As I commented in my opening post, Facebook had become a real problem for me. I use the past tense ‘had’ because I put my account to sleep on Monday, May 18, at 12:09 a.m. My original intention was to spend the summer in hiatus, then reassess in the fall. Now, almost two weeks later, I’m not so sure that I’ll be going back on social media of any sort come September.
In recent months my political opinions, which I stand by firmly, in regards to gay marriage and whether or not business owners in the traditional wedding industries should be forced to provide services to gay couples tying the knot, had come under fire by a few friends who see these issues differently. I am perfectly happy to allow that on many topics people may amiably “agree to disagree.” Alas, I have found that is not enough for some on certain subjects. No, no, it is all or none. And in this case, the leftist consensus seems to be all who believe in traditional marriage and the Constitutional right to Freedom of Religion and Association, let alone Freedom of Conscience and the belief that the Market can decide such issues better than Big Government, must be forced into reeducation camps until we give up our convictions at the altar of Political Correctness and sell out our God. Or at least remake Him in the image of modern society.
He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. —George Orwell, 1984
Yeah, that would be acceptable. For now. The arguments back and forth become of the circle jerk variety, and hardly worth the time for either party to continue. Still, for my part, as far as Facebook is concerned, I reserve the right to post what I want on my page, and happily allow that others have the same freedom. Discussions are fine, but harassment? Ugliness? Well, feel free to find another target.
Besides, the politics, these terrific graphics, memes, whatever you want to call them, pop up all the time. And I love them. I love humor, in most every form, and I love to laugh. But like Uncle Albert in Disney’s Mary Poppins, we can spend our time being tickled to death but accomplishing nothing, gaining, growing not at all. We post funny pics (and they ARE funny!) of our kids, our cats, our dogs, our Pinterest fails. And others laugh. It’s kind of like we’ve all become class clowns, vying for attention. Our friends and our “friends” post back, “LOL,” “LMAO,” “ROFL” and “:)” because we want to let our buddies know their comedic efforts were received as such on our end. No one wants to post into an echoless wilderness. We want to laugh with others, and we gain pleasure in making others smile. And that’s okay.
The problem is going on to Facebook JUST to be amused. Trolling for a laugh, if you will. We get so addicted to the fun stuff that we end up being “in” there for hours…all while the dishes pile up, the kids whine for dinner, your spouse begs for attention, your budget goes unbalanced for yet another day, and if someone were to sneak a candid shot of you, your head would be turned downward, staring at some device. Interaction with others? Unnecessary. We all have our electronic pacifiers to keep us happy instead.
And don’t give me the “All things in moderation” line. How good are you at moderation, really? For so many of us, not all, but many, moderation just doesn’t happen. Time wasters easily get out of hand, particularly for the easily distracted and addictive types. We struggle with attention as it is to the point that self-regulating on social media is almost laughable. We’re like rats at a sugar water dispenser! Like the poor Christian in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Like the busy people being plagued by the Devil’s little minions! Only now, we’re simply “busy” being distracted!
Sadly, even many who didn’t used to be plagued by short attention spans are now. I was listening to one of my favorite talk radio shows the day that I went “off-air.” The host, law professor Hugh Hewitt, was interviewing (somewhat) Conservative New York Time’s columnist David Brooks about his new book The Road to Character. Hugh was asking him about a few of the issues David sees with social media (which Hugh loves!). The first problem Hugh suggested to Mr. Brooks is “amplification of the self,” which is a topic for another post; and the second is the destruction of our attention spans.
DB: …The [problem with social media] I actually worry about the most now in myself is my attention span is just shot. I just can’t go a few pages without wanting to check my phone or something. And so I do think it’s having a big effect on attention spans.
HH: When I prepare for interviews like this and I read a book, I often read a chapter and then check social media and read a chapter, and then check social media. Or if I grade exams, I grade five, and then I check social media. It is integrated, but not overwhelming. I wonder if younger people have those discipline sets left over, which I’m banking on, right? I banked the discipline set 30 years ago before social media came along. I don’t know if they ever get one.
Seriously, folks! I have enough problems concentrating, and these two highly educated, highly accomplished men have just admitted on a national radio program that they can’t go more than a few minutes without twitching like drug addicts for want of checking their social media accounts. I DON’T WANT TO BE LIKE THAT ANYMORE!
When I first got a Kindle, I used it only for reading; and I read A LOT! Then I got an android phone and used my Kindle app for reading, and my Facebook app for Facebooking, and my browser for looking up every incidental fact under the sun- just because I could! It got to where I hardly touched my Kindle app anymore, and instead of reading five-hundred page books, I was reading three page articles on the Wall Street Journal.
When I realized my attention span, small as it was to begin with, was suffering (and my phone wouldn’t even work as a phone half the time), I went back to a flip phone and got a Kindle Fire, sans the 4G connectivity. That helped a good deal—except then I became pretty adept at finding Wi-Fi hotspots with which to connect—to Facebook. At home, I was rarely without my Kindle. My husband and kids commented on my continually glowing face. I laughed, they laughed, then they got out their little screens, too. Suddenly, one day I looked up to see we had all started watching T.V. as a family, with our laptops, Kindles, and DSi’s in hand! Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. Again, I don’t want to be like that anymore.
In the twelve days since I’ve been off of Facebook, I’ve researched and made homemade lotion bars, soaps, and moisturizer, started a cross stitch I bought at least 10 years ago, started reading (and am making good progress in) two books, created a family budget, updated our budgeting software, cleaned my kitchen, made multiple batches of water kefir, bought new carpet for our home (YEAH!!), prepared a two week dinner menu, and will be doing lunch menus for the summer today (I am so tired of hearing that we have nothing to eat in a kitchen stuffed with food!). Oh, and I’m working on walking again, too. Not for fitness, not yet, but simply for ambulatory purposes. Go, me!
Granted, not all of the above accomplishments are attributable to simply going off of Facebook. The physical “I’m at home” time to put in to these tasks has come about largely due to the fact that after a grueling nine months, my sixteen year old’s dual credit college classes are on hiatus. BUT, the fact that I’m using my at home time to be productive, time that I would otherwise, in all likelihood, be wasting sitting on Facebook for one “purpose” or another, is huge! I feel like I’ve broken lose of the addiction I had to “Facebook Think.” You know, where you go about your daily activities thinking of what to post, how to respond, how many ‘likes’ such and such post might garner, how cute that picture would be-on Facebook, etc. It’s been very freeing. As much as I miss some of my contacts on there, It’s been very, very freeing.
I will say, too, as both a positive and a negative, I’ve become terribly disconnected to the world and national news and politics that I “love.” My Facebook news feed kept me up to date on such things-minute by minute. We only have satellite in the man cave up stairs, and I rarely bother to go up there simply to watch the news. Additionally, since I’m not in the car very much these days, I miss listening to my Prager–Medved–Hewitt talk radio programs. Seriously, I feel as clueless about the world as the typical college Democrat! On the positive side, however, I’m less stressed, happier (ignorance IS bliss!), and more focused on what’s mine, i.e. what I have control over. And that really is all for the best.