What I Will Gain by Quitting Facebook for Lent — 3: Resisting Urges, Feeling Left Out

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So today is Day 12, but I journaled on Friday about it.

The first thing I said in my entry that day was this: “Woke up in Status Update mode,” which really bummed me out. I closed that sentence with, “rats.”

The thing is, I didn’t wake up in SU mode today and I’m glad. I went to sleep last night after playing around on my iPad with a new app using my new stylus called “Ink Writer” and it’s a great extension of creative energy — it’s described as a replacement for paper and ink. You can doodle, trace an outline of a photo, all sorts of things for active minds like mine and it wore me out, in a good way. So today, I woke refreshed, not thinking about Facebook.

Here’s what I did last night on the app. I outlined a photo of myself with my 83# lap dog, Murphy:

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Here are some things I’ve learned in the last 12 days of being almost entirely (save for the fiction group and the fundraising groups I launched) off Facebook:

When I went on FB Friday for the fiction group, the first thing to show up was my home page newsfeed, and what was the first thing I saw? A meme. But this one was about Pistorius not being a flight risk. Pistorius is that double-amputee Olympian who shot his girlfriend three times because she “surprised” him.

Reaction: this isn’t funny. It’s tasteless. Does the fact that this is showing up on my newsfeed show more about me and the online company I keep or does it show how depraved people can be? Answer: yes.

But below the meme, I saw my FB community: their beings digitized and reduced to 1″ avatars and I sensed a quickening in myself, not unlike the sensation I feel when an ambulance goes by. That sounds morbid, but I don’t mean it that way. What I mean by it is to suggest that I feel disconnected, that I am observing, not necessarily voyeuristically, because I also felt no interest. The avatars reminded me of “TV Mike” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the only good one, starring Gene Wilder) when he was broken up into millions of little bits and his mother freaked out that he was the size of a coffee cup when he landed in the TV on the other end of the transportation or “broadcast.”

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Most of the content from this post is coming from the journal entry, that I wrote in hand, on the advice of a friend. My second post about this lenten hiatus was also generated from my journal entry. I am glad I’m doing it this way, on paper first.

I don’t deign to suggest that this experience will be of vast importance to anyone but me, but I am getting feedback from both of my readers that they are encouraged by these posts and the fact that I’m sharing how I’m doing.

When I went on Friday to correspond with the groups, I had 78 unread notifications. I also got a couple emails from Facebook telling me they missed me, and that they’d noticed I hadn’t updated my fan page “in a day” and suggested that I might want to update it then. A day. Well, that’s about right. That’s what I mean to Facebook I guess. For someone who was not a super-heavy user, I was mostly an uploader and content sharer (news posts, etc.), I mattered that much to them. By this point, 10 days later, they missed me as about I as much as I missed them.

But 78 notifications in 10 days. That red 78 over my little monochromatic blue globe made me feel important for a moment and it made me feel as though people wanted me to know they were thinking about me, so I did feel that rush, that draw to go see! but I didn’t look at the notifications — that’s obviously how they get you in. I reminded myself that I don’t care about what I’m missing, despite the fact that I woke that morning with the concept that people needed to hear what I thought first thing. This is a sick trap… for me.

But writing this all in pen on paper gives me a connection with my content; it makes my thoughts indelible, not part of the internet (even though they are now), despite my conflicts.

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I wrote six pages that night. Don’t worry, it’s a 5″x7″ notebook. I feel like Gulliver when I use it.

My life has opened up considerably since logging off and having to stare at my own neediness for approval and my estimation of self import. I’ve gone to museums, I’ve met with eldercare consultants for my parents, I helped out my son’s class with their bread making and then took my son to a food bank the next day to donate the bread… I’ve participated in life, but I found myself not necessarily sated by those acts because something in me, a years-long conditioning is impelling me still — despite my consciousness, awareness and reluctance — to share it on FB, to earn the Likes and the so-called approval for posts that compete with cat memes and glib someecards.

Egad, that sounds really snobby. But it’s true and this is hard for me. I’m truly being candid and am risking sounding like a jerk because I’m processing. It’s a little-known fact FB peeps, that FB has some sort of (another) creepy algorithm to determine what of yours gets seen first by your connections, in your newsfeed. I do know this: images win out. I also say this at risk of sounding completely paranoid and conspiracy theorist-y, but I wonder if FB is intentionally contributing to attention deficit disorder to keep people online; it’s like gambling … I’ve written before about dopamine rushes and pleasure centers and Facebook.

I continued on that thought,

It wasn’t enough to just do it and to document it and share it in a blog post. Something truly bizarre and I thought foreign to me is that urge from deep within that wanted the affirmation yet I know it’s completely pointless as well as soon forgotten once consumed. Do I remember anyone else’s status updates? For 99.829% of status updates I see, the answer is no. What’s more, do I remember any of my own? Do I remember my last one? Well, yes, because that one is when I said I was taking my leave of Facebook, but it’s sort of assholic of me to think that anyone would remember it; it’s an ego thing for me to think that anyone really cares about my status updates; but then I must remember not to be uncool to myself because then that opens up another rabbit hole …

The thing that feeds this concept for me as being an important member of my own Facebook community is that I’m a writer. And the publishing paradigms are shifting: self-publishing abounds, eBooks are all the rage (even though I really want to publish on paper), and the all-but-skywritten pronouncements that traditional publishing is on a DNR.

I hear time and again the need for writers and other creatives to develop a “platform” which is based on the person’s accessibility and social media “persona” and well, my “persona” is me. So that means, as far as the social media platform standpoint is considered, that I keep up with the Joneses, or more likely, the Hausenhaufers and Nardletters and Fingleworths — other completely unknown writers and trust me … there are a lot of us. I lament (quite ironically, by the way) that if I were just a regular person (I KNOW!), then leaving FB would be so much easier… but like Joan Crawford, I have to consider my public, dahling.

Don’t worry — I get it.

I stated in some posts leading up to my eventual decision to abandon FB that I’d had some epiphanies about living life when I was sick with Norovirus. Exhaustion, dehydration and vomiting does wonders for existentialism by the way. Another reason I had was one I don’t talk about very often (great line from “A Few Good Men,” “Because in places you don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties …”) is that I felt left out. That’s hard to admit. It makes me vulnerable and yes, real blah blah blah… but it’s true.

For a long while, when I first joined FB in 2008, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone else’s status updates. I recall going to someone’s wall (and I was a total noob about FB at the time, and I’m grateful that I’m still an FB / social media noob) and seeing what they had to say. I would just post my update or share an article and be off. But then something changed and I saw my friends’ updates and they were often about … well, themselves. And some mutual friends (this is where it gets sticky) and what they did together, with photos, without me. So I felt small, and unimportant and I would become sad.

So, I even did it myself a few times, just to make other people feel small and unimportant, thinking that would make me feel big and amazingly important and you know, special. I’d tag a friend or two in a status update and share it. But then I felt like a dick. So I’d take it off. I learned later to share my thoughts more generically, “A regular night is always nicer with good friends and a dinner served by a hot waiter.” That is a status update that anyone, anywhere can agree with. And you can borrow that status update free of charge.

I have an actual friend who has a rule (which I admire): Anyone she sees on a near-daily basis or who lives within 30 miles of her is not allowed on her FB connections list. (I’m not going to use the word “friend” anymore.) Her connection group is less than 100 and her bullshit ratio is controlled.

So there were also times when I was convinced (because I’m a deluded, self-entitled, paranoid conspiracy theorist) that some of these socially exclusive images were posted as a giant (swear alert) “fuck you!” to me and despite my weirdness, I know I’m right.

Why? Remember how Facebook first began: as the vengeful scheming of and public slandering by a jilted small-minded emotionally arrested boy at Harvard. It all started with his system of rating women based on their looks. Some women liked it and others didn’t; but guess what: they all got talked about and so did the women who weren’t included in the original idea. Facebook was founded on exclusion and rejection. So then that begat the question: do you want to be included in this or not?

Granted, Facebook has evolved (as I’ve stated on a previous post about this topic) or that’s what the marketing would have you believe. No… I don’t know about that. Would the marketing have you believe that? I have to say this, I’ve never seen a television or heard a radio ad or even seen an internet ad for Facebook. Why? Because they don’t need it: in the digitized, Internet-based world, Facebook is ubiquitous. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or unhealthy; the more I process this, the more it comes back to my knowing myself and my limitations.

I have another human friend who recently shut down, completely deactivated her account as did her teenage son who will likely be followed by his teenage sister. Why? Because they decided that it’s a freakfest of self-promotion and for my friend at least, she found herself completely unimpressed by it all after a while. And she did it silently, no pronouncements, because she didn’t want to hear about it from anyone. She’s like that. I dig that about her.

And so, here’s me: feeling like after four years that maybe it’s time to graduate. Keep the yearbook, stay in touch an’ all, but you know… get a life. This break has been awesome for the most part, despite my feeling twitchy and needy at times about sharing my thoughts and experiences.

The drop in data and light in my face have helped me become more self-aware, more calm, my thoughts are cohesive and productive and I don’t feel bad about being “away.” Despite what happened Friday morning with the Status Update thought, I haven’t thought that way again and I don’t really feel like hearing about other people. That sounds selfish until I realize that Facebook doesn’t share status updates anymore the way it used to. Back in the stone age, when you had a status update, it stayed at the top of your wall and people would know you’d not been online in a while and that was cool. Now FB shares posters and pictures and ads and cat memes and someecards and other stuff that quite honestly: has done nothing for my life.

The problem for me: it can be fun to get a glimpse of what my friends and family choose to share. I really like to see how everyone seems to be doing. I am a social creature who loves banter and seeing friends and visiting and travel. That’s the social part of social media that I dig.

I remember that before Facebook, I didn’t not think about my friends, I just didn’t think about them not thinking about me. It never occurred to me that I figured that large in their lives. I think about the thought of completely deactivating and it doesn’t completely appeal to me. Still chewing on this; the key is to not be distracted by it.

Thank you.

ps – here is the next post about this:Β https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/what-ive-gained-from-quitting-4-overcoming-habits-resurrecting-old-good-ones/

20 responses »

  1. I generally only go on Facebook to add my photos, or when my kids tell me they’ve put something on there. Occasionally I will use one of my other browsers and go on under their accounts. But that’s just to keep them safe πŸ™‚

  2. Tricky tricky stuff. I see and agree with all you’re writing. I hate the feeling of watching and waiting for the “likes.” However, I do love the, usually, helpful advice from other moms, the quickness of notifying friends to pray or serve a family in need, and the fact that it’s reunited me with family that I now see regularly (hadn’t communicated in over 15 years). I still find the balance nearly impossible to maintain but the good outweighs the bad, for me, for now.

    Miss your daily musings. πŸ˜‰

    How will I ever know if you respond to this comment without a notification?!?!

    • i will see this comment because you’re commenting on my blog.

      i hear you SO much, you are wiser beyond your 23 years, CL. the connections of regular people, moms seeking advice and prayers are invaluable. it’s my own dark side, the need for adoration, that is such a draw. i think though, and this goes to that part about not beating myself up lest i venture down another rabbit hole, is that it’s OK to want to belong. i feel this thought / concept sort of brewing now more than the “GET OFF YOU EGO STARVED FREAK!” (me) and so i wonder: is this a ploy? is this my ego saying, “it’s ok to want to belong… you’re no different, it’s alright… ” which of course makes me feel like Gollum. I’m a freak. I admit it. I think too deeply and I hate cat memes and the people who really like them would likely never read my stuff, so I have to be good with that.

      it’s not so much “moderation” for me, it’s (as you know me on a deeper level than most due to your exposure to all my family) about being OK with being OK about it and not sounding like a dick; or at least if i sound like a dick, to not be apologetic. god, i chase my tail a lot. i hate that.

      it’s an exercise for me in self-awareness and chaos reduction. it’s about authenticity… someone push me into the pool… please.

      xo

      • It’s funny you mention myspace and fb accounts; I was thinking before lent that social media is like a sort of unintended chronicle of our lives. I wonder about the people who come on at 13 and how hard a time they might ever have with giving it up. Talk about my own Pavlovian responses… I can’t imagine how it would be for a kid who only knows YouTube and fb, etc., such as my kids… One of whom is desperate to be on fb. Guess which one?

      • And we certainly all need to be needed, want to be wanted, etc. Not a bad thing, until the need transforms into what should be a controlled substance. The point about “being OK with being OK” rings so true. The hard part about being a self-aware introspective person is being a self-aware introspective person.

        If I continue to comment in response to your comments, am I enabling since it’s beginning to remind me of FB? Uh oh…

  3. You are definitely not a Freak! You are an intelligent, beautiful person with feelings! I totally understand everything you said in this post!

    I mainly got on Facebook to keep in touch with all of my nieces and nephews, (16 to be exact) that are now starting their families and also a couple of brothers and sisters…..I rarely put anything that is of much interest on my page other than sharing and occasional pic or post from someone else. I like seeing what they are up to, because many of them put tons of photos and have much more to say than I do and I rarely get to see them face to face…………..It’s also nice to see pics of Adam or funny or poignant links to blogs and You tube videos from you know who………

    I have been a little hurt as well…..seeing some friends who had gotten together and left me out…….not a great feeling at all……well, I have since felt that those relationships were not at all what I thought they were and drifted away……I am ok with that….better to find out now than investing any more time or effort, right?

    I have also felt at times like I should deactivate my account too…….I am concerned with the amount of data they collect from all of their users and how long they keep it…….it is one of the reasons I do not post personal pics and also request that my relatives not share pics of me, hubby, or the little guy. I guess in the back of my mind that is another reason I do not post much on facebook either…..

    Guess what? I do miss your updates and love it when I get one for your blog postings……..I hope to see others once Easter gets here!

    Have a good evening!

    Hugs,
    AC

    • Thanks for all of this AC. I do miss the banter. My thoughts are so much clearer now though. I think after a while, all that data was too much for me. The break is good and so when I come back, I will be able to pay more attention to those sensations and be able to act accordingly. Xo

  4. Last year I started a newsletter with my closest friends from college – I asked them all for life updates, compiled, and sent out to everyone in email. That was waaay more satisfying for all of us than any sporadic connection we get on FB. That’s my new favorite way to keep tabs on them.

    My husband is not on FB and he doesn’t feel like he misses out (although he was never on it so he has no idea what he could possibly miss – ignorance is bliss).

    I don’t think you’re off base in your conspiracy theory…

      • You hit the nail on the head Molly; some of them never “grow up”…….there certainly is more to life than their games…..but when it starts affecting not just your friendships, but your little one’s friendships as well, it becomes rather sad, pathetic and even more reason to put distance between yourselves and them……

        AC.

  5. Molly, this is really deep. And you open up to a very vulnerable place here. I wish that you didn’t doubt yourself so much and could find a happy balance with facebook. It has lots of negatives, but it also has lots of positives. I hope to be ale to keep on touch with you either way, but I do love your content and appreciate the ease of the platform. Just try to let it all roll off your shoulders when you get our feelings hurt. I’m pretty sure those people aren’t trying to exclude you. And you are such a wonderful person who has a lot to share with the world.

    • Thank you dear. I’ll be back. The respite is working; helping me figure out what all this means. I come from a place of terrific defiance when it comes to rejection and that’s because of my competitive nature. As for the exclusions, you don’t know some of these people, Sus. At times, Facebook is *exactly* like high school. Worse: middle school. The people who do those things are still there, trust me. They are. It’s ok, I don’t know them or speak to them anymore. The point of all this is my own passage through the medium, dealing with deep feelings because I am *very* deep thinker. For a while, I just thought, no feelings… I was taught to feel, then think. My gut is right. I know that for sure… it has never let me down — I just let it down. Learning to trust my intuition has been an arduous and fantastic experience. I’m not “your average bear” — that’s ok… I don’t want to be. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for being so sweet and available to me. xo

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