About nine years ago, I joined facebook. It was just because I had run into an old high school friend, and when I asked her about pictures of her family, she said “I put everything on facebook”. I was a little annoyed, but I thought what the heck, I’ll make a free account so I can see her family… and after looking at her pictures, I started adding those of my own, and connecting with more people. Some of those people I knew in my “real life” at the time, others were from high school years. Over time, I started being “friended” by people who were acquaintances of acquaintances.
As my list of “friends” grew, so did the drama on my facebook feed. Every national event led to a polarized discussion of who/what was at fault and what should be done about it. Every psychological hurt, social slight, and physical ailment of every “friend” was aired and turned into lengthy discussions of who/what was at fault and what should be done about it.
While I usually hear people gripe about facebook being too much about bragging and putting a false front of perfect family out there for everyone to see, the problem for me was more that facebook had become an ocean of outrage populated by rafts of whiners.
I spent so much of my time being outraged myself – at memes that were meant to be cute and witty but really pitted men and women against each other in the same old tired ways I’ve always been sick of, at “news” stories from politically extreme web sites on both ends of the spectrum, at people I had never met who called me stupid or sexist or a slut or a prude.
I spent too much time at this. Time that I could have spent reading, walking my dogs, talking with my sons, doing the dishes, stretching… So I quit. Gave 24 hours notice so people could ask for my email address and pulled the plug. And once I did that, I realized that it was more than just the outrage and waste of time – there was something else that had happened to me during my near decade on facebook.
I had fallen into the trap of thinking of my life as performance art for the amusement of others.
During the first 24 hours after quitting facebook, I had three different times where something happened in my life and my VERY FIRST thought was “ooh, I should post this on facebook” before realizing that I wasn’t going to do that… and then I was left sort of hanging. Like, wait a minute – if I’m not going to make a post, and thus no one is going to see it, and no one is going to “like” it or comment on it… well, what’s going to happen with it? This thing that happened – it’s just there in my life, and no one noticed but me, and… well… um…
What a weird way to think about one’s life. I can think back to my younger years. Things happened every day, every hour, every minute… and there they just sort of stayed. I remembered them. I may have laughed out loud, or swore to myself, or had a brief moment of panic. But then I just went on with my day. I may have told the story to someone over dinner that night, or recounted it in my next phone call to my mother, or maybe it would come up in conversation at a party the next weekend. Or maybe, sometimes, it would just basically go away, as moments do. To be replaced by other moments. Not documented, paraded in front of everyone, graded and assessed by friends and by friends of friends and by complete strangers.
Today things happened. I had thoughts. And you know what? I’m not going to tell you what they all were! I’m keeping a lot of them to myself. Some of them I will tell my husband. Most of them were just thoughts for my own entertainment while I was working. I’m actually not interested in anyone else’s thoughts about those thoughts. Wow.
And my children did some sweet things over the last 48 hours. They said some funny stuff. And they were occasionally jerks. And we had some problems. And we got through those problems, and they did sweet things again. And I managed to deal with it all and be present with what was happening and today I managed to *not* think “hey, that would be a good facebook post!”
So it’s only been two days. In a way it seems a little lonely, losing that connection to everyone. In another way, it’s very freeing. And somehow I feel sort of mysterious, like I’m flying under the radar, doing and thinking secret stuff in my own little world that hardly anyone sees.
Of course, here I am on my blog, which is publicly available to the entire world. Feels different, though. For one thing, I know that hardly anyone reads this – it’s more for myself to get my thoughts straight. It’s not social media – there aren’t “like” buttons and I’m not expecting comments and sharing. In the past, I’ve put some pretty controversial thoughts up here and it’s never caused any drama. It’s really just one step up from writing stuff on a piece of paper and sticking it between my mattresses (a method I have used in the past).