Thursday, March 13, 2014

Life Without Facebook, Week One

I gave up Facebook for Lent because I really didn't want to give up Facebook for Lent. The more I argued against it in my head, the more I knew I had to do it.

To a certain extent, Facebook has driven me into the loving arms of Pinterest. But Pinterest does not have the same social aspect as Facebook. I'm spending way more time in the real world.

I am not and was not a full-bore social media addict. I know people who only unplug to sleep. But I was spending too much time on it, and it was affecting me profoundly.

Like everyone else my age and older, I grew up without the Internet. It didn't enter my life until I was well into my teens, and even then, it wasn't anything like it is now. I was eighteen before I started "surfing," and that was on dial-up. You had to really, really want to click on something before you made the several minute commitment to loading a page. The instant gratification of point-click-result was still years away.

In college, my boyfriend's house was the hang-out spot. In the corner of the big converted garage where a large group of friends gathered almost daily, there was a desk with a computer on it. It featured Notepad and Solitaire, and that was it. You hardly ever saw anyone near it.

My friends and I hung out together and talked and laughed. We worked together in the theatre department, we put on plays, we had parties. We talked on the phone. We went to the park and goofed around. We watched movies on VHS. We played silly games outside. We sat on the porch when the weather was nice. We went to restaurants and bars.

We looked at each other, not at screens. We didn't know each other's usernames. We knew each other's faces.

This Wednesday on the Ben Ferguson Show (WBAP 820 AM), Ben was reading a study talking about the disconnect between parents and children due to the growing problem of parents overdosing on social media. I know it happens. I see it all the time. I watch some of my friends with their children, largely ignoring them except to capture their cuteness and put it on the Internet. They go through whole meals without making eye contact with anyone. I'm talking about men and women in their 30s, not kids.

I don't have children, and I don't expect that when I do I'll spend twenty-four hours a day giving them undivided attention and incessant eye contact. But I promise I won't be like the mothers I see who are almost constantly distracted by tiny screens.

I watch families and groups of friends meet in public to ignore each other. I watch couples spend whole meals barely looking up from cell phone screens.

I am guilty, too. I know I am. But I'm trying to stop.

Why? Well, because I'm less of a person because of my dependence on technology. And so are you. The constant click-result, click-result, click-result of the Internet has made us scattered, distracted, less able to focus, less apt to actually see what's in front of us. And the faux intimacy of social media is the Chinese food of human connection: it satisfies, in a shallow way, for a few minutes, but ultimately leaves us empty.

The results of our obsession with these things disgusts me. It scares me. It makes me sad for what we've lost.

Technology can be wonderful in so many ways. I love Pinterest. I love all the pretty crap, the DIYs, and the tips and tricks. The Internet is bursting with wonders. (And porn. But that's another post.) I love being able to learn about all kinds of things, watch videos, see photos, and connect with people.

But I have to constantly remind myself I'm not connecting with those people. Not really.

This week I started belly dancing again. I started doing yoga for the first time in several years. I started working on my novel again. I wrote two blog posts. I find myself less irritable, calmer, and more focused. I smile more. I'm more patient with people - traffic included. (And keep in mind this was PMS week, which makes it twice as amazing.)

In the interest of filling the Facebook void with real human interaction, I made a goal to meet up with at least one friend every weekend during Lent. Last weekend I failed, but not for lack of trying. Everybody was busy. But I'm not abandoning the goal.

The first couple days were hard. And even over a week later, I still think of a great status update several times a day. But all told, I don't miss it. I look forward to how much I will accomplish in the real world without the constant distraction, the endless (and fruitless) political arguments, the worrying and fretting about my online presence.

I don't think I'll quit Facebook permanently. Networking is too important when you're a writer and entertainer. But I feel social media's role in my life has drastically and permanently changed. And I couldn't be happier about it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great article! I gave up social media for Lent once, and it was a good time. I even ended up staying away from Facebook altogether for what ended up being eight months, before a guest at my wedding mentioned how difficult it was to share anything. I hate that we've become that way. I think to myself, "Well just call me!" but people aren't like that anymore.

    Good luck with the remainder of Lent, and kudos to it already having a profound effect on you :)