Today a friend and I decided to go on a Facebook fast.
Now, I know that for many folks, this wouldn’t be a big deal. And I’ve certainly done it before, whilst camping, or on road trips, or at festivals. In general, though, especially in the midst of a week in total snowed-in solitude, the ol’ News Feed has been my go-to habit, my solace in the storm, my social stimulation substitute, my excuse to avoid looking deep into my psyche or coming up with pretty much anything worthwhile to do. It’s been like this on and off for a couple years now, much as I hate to admit it (especially since I don’t really use a cell phone), though it’s reached a fever pitch this past week. I even gave in the other day to the big no-no of waking up emotional, checking FB before even getting out of bed, and posting some dramatic angsty status update that had absolutely no basis in reality. Though I deleted it a minute later, who knows who read it? Who knows what nonsense I’ve been perpetuating through the virtual aethers?
Whenever that space has opened up this past week of not-knowing, of loneliness, of facing down the dark, what have I been doing? Certainly not sitting within it, breathing, witnessing what arises. No sir. I’ve been careening across the house to land on my laptop, all a-flurry, to hit “refresh” on my various friends lists, craving the rush of new status updates or those little red numbers in the upper left that tell how many new comments or likes there are or how many close friends have posted. I’ve been like a pigeon in a psychological experiment cage, pressing a button obsessively just in case a pellet of food comes out. I’ve been a junkie, a FB-aholic, craving the nourishment that does not nourish, the empty fix that’s satisfying for a split second then leaves a gaping maw in its wake. “More! More! I need more!” raged the beasties inside me, getting upset in the dark of night when five minutes would go by without anyone posting a new update.
It. Was. PATHETIC. It was sad and ridiculous and an overall laughable and heinous state of affairs. I knew I needed to stop. But how? For a while I refused to acknowledge how much of a life-suck it had become—perhaps, in part, because it seemed relatively benign in comparison to addictions like drug abuse or even negative self-talk. And since I’m generally on my computer for a good part of the day, how could I stop myself from going there? Really, what was the harm? These past few weeks I’ve been methodically winnowing out my addictions in an effort to make space for new and nurturing practices. I’d gotten nearly all of them, stopped them, nipped them in the bud. Except this one. Turns out it was a compulsion I felt nearly powerless against.
Until last night, when my friend announced she’d be taking today off from the Book of Face. Perfect! I said I’d do it too. Everything’s easier in solidarity! I went to bed almost giddy at the prospect.
Here is what I’ve done in the past two hours instead of hit “refresh” on the news feed:
- Made chai from scratch then drank it outside in the sun as the black-capped chickadees and finches hopped around on the snowy deck
- Wrote this blog post
- Danced around the house to badass Celtic music
- Edited a friend’s graduate school application essays
- Practiced yoga for the first time in a week
I’m fairly certain that none of this would have happened were it not for this momentous fast. And so far, I’m still feeling the giddiness I went to bed with last night. I feel lighter, freer, untethered from a weight I didn’t even realize was there. Again, to someone who doesn’t use the Book of Face all that much, this might sound ridiculous. But I’m just stating the facts, ma’am.
(An hour ago, I emailed my comrade-in-virtual-arms to see how she was faring so far. “I feel like Facebook is my crack,” she replied. “I don’t wanna be on crack.”)
Nor do I. It’s my hope that after a day of total abstinence, I’ll be able to re-enter FB-land in a much more healthy and balanced way. It’s true that there’s so many good things about it: keeping in touch with folks in faraway lands, publicizing the businesses I help run, sharing photos and projects and gratitudes, asking questions of the collective consciousness. But the medicine of Facebook, like anything else, depends on how we use it. And, like most things, it’s best in moderation.
Of course, I’m very aware that once I hit “publish” on this, it’s going to show up on Facebook. I could change the settings so this doesn’t happen, but I kind of like the idea of it. Like sending a message back home from a newly-discovered planet. Bridging worlds. But I won’t log on to my account to adjust the way the post shows up, or to see who’s liked it or what folks are saying about it. Most certainly not.
Until tomorrow, that is.
(Title taken from this track, if you like a little dubstep with your winter’s day.)