY. It’s just a perfectly serviceable hoodie that is comfy, grey, and periodically clean. I hold onto it because I like it and it works for me at this point in my life.

When it comes to clutter (physical, emotional, social media) I use the concept of “bring me joy” on its flip side. Does it (or the person) make me feel angry/ashamed/guilt/sad/anxious most of the time? If so, it now gets a big old NOPE from me, regardless of social pressure or obligation. I haven’t used FB in years and flamed out of Twitter. They made me awful, every day, even though there were people there I truly enjoy. Other people like using them, and that’s awesome if it suits you, but they aren’t for me. I like IG, so I use IG. It took me a long time to honour the gnawing feeling of unease to realize I had to let it go. Something doesn’t need to bring you JOY to be in your life, but if it actively robs you of it, it should go.

5 illustr8d { 08.18.15 at 11:46 am }

Love it and use it for stuff, hate it when applied to people.

6 illustr8d { 08.18.15 at 11:48 am }

ps I wish I was at that signing.

7 Cristy { 08.18.15 at 1:03 pm }

Mel, I swear you’re reading my mind as of late. Thank you for these links and interesting conversations.

I’ve been purging and pairing down a lot in life due to this move. Lots of physical objects are existing, but also I’ve been doing so with what little social media I follow. The general rule I following is the “brings me joy” concept, but “brings me joy” has to come most of the time. Yes, there are people I become frustrated with or posts that I don’t agree with, but that’s not enough to warrant disconnecting.

I love the analogy about the second author. The deeper connection that she has.

8 Ana { 08.18.15 at 2:09 pm }

like A said above, “Joy” isn’t always what I’m looking for in my reading. “understanding” or “wisdom” maybe? “growth”? And sometimes those things are painful, uncomfortable. There are certainly times I have to stick to “joy”, but if I ONLY read things that bring me joy, I’d have no idea what was going on in the world and looking at baby animals all day.
I am trying to cut down social media usage more so that I can use my time better—but I wouldn’t cut out blogs because I didn’t feel joyful when reading them.

9 Mrs. Gamgee { 08.18.15 at 3:13 pm }

While I’m not a huge fan of the KonMari method (read the book, found it a bit over the top), I do like the idea of asking the question ‘does it bring me joy?’. Applying it to social media can be tricky, but I think it’s doable. I kind of did this a couple of years ago with Facebook. I just found myself so frustrated and irritated with everyone’s minutiae and unfiltered opinions that I had to tune it all out. Now I usually only pop on there to send the occasional birthday greeting. I may not know what’s going on in everyone’s day-to-day, but I can enjoy my friends much better this way.

Now Pinterest on the other hand… that brings me great joy. 🙂 I couldn’t give that up.

10 nicoleandmaggie { 08.18.15 at 3:54 pm }

Was gonna say what Ana said, though I was going to say kittens instead of baby animals. Obviously I am not looking at enough cat pictures on the internet. But only interacting with cat videos would lead to long-term unhappiness (possibly even diluting the joy derived from them). Maybe joy is a bit like dessert. Vegetables are important too, and they can be good and more fulfilling than, even if they’re not as delightful as, brownies.

11 Sharon { 08.18.15 at 4:19 pm }

I agree with this point from SRB: “Something doesn’t need to bring you JOY to be in your life, but if it actively robs you of it, it should go.”

Honestly, the “brings me joy” standard has been one I’ve struggled with in using the KonMari method because, for example, just cleaning out my closet, most of my clothing, especially for work, was chosen and remains in my wardrobe not because it “brings me joy” but because it is appropriate to my position and is functional/comfortable. (I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to building a wardrobe full of only shoes and clothing that bring me joy. In fact, I’m not even sure this goal is an achievable one for me, since I don’t care all that much about clothes.)

I am only on Facebook and Instagram, and I block people on Facebook whose posts annoy me. . . so in a sense, I think I already limit my social media use to only that which doesn’t bring me down, to the extent feasible.

12 Jessica { 08.18.15 at 9:33 pm }

Yes, there are too many social media platforms to follow. It is difficult to build a community of regular readers. Bloggers are not on the same level; they can’t understand each other. Someone was asking for a blogging buddy and when I asked what was really required, she didn’t get it. I think if people can’t click together, it just won’t work.

13 Mali { 08.19.15 at 2:33 am }

This makes me think of my reaction last night watching the latest John Oliver episode. I loved it so much, but did it bring me joy? Not entirely, because his points are always so good that he makes me so angry about the issues he raises! Whereas, watching a favourite sit-com or the Great British Bake Off (my latest fad) will bring me joy, but little else – except an urge to bake something fattening, and I don’t need that!

FB brings me joy – I connect to friends and family from all over the world, and people I might not have seen for decades. I don’t do Twitter or Instagram, because I really spend too much time on social media (including blogs) as it is. I have divided the blogs I read in my Feedly list into the Must-Reads – blogs that bring me joy and make me think (thinking deeply brings me joy), and those I want to support, and others that I find interesting. Those who irritate me regularly usually get deleted. I don’t need that in my life when I have so much else to think about. So I guess I do this to an extent, but I’m not ruthless.

14 No Baby Ruth { 08.19.15 at 4:31 am }

I agree with many of the other commenters, in that it doesn’t need to bring me JOY so much as add something to my life (and certainly not take it away).

Personally, for me, that’s facebook, while twitter was a short-lived and eventually negative part of my life (I’m on instagram but not much). As a side note, I think that I prefer facebook over twitter because TO ME it feels infinitely more genuine. That’s quite possibly because I limit my facebook feed to people I actually know and love in real life (in addition to a few IRL friends that I’ve really connected with, and most of whom I’ve met in person at least once) whereas I joined twitter with my blog persona and so interacted in that limited and somewhat fake circle. All that being said, it’s been much easier for me to eliminate an entire social media platform from my life instead of specific people, because in general it’s not the person so much as the overall environment that either adds to or takes away from my happiness.

I also really love what A says above (I wish we could reply to comments on your site!!). “Europeans seem to be a little more comfortable recognizing that normal human experience ranges over a vast continuum, portions of which are dark, which does not mean that ought to be dismissed.” I’m not actually European, but I do think I’ve adopted this mentality by proximity. It is SO true. Just because something makes us unhappy or uncomfortable does not mean that we need to avoid it (unless we want to, which is something else entirely). Embracing all of the emotions is a really important thing to learn. Interestingly, my facebook feed is a mix of positive and negative news, but the negative news comes overwhelmingly from my Spanish family and friends. They share more openly and more genuinely, I think, that many of my American friends and family, and although sometimes their news makes me unhappy or uncomfortable, I would never want to dismiss them from my life.

15 fifi { 08.19.15 at 3:48 pm }

The film Inside Out has a lot to say about the roles of joy, sadness and other emotions. Basic lesson being that sadness has as important a role as joy.

16 Middle Girl { 08.19.15 at 10:15 pm }

Overall I enjoy my blogging and FB experiences. I dabble with Instagram but not really vibing with that medium. I don’t enjoy Twitter, though I may re-engage because a friend has asked. If ever I’m feeling ovewhelmed by the process as a whole or particular folks, I just stop.

I just unfriended a woman who announced a few days ago that she was dropping 1,500 of her 2,500 “friends”. What followed were a bunch of those friends OMG-ing over making the cut.

Folks have the right to use their page in any way they choose. As I have the right not to bear witness to their brand of ________ .

17 apluseffort { 08.20.15 at 11:25 am }

What brought me joy recently was this parody of the KonMari method 🙂 http://the-toast.net/2015/02/24/get-rid-clutter-live-abundantly/

Your anecdote about the authors was really thought-provoking and something I think most people wouldn’t notice – they’d see the size of the lines and draw a single simplistic conclusion. I’m curious about who they are though? My guess… the man is a NYT columnist too?

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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