It was an impulse, unplanned, but in retrospect inevitable. This had been coming. In early December I deleted Facebook off my phone.
There were a lot of reasons. For one, it was taking too much time. I enjoy keeping up with friends and their kids, pets, hobbies and vacations. But I was getting more (and more distracting) ads; videos that were visually arresting but sponsored by who-knows-who; ads for a gadget I bought (or decided I didn’t want) last week, and either way never need to think about again.
But more than time and distraction, I kept getting sucked in by outrage. I’d vow not to click on or read anything about politics. But it wouldn’t last. So instead of feeling blue that friends are enjoying the beach while I’m due at school pickup in 15 minutes, I’d be incredulous and angry that our country… well you can fill in your own favorite recent indignity.
The tricky part is that of course we should be furious about the grotesque corruption and cynicism in national politics right now. But just as it’s clear that Russian money has been—and probably still is—fanning the flames of discord on both right and left, it’s plain to me that howling on Facebook is not our way forward. Denouncing the evil of the other side is so tempting, and briefly rewarding. But it leaves a sick, unpleasant aftertaste in my soul, and it will not help us find a core decency, fairness, and civility that needs to return to our culture and politics.
My friend Nora has responded to this with the mantra “Operate from Joy.” My take on what she means: we look squarely at what’s going on, call out bad behavior, and yet still find a way to cultivate peace and happiness in ourselves and remember (or hope) that all beings are part of a whole, working together for a higher vision. As we note that Donald Trump is self-dealing in office, we can look at our own selfishness at the same time, see him as a useful illustration of a collective human fault that need healing and light.
While I’m inspired by this, on Facebook Joy was not winning out for me. Even a quick peek when I promised myself I wouldn’t take any click bait could turn into a very unproductive funk in my brain. I’ve not gone cold turkey, I check on my desktop maybe once or twice a week. But for me the phone had been a place I reflexively, automatically went to Facebook.
After about a month with 90% less Facebook, I find I’ve got a bit more space in my brain. In a moment’s peace, say waiting for the teakettle to boil, I’ll think “isn’t there something I need to check?” And I’ll realize, no, I can’t. And better, there’s nothing I need to deal with right now but making tea. While brushing my teeth, I’ve stopped trying to add other productive activities (while I’m pleased to boast that I can apply hair gel with one hand while navigating a toothbrush with the other, for now I’m just saying no). It’s nice.
My hope for 2018 is that I can do less multitasking across the board, and try to be a bit more focused in each activity I do.
Including the occasional trip to Facebook. Because I want to see people’s personal updates, keep a bit in touch, pine for your Christmas beach vacation. And let’s face it, where can I tell anyone I know about my month mostly off of Facebook? (What’s next, more in-person interaction??)
I’m torn because it might turn out to be like coffee, which I had to quit for good, or else I sneaked into using more and more. But now I can have half a cup of coffee, enjoy the harsh acidic buzz, and let it be for 6 months or more without a thought. May I find my way to some kind of balance like that in social media as well.
Happy New Year everybody.