Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nothing Makes you Blog like Shutting Down Facebook for Lent

Lately I have been feeling like my  time on facebook has not been helpful. Not that there aren't useful parts of facebook, like the groups I have for my ward Relief Society, book club or my family group.  And I love being able to plan an event and invite a bunch of people with very little fuss, and everyone being automatically reminded so they actually show up. It has been invaluable for arranging visiting a large number of people when we are going to be in Utah on vacation.  And I like seeing bits and bobs of other's lives on my feed, especially family members - there are news updates that I would never know about without it.  Crowd sourcing and soliciting for advice has always produced a volume of support and help (and advice). Even the articles linked to, on occasion, provide thought provoking conversations.  And there are those rare, like a purple unicorn, moments where an interesting, insightful, or just plain humorous conversation arises out of a comment section of a status. It is just - there is so much of it, all the time. I don't have a cell phone, so I don't have it with me all the time, but when I do get on the computer and check facebook, I always seem to be on it longer than I mean to. The news feed just keeps going and going, and because I don't usually get on every day, when I am there I feel like I either have the choice of not checking my feed at all, and just my notifications (who are basically just family members whom I have starred) or to start looking at my feed, and scroll down for untold amounts of time and and through untold amounts of links to sites with click-baiting titles, large numbers of status updates that never seem to be from those closest to you, but always some casual acquaintance you knew in high school who wants to tell the world a play-by-play of their morning.  

Apart from all this, do not even get me started on the algorithm facebook has set up that means you never know if what you are seeing is all that your friends have even posted, which means even if I do scroll all the way down to a point I have seen before I do not know if I have "caught up" because there are always status updates that don't show up (unless some how later they do - usually long after they are relevant). And sometimes it is hard to get off the computer when I should or when I plan to, because I am checking (just one last time! And of course, being the nature of facebook, there is almost always some change, some new aspect to give the illusion of progress, the perfect set of circumstances to lead to "Fear of Missing Out") to see if someone said something new, or if anyone commented on my newest status update that I like to pretend was a witty bon mot, but more likely in reality was an unwieldy commentary that did contain humor, just of an overly esoteric kind - which probably most readers completely missed anyway.

Which illustrates another difficulty in my relationship with facebook - it makes me overly conscious of my audience. I will often mentally compose statuses like I am living my life waiting to mine it for humor or clever comments for public consumption. Although I obviously do not despise writing out my inner thoughts for others to read, I felt like always seeing my life through the lens of sharing has changed my reality in a way that I am not completely comfortable with.  Clearly this is not the fault of facebook, but fault or not, it is an aspect of my interactions with it. Of course, this same aspect exists to an extent with blogging, but something about the method of presentation, where in facebook everything moves to the shortest deliveries with a wide audience of casual readers, effect me differently than blogging, where although theoretically the whole world could see my long ramblings, but in reality only a handful of people, who are choosing to sit down and read them, actually are. Despite its more theoretical public of a discourse, blogging is actual a personal discourse (at least for my little hobby blog), where this is my domain, and I feel a greater ease to fully express myself on my own territory, than in doing the equivalent of going to the town square and nailing up a sheet of paper on the public board saying the same sort of topic in such a public sphere. Discussing natural birthing on my blog, while still a potentially controversial topic, still remains to the most part me dialoguing my thoughts out with an occasional comment chiming in. Sure, plenty of people could come away from reading my long missive convinced that Thora is a little (or a lottle) bit too intense, or too crazy, or just plain too wrong. But they probably wouldn't tell me so, and we could all go on our ways comfortable in our respective spheres. Even if someone does comment a disagreement, which if were civil I wouldn't mind - as difficult as it can be, communication through disagreement is one of the best ways to grow as people and in in our relationships with others - it is still on my space, which means someone they know, that doesn't know me, or at least the me through long blogging, wouldn't see it and come over and sidebust with a comment that displays a lack of understanding of either those engaged in the discussion or of the actual matter being discussed, but mainly only shows their biases and opinions that were too burning to be kept to themselves. 

 Despite my constantly thinking of ways I plan to share or condense my thoughts into scintillating paragraphs of mirth and sparkling wit (which I don't love doing - if this blog post shows even just one principle, it is that I want to say it all, and I want to use all the words to do so), by the time I am actually on facebook I rarely remember what I meant to say, and if perchance I do I usually end up nixing the status, sometimes even after typing it out two or three times, after trying to find a way to express myself without offending this set of people (what if this is too crunchy/anti-crunch, or seems combative, or what if so-and-so took this topic in this way that would seem to be designed to denigrate their life choices/circumstances/innate selves?) or boring that set of people (what if this is too religious for my friends of other faiths? What if no one but relatives want to read about the cute things my kids say and do?), or setting of the topic vigilantism of a third set of people (what if I don't acknowledge those who aren't able to have children in this status about the blessings of motherhood? what if I don't validate those who feel alienated my my religion while still being honest about how I feel my LDS faith is truly for all people?) By the time this three way venn diagram has overlapped all sorts of 'friends' that I have on my feed, I am almost always left with such a small overlap of people who would not be offended or bothered or bored by my update that I do not post it at all. 

If I do decide to post, I end up too often measuring its worth by the number of comments. This is not limited to facebook, of course, but somehow when it is so much easier to comment on facebook than on blogs I expect more comments. And then even if a status update is well received, commented on, and hits all the right notes of humor, self deprecation wit and droll commentary with enough humble bragging to keep the universe in balance, it all too soon disappears into the gaping maw of facebook past. Despite the fact that people say you should be careful what you put on facebook because once it is on the internet people will always be able to see it forever and ever, this only seems to occur when people are trying to hang you on your poorly worded personal record or awkward photos best never taken, and never when I am trying to find something I myself have said, and would like to remember. I feel that although I have tried to remember and mark my children's childhood at least partially through sharing things on facebook, that twenty years from now it will all be gone forever like the eight track tape and floppy disks - indelibly marked in dead technology with no access point.

Although, writing this post has reminded me of one reason I use facebook - throughout it I have struggled time and again with writing because various kids have come and leaned on me, sat on me, read aloud as I am writing every word, asked me for things, discussed the plot of the movie they are watching, hid out next to me to avoid awkward moments from that movie, and in every way seemingly tried to prevent me from actually producing anything - all the while asking me repeatedly when I am going to be done, and how have I not finished writing yet? I am sure in all this time I would have had plenty of time to compose at least one status and get commentary on it, even if it fell far short of the kind of communication I would like to engender more of in my life.

Coming at last to the main point of this grandiloquent manifesto, I feel that lately the good of the many points facebook has brought to my life, through frequent, if casual, communication, has become over time outweighed by the time wasting nature facebook promotes, the paralyzation of sharing of information through too small of sound bites in too public of a sphere, and in ultimately the way that facebook takes up mental and writing energy and outlet I would rather see expended in more productive areas, such as blogging. I would like to slow my communication down - not in a true, "slow life" way, but to at least an email, phone call, and blogging sort of way. Sure, I will lose touch with friends that I do love to touch, however peripherally through the internet ether, but I hope that the deepening of  fewer relationships in my real and online life will more than make up for this. After all, we only have so much ability, time, and mental energy to engage and connect with others - I would like to change more of this engagement to more meaningful encounters.  And yet, the useful nature of facebook, especially the quick ability to email friends and relations, the groups I belong to that I do worry I would miss out on vital information (like book club being cancelled the night before) has always kept me from taking a step away.

A couple of days ago this dissatisfaction became the topic of conversation between my sister Mary and I. We decided as an experiment to step away from Facebook for a while, and conveniently since we are in Lent, and we both feel that our having no Facebook could help with our balance, with finding more spiritual and temporal centeredness, we decided that for the duration of Lent we would not sign onto Facebook. Thus until April 6th I am Facebook-free.  At that point I am planning on evaluating how I feel, and either resume Facebook, or hopefully have found alternate ways to accomplish what I loved most about Facebook, and leave all the "She wrote a blog post about THIS and you'll NEVER guess what happened NEXT...." behind.

I won't lie, despite all the difficulties I have outlined above, I have really missed it. I missed feeling connected when the people who toured our house as possible renters knew a childhood friend of mine of Facebook, and I thought to myself - I could totally tell Winslow on Facebook that I saw his friend, and what a small world it is!  I have wanted to share in a snow discussion with others when church was cancelled today because of a winter storm.  I have composed lots of status updates that I am convinced (!) this time I would not only remember until I made it to the computer, but that would still sound as great when typed out for the world to see. I have wanted to share multiple videos, thoughtful links, and just generally I have wanted to go to the virtual town square for socializing and soapboxing. But for now I am sitting back here in my virtual internet home instead.  I will have to nail my 95 status updates to my own front door, and maybe a much smaller audience will see them, but I am hopeful that the communication that results will be more meaningful. Just please, if you move book club or any other group information that I belong to, let me know. My fear of missing out truly exists most in missing those real life connections I value, and what has kept me tethered to an imperfect medium for so long; that, plus the chance to share my own click bait....after all, you'll NEVER guess what happened NEXT....

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said. I hope that we have a good month!