I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
My life is a lot better for not being on Facebook.
I decided to take a break from Facebook last fall when I was feeling stressed, in the way I think a lot of writers tend to get stressed—you feel like you’re being stretched in too many directions, like you can’t live up to other people’s expectations or your own, like you’re not good enough, like you’ve given away too much of yourself, and like you just need to go hide somewhere for a while.
(I wrote more about these feelings in my recent post “Art and Aloneness” and speculated that writers and other artists need more space in their heads than other people. However, as I mentioned in another post, “We Need You to Be Yourself,” I think it’s very possible that we could all use a little less constant-connectedness and a little more space to be able to hear our own thoughts instead of just the theme-and-variations chatter of social media. No?)
So, I deactivated my Facebook account, and ahhhhh—peace. I didn’t, and still don’t, worry about people needing to get in contact with me: everyone who knows/knew me in real life can figure out how to get in contact with me if they really want to. I suppose there might be a few people who would have to get rather creative, but I’m not impossible to find (and really, these days, no one is). I used to fantasize about being so, but not anymore—I don’t feel so vulnerable now, because I’ve got the space I need to be me, thanks in part to not being on Facebook.
I’ve also come to realize that I strongly prefer one-on-one conversations with people (via email, texting, phone calls, snail mail, or face-to-face) than mass communication through social media posts. It’s stressful to sort through the unspoken expectations and ego-laden subtexts of people’s mass social broadcasts—and also to write such broadcasts of my own, being weighed down by infinite questions about how other people will receive my post. You know what I mean: “Will this post make me seem ______? What if So-and-so sees this and feels _____?” (Somehow blogging doesn’t carry the same pressure, since it’s simply writer-to-audience instead of person-to-entire-social-network.)
Also, when I have one-on-one conversations with people now, it’s incredibly nice to no longer hear the constant refrain: “I don’t know if you saw this on Facebook or not, but…” I am now free from the expectation to stay up-to-date on my friends’ Facebook feeds. They just tell me what their news is, and I listen with fresh attention and real-time responses. What a concept!
I have some friends who solve these problems by keeping a Facebook account but never posting anything or responding to other posts (even if they do silently read their news feed, stalker-style). I just wouldn’t trust myself to maintain my distance if I had an active Facebook profile. I really need space and stillness inside my mind, and, at least for now, Facebook is incompatible with that.
I do, however, maintain an active Twitter account, in a concession to the cultural imperative that an aspiring writer (or aspiring anything) should be available on social media. Sometimes I even read a bit of the feed, because I think that generally, Twitter is good for getting very tiny snippets of news, culture, and opinion.
But it’s not good for getting substance and soul. From my experience with Twitter, Facebook, and the other social media sites I’ve used, I think there is very little there that is real—that stays with you—that changes you—that communicates soul—that grips your heart and awakens your dreams. For words like that, I turn away from the internet and to my bookshelf, where I find the words of great writers, whose work—created in solitude—transcends time and breathes with insight, creativity, and soul.
And that is the kind of writer I hope, someday, to be.