It’s been awhile since I did a blog post, but I would say it’s safe to say I’m officially back, and before I launch into other more interesting topics I thought I would start with a little update on where I’m at in life, and how I’ve been feeling since leaving Facebook.
I am not sure how many of you know but I teach at a university where we are literally under a 9 month contract and so I do have the summer’s off. Now that I am department chair it is not quite true, but summer is still a time where I tend to shut down from communication in general. This summer it is a confluence of factors that have led me to disappear for awhile. The respite, I feel, has overall been a benefit.
I guess I’ll start with my leaving Facebook. I said a lot of things about how I thought it would benefit me. An important piece of wisdom that I’ve gained later in life is that it is important to change things up, to get out of habits as best as possible. Habitual behavior tends to be what makes time go by more quickly and also I think has diminishing returns for things that even initially made you feel good. So I’ll start by saying that I certainly don’t regret leaving Facebook one bit if not simply for the sake of just seeing how life would change. And there is no question in my mind that it was in fact a habit, and that there were some signs of addiction.
When I left Facebook I deleted the app from my phone, and I was shocked to find out how many times I would pick up my phone to get on Facebook, only to stare blankly at my phone at an app that wasn’t there, and it took me a couple of seconds to remember that I wasn’t on Facebook anymore. Despite consciously knowing that I left, my unconscious movements to reach for my phone and look really gave me some insight as to how much time I spent checking Facebook. This made me happier that I left, but there was still this feeling of frustration that I assume to be akin to withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, after a month or so this diminished. I’m in a place now where I spend very little time on my phone. Sometimes now I forget to look at it for entire half days. I also find that I spend much more time looking for my phone (which is annoying) but I think this is because I am not always looking at it. It’s hard to lose something you are checking frequently and always have near you. I don’t like wasting time looking for my phone, but overall I’d say it’s not a bad thing that I am away from it enough to misplace it.
One thing I expected, that didn’t happen, was having extra time. I think this can largely explained by having another child. We’ve had a lot of family visiting as well, so things have been a little hectic at times over the summer. I guess I do feel like I have had more time, but that time has been filled and so I woudn’t say that I have had more time to relax. I will say that overall, I feel a better sense of fulfillment with what I spend my time doing, even if it isn’t always fun. There is a solidity to life now that I have a hard time explaining clearly, but overall I like it.
I think it was pretty clear that when I left Facebook that I was experiencing some depression. I didn’t think that Facebook was necessarily the cause of it, but I didn’t feel like it was helping me overcome it either, and if anything exacerbating it. Having left Facebook I have to say there are still times that I feel depressed about where our society, particularly in America, is going and I’m not sure how to make that go away. I mean I could simply choose to be more optimistic and focus on that, but I somehow worry that this will make me less vigilant. I feel this is a time for vigilance. You can of course be so depressed to the point of apathy, but I think you can also be to cheerful and optimistic to the point of ignorance. Neither of those are where I want to be. Trying to find a state of mind that makes me feel strong without depression but without some sort of drug-like optimism is challenging. Overall though I would say that leaving Facebook has helped me compartmentalize better, has allowed me to say, “Alright right now I have to focus on this…” and I am able to do so. There are times that I spend worrying as well, but I don’t think I do it as much, and sometimes I feel like I am able to filter out the noise much better and really think about, even some of the bad things, in a meaningful and deeper way. This is something that I hoped for leaving Facebook. The biggest thing for me is how noisy life felt and that I really couldn’t think deeply about things very well. So maybe I’m not free completely from the state of mind I was in before, but I feel like I am progressing, and that is something. Facebook seemed like a fairly endless stream of bad news, and people fighting, and being free from that, as often as I was on it, has been restful…peaceful…and given me more moments of contentedness.
There were many people who felt like was bashing Facebook when I left (there are reasons to be concerned of course about Facebook’s ethics) but my leaving was more a reflection of my personal relationship to it. It wasn’t healthy for me, and I still maintain that can be used beneficially. I know many people who aren’t on Facebook who are still as confused about facts from the media they consume, and so I certainly don’t see it as a soul source of how we can be misled in our society. There is a larger problem with all sorts of media which has been discussed by ethicists like Tristan Harris on the “attention economy“. This is something we all have to be mindful of, and getting off Facebook is no solution there. The important thing to recognize also is that we are all being unconsciously influenced by the media we consume, and it’s important to be aware of that and be aware of how that’s affecting your life. Think seriously about it all, weigh the pros and cons, and ask yourself are you as happy, courageous, and effective as you can be being plugged in all the time. In a podcast I listened to recently a doctor was saying how boring the message of moderation is, and yet it’s probably the one we should be hearing the most.
My world has certainly gotten smaller, but I think there is just as much value at making the 10 mile radius around you a better place as trying to make the world a better place. Moving the world requires a much greater force, and as an individual I constantly feel like I am inadequate to the task, and Facebook was a constant reminder of that fact, just as it was also a constant reminder of all the things that we need to make better in this world. It’s important to know all of that, but it’s also important to recognize your limits.
There is much that I miss too, I knew this would be the case. I wonder how a lot of the good people I got to know on Facebook, and think of them often. But I have gotten to interact with more friends and people in my community than before. There are a lot of people in my city who probably have quite different political views from me, but I haven’t talked politics with them, but I am getting to know them, and I haven’t met a bad person yet. Maybe they voted for Trump, or maybe they are very religious, or maybe they have no problem with guns…I don’t know, but I think it’s important that we really get to know people first before judge the entirety of their being based on who they voted for, or what they believe. There’s much more humanity there that I think we miss on social media. There’s value in understanding where people are really coming from and recognizing their common humanity. There may come a day when the truth of our political views comes out, but maybe then it will be a better conversation, maybe then there own beliefs will be as challenged as mine our and maybe even if we can’t be friends we walk away being better people than we were. I don’t think this is possible on Facebook as we just tend to get to know the people who agree with us, and fight with the ones we don’t.
Well this is already a bit long, but I just want to say that, at best I can say that I am spending more time with my children and more time just enjoying a breath of fresh air. I think that I will one day be able to return to Facebook and use it in a better way, but I don’t think I’m there yet. I am thankful for all the good people I know and have known in this world even if there isn’t enough time to stay in touch as frequently as I’d like. I wish all the best.