Well, it’s been five weeks since I’ve really been active on Facebook. Every few days I stick my toe in to test the waters, but I’m not quite ready to dive back in just yet.
While I miss hearing what my friends are doing, I’ve learned a few things.
Over the years I’ve grown used to being able to snap a quick photo with my iPhone and post it on Facebook, or stopping for a moment to jot down a funny thought. I knew I’d miss the social connection of sharing, and I was fairly worried that my ego would miss the instant feedback I was used to getting. There’s nothing quite like getting seventy “likes” in an hour to make you feel loved — especially when life is difficult. And I did miss those things. As with any addiction, the first three or four days were startlingly difficult — I bet I absently reached for my phone fifty times a day to check in or to post some random thought, and each time I’d feel empty, isolated, and lonely when I’d see the FB icon wasn’t there any more.
But after a few days I stopped thinking about it so much. I quit feeling that I needed to share every thought. I grew used to the idea that I can actually survive on my own without the constant feedback. The addiction waned.
Beloved Wifey Dagmar quit the Facebook habit the same time as I, though she was able to completely disable her account, something I was unable to do (as odd as it sounds I occasionally need to search Facebook for photos to use in my customers’ ads, every few days I’ll see the instruction, “Just pull some of our photos off Facebook,”). After just a few days she commented, “You know, without Facebook I sleep so much better!” I asked her how that could be. She answered, “I alvays had a Facebook conversation on my mind. I’d vake myself up every half hour to check and see what people commented. Den I’d spend an hour looking at udder stuff and I’d get so mad at the politics that I couldn’t get back to sleep. Then vhen I did, I’d vake myself up again, all angry, to go look at it again.”
About a week ago Dagmar logged back into Facebook, automatically re-enabling her account. Within five minutes she was in tears. “I can’t handle it!” she cried. “Everything’s so split. I have so many notifications and messages from my friends I can never answer them all! It’s overwhelming! Und at the same time there’s so much hatred and ignorance – I don’t vant to see it! I’m so anxious!” She had me disable her account again and has never mentioned Facebook since.
I have to admit, my own mental health and well-being is MUCH better now than it was when I lived on Facebook. I had no idea how much the constant tension, the barrage of political animosity, the divided community, the lies, the sense of “us versus them,” etc. had bothered me. (My mother always said I was a very sensitive boy.) It’s easy to avoid the news if you choose — simply change the channel. It’s easy to stay out of divisive political conversations — simply change the subject or walk away. But on Facebook there’s no way to avoid what your friends post. If someone posts a political graphic, there’s no way to filter it out. So in order to see the good things my friends were doing I had to see the bad stuff as well…
I saw the other day on TV that Facebook, G+*, and other forms of social media are trying to find ways to sort out the fake news stories that were so prevalent this election season. Many political analysts feel that the blatant lies that were presented as true news stories had an impact on the outcome. Confirmation bias is hard to avoid — if you believe squirrels are responsible for climate change, you’re unlikely to fact-check an article that supports your belief. Political activists use that to their advantage, creating fictional news sites and writing articles with no basis in fact or truth — often designed to create anger and outrage — aware that those who already believe what they’re saying will accept their statements as truth without checking, and will likely repost the article, thus spreading the anger and outrage to those who lack the facility to understand the underlying principles. (One example of confirmation bias: A few years ago I reposted an article stating that FOX News was not allowed to air in Canada as Canada had laws against airing fiction unless the show was clearly labeled as such. I wanted to believe that was true and reposted without checking. It turns out that FOX does indeed play in Canada. I’d been duped by a fake article on the subject of fake articles.)
While I’m sure I’ll be back on The Facebooks someday fairly soon, I would be much, much more apt to rejoin my community if there were effective ways to filter content (I did use F.B. Purity, which helped a LOT and I highly recommend the software, but while it filtered out certain keywords it couldn’t filter graphics), and I’ll be much happier when the folks who do the coding at Facebook find ways to stop the fake news stories from propagating.
But in the meantime I’m enjoying my blog, I’m rediscovering how to write in complete sentences, I’m happy to have several more hours in each day, and I’ve got more peace of mind than I expected. I do miss my friends and the daily interactions, but people lived for sixty-gazillion years without Facebook just fine, and so am I.
*Anyone remember that? Yeah, me neither.