Hello reality. This week I deactivated my Facebook account. This may appear to be a strange thing to do when you are living far, far away from your friends and family. But it was for my relationships that I decided to pull the Facebook plug clean out of the socket.
I have been on Facebook for close to eight years now. It was a part of my daily routine and existence, like breakfast or brushing your teeth. What was at first a novelty soon became first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I found myself ending up on the pages of friends of friends of friends, comparing myself to them. Conducting bizarre social calculations in my head about what they may think of me or I of them. It brought out the worst in me and appealed to all the dark parts of human nature-the covetous, jealous insecurities that are drawn out when baited enough.
Perhaps the most difficult part was the anxiety I began to have when faced with ‘real’ human interaction. Old fashioned face to face, phone calls, waving and stopping to talk to someone you recognized on the street. All of these things became harder while I convinced myself I had a healthy social life. The proof was in the ‘likes’ and my 558 friends. There was a frightening shift in the way that I related to people and I wanted to get back to something that lingered in my mind. Some memory of laughter and a presence in all of my conversations.
I woke up to it one morning when the sun came up around me in our new home and I had missed its slow rise while travelling down the endless descent of the newsfeed. Down, down, down you go. Devouring images, stories, tidbits, ads till you arrive at yesterday’s newsfeed items. You are up to date with everyone’s lives and somehow poorer in your own for it. I wrote a list of all the things I could be doing in the hours I was spending on Facebook. They were all the things that were important to me, things that I valued and I was doing them less and less.
A friend of mine described a sensation to me once. She called it feeling like you are under the skin of the world. It was everything that I wanted to be. It was life, it was meaning, it was presence. Instead I’ve begun to see the many veils that prevent me from being there. Some of these thick as walls, others as thin as gossamer. A part time checking in to my surroundings. It may have been some obsession with authenticity or it may be that old memory of tapping into the pulse of the Earth sometime, and missing it.
Since my Facebook departure I’ve written 7 emails to good, long standing friends and 3 to beautiful new ones. I picked up the phone and called my brother on his birthday. I have written 2 blog entries, finished reading a novel and am about to finish a second. I am watching my attention span slowly normalize. I can read a lengthy news article from start to finish with less of a monkey on my brain, chattering away at me to look elsewhere. I am retaining knowledge. I am pursuing knowledge. That can only be a good thing.