Life Without Facebook, Week 1

As hard as it might be for you to believe, I’m doing very well outside the walls of the Facebook Kingdom. It is true, I was shocked by the things I found when I looked up from my digital world. There are real trees and birds, babbling brooks and fuzzy squirrels, green grass and fluffy clouds, marching bands and holiday parades, quiet evenings and romantic dinners; all uninterrupted by my former virtual reality. To my amazement,  I learned that there are people living in my neighborhood, around the corner and down the street!  And they will talk to me!

Sadly, there have been a number of people who’ve asked (mostly via electronic methods) why I left Facebook. It’s a hard concept to grasp. However, I am beginning to understand that they seem to care less about my answer than the harsh truth that they “could never” leave the virtual community themselves. They’ve moaned that it is their only connection to people far away. It is their only lifeline beyond the world they live. It is their way of keeping in touch.

My response is simple, “Have you tried picking up the phone?” If Aunt Gertrude is that important to your existence, couldn’t you pick up a phone and ask her how her bursitis is today? Isn’t it just as easy (and perhaps a little more meaningful) to hear her voice as she explains the fall corn harvest, the Sunday church carry-in, or how Uncle Argyle is preparing the house for winter? I suspect it would mean more to her than simply liking the picture of her cat she posted last week.

I know, I’m old fashioned. It’s my generational curse. You see, I grew up in a time when a party-line phone allowed me to listen in on my neighbor’s calls, or know when Grandma Hines was listening in on our calls. We always knew the old woman down the road was listening in because of her emphysema-induced heavy breathing on the line. Ah, good memories.

Look, I’m not trying to return to the technical dark ages. I’m not trying to go back to the good old days shortly before men landed on the moon. But I realized a troubling trend on “The Social Media that Shall Not Be Named”: A person’s page is typically designed to do one of three things.

  1. Show everyone their beautiful family/cute kids/amazing dog or cat (guilty as charged – strike 1)
  2. Show everyone the food they cook/serve/eat (guilty as charged – strike 2)
  3. or Glorify their amazing activities/cars/houses/yards and their great looks. When did duck lips become so popular? (guilty as charged – strike 3)

In short, I’m simply trying to simplify, reconnecting by disconnecting, finding myself by paying less attention to myself.

 

I’m leaving Facebook, and not for the reasons you suspect.

It’s a turbulent time in our country. The election. The hatred. The frustration. The protests. Coincidentally, I’m stepping away from Facebook, but it isn’t for the reasons that so many of my other friends are leaving the social media world.

I’ve decided to step off of the Facebook platform and social media in general, not because I’m offended, which I am. Not because people have exhausted me with their non-stop complaints, which they did. Not because people are out of control, which they are. But because I realized how much of my precious time I’m wasting in the virtual world that keeps me from being in touch with the real world. For every hour spent in virtual relationships, I’m missing out on so much time with face-to-face interactions and meaningful encounters.

I’ve been pondering this move for quite some time. It isn’t a spur of the moment decision. But there was a moment today when the decision became clear, when it hit me square in the face. As I walked through the cafeteria today from my table in the back corner I saw that every table had someone who was not engaged with others but instead, looking down, and thumbing their phones, checking email, commenting on Facebook, viewing videos, Twittering and Snapchatting. This is no exaggeration. It was EVERY. SINGLE. TABLE. In fact, I passed one table in which a woman was actually surrounded by people with their phones out while she was reading the newspaper. It didn’t even look real and I nearly went over to congratulate her for the bravery and outlandish behavior.

Nearly nine-years ago a movie named Wall-E came out. It was a big hit. You probably remember it. But I hated the movie. One of the most troubling aspects was the image of disengaged humans who were depicted as massive blobs too lazy to walk, with giant cups of some drink in one hand and video screens poised in their pudgy other paw. They were over-fed and over-entertained. In this anesthetized state of ignorance they floated along on reclining chairs, completely disconnected from the reality of their situation.

As I walked through the cafeteria today, I realized we are only a hovering chair away from this pathetic reality.

I want to read from books that have pages. I want to look people in the eye as we meet one another. I want to eat a meal without being interrupted by someone’s social medial emergency. I want to turn off the tube. I want to shut down the screen. I want to escape the pattern we’ve created for ourselves.

And so today, as a first step, I’m leaving Facebook. I’m removing the app from my phone. I’m removing the link from my favorites on my computer. I’m stepping away from the vortex that is social medial.

Of course, I’m not going away entirely. You can still chat with me via Messenger. You can still see my pictures on Instagram. You can text or call. Or, and this is a radical idea, we can meet for coffee or share a meal. We can even go for a walk if you prefer.  We can play cards, work on a puzzle, discuss hard topics like (gasp) politics. You see, it isn’t personal. It’s survival. It isn’t anti-Trump. It’s pro-meaningful life. It isn’t against you. It’s for us. As hard as it is to remember, there was a time before social media. There was a time when we engaged one another in the real world.

That’s my goal and I invite you to join me. Pull your noses away from your screens. Straighten your backs and lift your heads to the beauty that is this world. It’s a site to behold.