If you’ve had a birthday in the last 43 days, it is entirely likely that you did not receive a completely generic Facebook message from me to mark the occasion.
When the East Coast polls closed on Election Day, I removed Facebook from my phone. I stopped visiting all social media sites, with the exception of Instagram (because it’s pretty apolitical). I stayed completely away for one week. Since then, I’ve checked Facebook every few days, and have kept my own posting to an absolute minimum.
It was awesome. And humbling. But mostly awesome.
I found myself amazed at how much time I had wasted being upset at people who, for all intents and purposes, existed only on the internet. I’m not even talking about far-flung distant relatives or friends-of-friends. I am talking about the online personas of people who are dear friends in real life. I don’t mean that they use fake names or fake profiles or anything like that. I am talking about people who are kind, generous, and thoughtful in person – and hate-filled, hysterical, and blinded by fear on Facebook. People who hug me when they see me in the grocery store, then go online and re-post an article smugly degrading stay-at-home-moms, or minivan drivers, or churchgoers. Or Republicans.
It was awesome to be free of all that anxiety and anger. I found myself enjoying my in-person friendships more, and making an effort to stay in touch with people, rather than passively being filled in on their lives via news feed. I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I read a bunch of books. I listened to podcasts. I spent time being creative.
The experience was also humbling. I don’t think anyone noticed my absence, and if they did, no one commented on it. That’s fine! I didn’t intend to make a statement, I was just trying to alleviate my own low-level anxiety. But it’s a little sobering to watch life go on without your participation.
I realize that this blog will auto-post to Facebook, which is delightfully ironic.
While I enjoyed my week of total abstention from Facebook, I don’t think I’ll quit it entirely. I’m pretty comfortable with my current level of participation. I’ve become pretty aggressive about hiding posts. My test is this: if so-and-so’s words would be embarrassing (for me or them) if spoken loudly in a crowded restaurant, I ask Facebook to show me fewer posts like that. Facebook is not an educational tool. More and more, I feel it’s the dregs.