Facebook Fasting

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I first started using Facebook when I went to China in 2008. Back then, the status line read Karrie Zylstra Myton is …. and I was supposed to fill in the present continuous with an -ing verb. Which only English teachers could name like the nerds that we are. It was fun. I loved feeling so connected to my friends back in the states and my only disappointment was that my computer averse husband never did post his statuses for me. Facebook held no charm for him.

Although I was disappointed in him, a part of me now envies him. Facebook calls me a bit more than I care to admit. I’m not talking about privacy issues here. I’m talking about where I want to be spending my life. The siren sound of Facebook sometimes pulls me into swirling waters. She looks beautiful and sometimes she is. But sometimes she eats up the time I want for my writing. And sometimes I think too much about what others are thinking because of her.

A colleague at work feels the same way about Pinterest. “Pinterest is a Problem,” she said. Apparently she wakes up first thing thinking about what others have pinned and what she can find to put on her boards. Listening to her let me know I’m not alone in my social media troubles.

When I started chapter 4 of the Artist’s Way, I decided to include Facebook in the ‘reading deprivation’ that Julia Cameron recommends. I gave up Facebook and curtail my emailing for one week. And I was unpleasantly surprised at how hard that was for me. I felt myself pulled to it when I knew I didn’t need it.

I know I’m not the first to think of this.  One of my favorite bloggers and online art teacher Melody Ross gave up Facebook for an extended period. Here is her blog post about it  along with an excellent video comparing a Facebook life to a strict cool whip diet.

I also heard a piece on NPR talking about this and found an article from a renegade Facebook escapee who wrote a book about her experiences as a fb employee.

After my week, I learned  how restful it is to lay off the status checking and posting. I felt relaxed at the end of my week. I felt less pulled and my mind less scattered to the four corners of what everyone is doing every minute of the day.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against social media and have no plans to give it up for good. I love my connections online and the people I’ve met there as well as old friends I can now stay in touch with. I feel like it is a better way for me to get ‘news’ than the tradition media offers.

I also don’t think that this is a ‘new’ problem — this need to disengage from interactions goes back, I believe for all of time, especially for those of us introverts. Henry David Thoreau, after all, was making an escape long before the Internet.

I am, however, taking steps to give myself more rest from my online interactions.  I’m loving the time it gives me for art and family. If you’re curious about how it feels, give it a try. Just be gentle with yourself if you, like me, find yourself sorely tempted to break your fast. It helped me to say, “Wow. That’s interesting that way that I’m compulsively drawn to checking my page or email or what have you.”

Say that to yourself and then go play with your kids or pets, or go for a walk, or paint a picture, or write, or play your instrument.  You might be surprised how much you like it. Then please let me know what you thought and how you plan to keep social media in your life without falling over your head into the swirling waters again. For me, it’s a work in progress and I’d love to have suggestions.

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