So, it has been 5 months since I went cold turkey from Facebook. I undertook this experiment not because of the press surrounding Facebook’s privacy issue (although they are certainly rampant), and not because those indiscretions had suddenly started to hit the news cycles on a daily basis. In fact, I made my exit before Facebook’s confessions of laxity and willful ignorance, which only confirmed my need to step away. I knew this would most likely be difficult, any addictive behavior is very hard to break especially cold turkey. After a few weeks of hovering as I passed by machine and suppressing the urge to “just check in”, my craving dimmed considerably and my life moved on. Today, I feel that this was a success in my column for many reasons and also a loss in my life for a few others.
First of all, it cleaned up my chaotic online life. Without the constant sturm und drang (literally, Storm and Drive) of the online mavens of mulch, my life was indeed simpler, more peaceful, and less frantic in terms of my need to inject, quantify, speak out, and opinionize.
Mission Accomplished…….to plagiarize a much publicized political event in recent history;
But what was lost in the offing?
Surprisingly, quite a few tangible benefits that have made my life better, more thoughtful, more connected, and more interesting. As the years march on and age creeps up on cat’s paws (or Frankenstein’s boots at times), one thing is becoming increasingly clear, we tend to live a lot more in our heads and in our memories of friends and places long gone or soon to be departed, whether actual human beings whom we have crossed paths with or places that helped form our very deepest psychic connections to both the physical geography and the social engagements that we have wandered amongst.
With some of my age-contemporaries, the physical distance and mental energy required to keep those connections, while I am still able to access them, becomes more of a time-suck and energy drain that I had imagined. I barely have enough reserves to tend to home and hearth and those living in the closest proximity. Trying to maintain thoughtful, engaged, friendships at great distances takes work, commitment, and most of all, time. I have found that while once a phone addicted teenager and young adult (who among us was not?) I have become loath to actually talk on the phone anymore. Maybe it is because we spend so much of our time, at any age but more so at my age) sitting on hold and barely suppressing rage at the vast array of not-so-carefully constructed phone holes, filled with “Press One” and “your wait time will be……”, that the instrument of the phone itself seems to embody some sort of bad-vibe-juju by just looking at it no less picking it up.
Yet the flip side of the easy access of social media connections is that the nuance of personal communications; vocal inflections, pauses, facial expression, are rapidly lost and glossed over. Miscommunications run rampant. We spend even more time saying “Sorry I did not mean it THAT way” “What I was trying to say was..”. We need look no further to confirm this gap in perception vs. reality to the fact that all who do use social media have rapidly adapted the multiple emoji apps that seek to enhance this “lack of” emotion inherent in non-interpersonal words on screens.
But for me, as a writer, an artist, and what most would call a very social animal, what I have lost is inspiration. I had envisioned a new world of free time to let my mind wander into creative pursuits that I felt I had been neglecting. I wanted time to write, take photos, and improve my interior landscape. What I discovered is that the world around me and my friendships and acquaintances, far-flung and rich in history and promise, were actually the fodder for my fullness of purpose.
Yes, the daily screeds of information that Facebook feels compelled to suggest and insert into our “their-directed” view of us is awful; upsetting and blood pressure raising if we allow them to percolate, even slightly, into our real lives. But the foibles and humanness of the people of the world and the thoughts and perspectives of our friends and even strangers clicks on our thought cells and we form opinions. We have thoughts and perspectives that living only in our own world, we might not ever arrive at.
Do I need 600+ “friends”? Hell no. I keep my closest, both geographically and long-time, closest to my heart and my mind. This is the fuel for my creativity; the world and the people who inhabit it.
So I will try, earnestly, to reconnect with what I find I have lost or at least misplaced with my absence. I will try and not allow Facebook to win, I will try and manage and, in the future, hope that my muses will once again find me or as Jackson Browne says so well;
“But the angels are older
They can see that the sun’s setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise contained in the light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road till the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on