Facebook Status dated November 15, 2013:
Friends: I’m taking a break from FB over the holidays in an effort to simplify and refocus. …Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!
I had hoped a break from Facebook would have afforded me previously lost opportunities to relate with people face-to-face. That if I stopped incessantly scrolling through my feed, I’d find more time to engage in deep conversation, make eye contact, read body language and interpret vocal nuance. That I’d rediscover the lost art of interpersonal communication while “doing life” “at my kitchen table” “in community.” Because, as all Facebook Haters know, communication via social media is an inferior form of communication. Really, it’s not communication at all. Facebook is “evil” and “stupid” and a “waste of time.” And so is Mark Zuckerberg.
Yes, I hoped I’d feel all those things and more.
But honestly, I just feel sorta disconnected.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I feel disconnected from Facebook friends. My interpersonal-face-to-face-read-the-body-language relationships remain intact. I will have healthy relationships with or without Facebook. But here are some things I’m learning about me and relationships through this break:
Over all, the Facebook break has been good and necessary. In the few days prior to that status, I had been debating a theological issue with a person I had not seen in probably 30 years and would not recognize if he showed up on my doorstep delivering fresh cookies. I was carrying my phone around like an addict, checking it every 10 minutes for my fix. At one point, I was kneeling next to the bathtub trying to bathe my daughter with one hand while I was typing a response with the other. My child was in the same room with me, trying to talk to me while I washed her hair (kind of) and I was shushing her so I could respond to a person I hardly know regarding something that does not matter.
And then, heaven help us, the crazy people started posting about having their Christmas shopping done a full SIX WEEKS before Christmas. And, I don’t know, I guess I have some unresolved shopping inferiority complex or something, but I got all weird and panicky and thought I was going to cry. Because I had a mermaid birthday party to plan and Thanksgiving travel plans to make and Christmas shopping wasn’t even on my radar yet. And suddenly, I felt tension across the back of my neck and my breathing became a little labored, because, “HOLY CRAP!!!! ONLY SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS AND I’M NOT FINISHED SHOPPING YET!! I SUCK AS A HUMAN!”
And since my life is full of actual people and actual activities that consume actual physical and emotional energy, I realized that I did not have extra physical and emotional energy to spend debating or comparing or crying or telling myself I suck as a human.
And then I was all, “Facebook is stupid and evil!” And, thusly, posted my intentions to break.
So, you know—clearly, I did the right thing, evidenced by the crying and labored breathing and stuff. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and interpersonal connection the last three weeks.
Frankly, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of news. Like yesterday, I got on for just a second because a real-life friend posted a picture of my real-life daughter, and I wanted to see it. I opened up my feed, and the very first thing I saw was a post from another good real-life friend saying she was in Haiti (on her birthday) picking up her adopted son. I had been talking with her about this adoption and holding her hand through every step of the process for about three years. I was flabbergasted! I had no idea she was in Haiti.
Of course, she had been posting updates—on Facebook—which I missed, what with the labored breathing, and all. I wished I could have been encouraging her and praying for her these last few weeks. I felt horrible about that. And also, I had forgotten her birthday. And I felt horrible about that, too.
In addition to forgetting birthdays and super important adoption announcements, I also realize that being off Facebook means I don’t see pictures of my friends’ kids and I don’t know what my nephews are up to with their music and I don’t know how my sister and brother or any of their children are doing. I also miss out on some great articles and some hilarious banter, which some consider time-suckers, but I happen to enjoy immensely.
I remember now, that before Facebook, I was not doing much life face-to-face in community. I was mostly just a really bad, disconnected friend. I remember now, how I was up to my eyeballs in mom-related responsibilities and always felt a little isolated. I remember I spent a lot of mental energy beating myself up for not phoning my sisters or not returning my best friend’s call or not realizing that a church friend was struggling. I remember that I also failed to mail pictures of the kids to the grandparents. And, while I intended to send cards for special occasions, I rarely did so.
Facebook is by no means perfect, but it genuinely helps me stay more connected than I was before Facebook existed.
I suppose I thought a Facebook break would afford me opportunity to contact my Facebook friends by phone or in person—or at least by email. But do I really have time for 700 individual conversations, coffee dates and email exchanges? Or even 50? No, I do not. And is it fair or wise to expect friends who are keeping people updated via Facebook (like my friend adopting from Haiti) to send me a special extra email or phone call? No, probably not.
Maybe inferior connection is better than no connection.
To be clear, I do not miss reading what people think about Obamacare or Obama or The President or Barak Obama or The Liberal Media. I do not miss daily invitations to play Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Safari Ocean or Papa Bear Saga (?). I do not miss play-by-play commentary of various televised sporting events. (Especially when I see them a day late.) I do not miss poor grammar, whining about the weather, sappy inspirational quotes or hearing how all your presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree for Christmas 2016. Stop it, already.
And I definitely do not miss that panicky compulsion to check Facebook every time I have 10 seconds to spare. I wasted a lot of time doing that—hours a day, probably.
But, I do miss having the honor of whispering a prayer for your sick child because you took a minute between wiping up vomit and more wiping up vomit to post he was sick. I miss chuckling at your wit when you describe your day or your observations (I have some hilarious friends). I miss seeing pictures of your little girl dressed as an angel for her Christmas pageant and your baby sleeping soundly in her crib. And I miss knowing today is your birthday. Because I stink at remembering today is your birthday.
Call it a waste of time or stupid or evil or inferior, but Facebook feels a bit like connection to me—at least for the hundred or so people whom I truly love, but will surely fall through the friendship cracks if I leave Facebook altogether.
So, while I still plan to stay on this break through the holidays, I look forward to reengaging in social media in January, as pathetic as that sounds when I say it out loud. Only, this time, I plan to do it with a bit more discretion, less crying and more balance.
Q4U: Have you ever taken a social media break? What did you discover about yourself? How do you balance the good and the bad in social media?
Contrary to what may appear to be the case, I am NOT on a blog break. In reality, I have written no less than 100 blog posts in my head and probably 10 of those are partially written on my computer. It’s just–oh my goodness–LIFE, people! LIFE is sucking the LIFE out of me!!! I’m desperately trying to find a new writing/posting rhythm while still balancing LIFE. What an irony, considering the name and focus of this blog. I love writing here and I love that you always show up to read it. I just wanted to let you know that I hope to have a more consistent posting schedule in January. Thank you for reading.