". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Anything But Facebook

A little over a year ago, in frustration over the 2012 election result, I decided to intentionally focus my attention away from politics and onto other, more edifying things. For a while I blogged about the things I was doing instead of politics, calling it the Anything But Politics Challenge. I think it's time to do that again, only this time not with politics, but with Facebook. I am still paying less attention to politics than I used to, and I think that has had a positive effect on my frame of mind. When something tends to cause more frustration and restlessness than not, it is time to reconsider its place in your life. So tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I am kicking off my Anything But Facebook Challenge. It will coincide with the season of Lent, but I am not looking at it as giving up Facebook for Lent. In the first place, I am not going to totally give up Facebook. In the second place, I am hoping that at the end of my ABF Challenge I will find that I don't immediately revert to my previous ways. I would like this to be a permanent life change.

I joined Facebook in August of 2008. For a while it was just this thing that I didn't understand, a place I existed in name only because I never signed into my account. Over time I started spending more time "there." It was fun. It was often informative and sometimes intellectually stimulating. I liked having a place other than my blog to share things, especially things that seemed unworthy of blog posts. I reconnected with some people that I had lost track of, including the maid of honor from my wedding.

But over the years Facebook has become too important to me. And in the last few years, especially, it has become an escape. When day-to-day life becomes a source of increasing pain and confusion, it is nice to have a place to run to, a place where affirmation comes easily and where you feel like you have a bunch more friends than you do in real life. It is nice to have something to do when you can't find the energy or motivation to dive into the day. "I only have 15 minutes until _______. That's not enough time to do anything meaningful. I think I'll check Facebook." Before you know it, you're checking Facebook twenty times a day. Imagine if all those little 15-minute blocks were invested in other pursuits.

So here's my plan. I am not going cold turkey. There are people I want to keep tabs on. But, with apologies to my 500+ Facebook friends, I don't need to keep tabs on everyone. If I miss something, I have a feeling I'll survive until such time as I really need to know what I missed. So I am going to whittle that list of 500 friends down to the small group I actually tend to interact with regularly and with whom I truly desire to keep in touch. I am not going to unfriend anyone but instead will go from reading my news feed to reading a custom group. Into that group will go family, local friends, long-distance friends who are dear to me, and a few Facebook friends with whom my relationship exists only online but whom I have typically found to be a positive influence on my day. It's looking like the number in the group might be around 200, although I would like it to be even lower. For Lent I will only be checking in on that group, plus a couple of other private groups to which I belong. I also plan to limit my own posting to sharing links to my blog or videos plus no more than one other "share" per day.

I know. It doesn't seem like I'm giving up all that much. Shows you how high my Facebook usage has been if this is what cutting back looks like!

As with the Anything But Politics Challenge, I will do some blogging about the things that I am doing instead of Facebook. I don't know if I will blog every day. I would like to but am not sure I can keep it up for forty days.

I'm hoping that in addition to making more room in my life for things that matter, this Facebook diet will benefit my reading life. I used to be an English major. I ate books for breakfast. But between parenting and aging and life, I have trouble reading in depth anymore. I think Facebook bears a large share of the blame. Facebook trains the eyes and brain to scan, not read. I have found myself reading longer texts as if they were Facebook. It is very difficult for me to read every word of a blog post or newspaper article, and I think it's because I am so used to scanning that it is hard slow down and digest every word. Not only my reading but my attention in general has been affected, as I find it hard to concentrate for long on anything.

If you would like to join me in the Anything But Facebook Challenge, comment here and write a similar post on your blog. We'll do it together and keep each other accountable. (I like that idea better than this one.)


Susan said...

When I saw your note recently (on FB, ha ha ha) I pondered it. I should do the same thing. Well, let's be honest, I regularly do the same thing ... and then lose it and go back to my old ways.

I cut back to 100 friends. I try to skim and to skip lots of videos that I'd like to watch or articles I'd like to read. But I want to see baby pictures and hear news of BigDoings in friends' lives.

I've just got to knock off the escapism and the frittering away a couple of hours a day. Thing is, I struggle with blogging because somebody gets upset and reads into what I write, so I'm walking on eggshells there. [sigh]

Gotta stop writing. Too many people here talking to me on about 89 different subject matters, and my head's going to explode. LOL

John Flanagan said...

I quit FB several months ago, because I found it became too addicting, and a waste of time. Many of the posts, including my own, became a narcissists forum for the most silly and insignificant comments vain people could conjure. If we all lead such boring lives that we must resort to reinventing ourselves, bragging, and looking to "friend" complete strangers in order to build up an arsenal of shallow contacts, then America is in trouble.....a nation of "Selfies" looking for public approval and applause.
Having been freed from FB, I now enjoy just phone calls and personal conversation, and I do not need to have my ego stroked, just being myself, like the old days.

Susan said...

While some people use FB in the way that John described, I don't see that in many of my FB friends. It can be a tool for sharing photos, or for quickly informing many in-real-life friends of the birth of a grandchild or the engagement of a son, or just a quick giggle to lighten somebody's day. It's also a way to contact people when you don't have a current email address for them.

The problem is when even those salutary uses become too time-consuming or are used to escape more pressing duties. But that misuse in itself does not mean everybody is using FB for ego-stroking or bragging or narcissism.

Cheryl said...

Human nature being what it is, I don't think vanity and self-centeredness began with Facebook. There were narcissists before social media. And we all have various public "faces" that we wear, whether in cyberspace or real life. I do appreciate the point that social media sometimes seems to bring out the worst in people. But it's a fine line. When does sharing cross over the line and become bragging? Those who want to think the worst will. I think my friends look at my sharing of a child's accomplishment as simply that--sharing--and they are happy to be a part of the celebration. But yes, Facebook has the potential to feed some of our less than admirable traits. And there are studies showing that Facebook works on our brains like kind of a drug, and we become almost dependent on the "high" it creates. I think Facebook, like just about everything else, has the potential to be both a positive and a negative. I hope to be able over the next few weeks to put it into proper perspective, so that I am benefiting from the positive but avoiding the negative. I'm going to be helped along by the fact that my laptop is about to go to the warehouse and I will have less computer time for a while . . . if HP will ever send the box for me to ship it!

Cheryl said...

So, you know how the general news feed doesn't show you everything? I've discovered that the group news feed apparently does, down to the the pages my friends have liked and the posts they've commented on, etc. All of that adds to the volume of material in the group feed, making me wonder how much less stuff I'm actually going to have to wade through to see what I really want to see. Aaaargh!

Susan said...

I've noticed that even the group newsfeed does not show everything. But it's a whole lot closer to Everything than is the general newsfeed.

Isn't there something you can adjust on each individual person's name that says whether you want to see all their likes, dislikes, new friends, etc, as opposed to just their status updates? Or does is that supposed to be only what guides your general newsfeed?

I dunno ... I've learned (and am still learning) to breeze past a lot without READING it. My FOMS disapproves but my rational brain tries to keep at the FB-minimizing.

Cheryl said...

Susan, I have a memory of there being a way to control what you see in your news feed on an individual basis. But now I don't remember where that was or how to find it. I just went to your page and clicked around and couldn't see any options other than to follow/not follow, to get notifications or not, or to add or remove you from a custom list. And of course to message you or unfriend or block you. Yeah, I've been considering doing one of those last two for a long time now. ;-)

Susan said...

Try unclicking "get notifications" for nearly everybody. That should help unclutter the group-feed quite a bit.

And any time a game pops up in your feed, x it out; tell it you don't want to see anything from that group.

And HA to you, because when you unfriend me, I'll still be stalking your blog, dear friend. (Oops, I wonder what strangers will think when they read that? LOL)