While I was in Menlo Park this past week, I decided to close down my Facebook account for a while. I realized that I can't keep bashing social media and also continue to participate, and it kind of seemed appropriate to kick the habit in the Book's hometown. Plus, it was just starting to feel really weird. In the early days it was fun, even a little exciting, to find people I knew back through the different periods of my life -- to see what they look like now; what they were doing with their life -- but over time it felt less and less like a community space for friends and family. Plus, like a Pavlovian mutt, I had reached a point where I was seeing the world in photos I could post and the potential Likes that might follow.
And, when I thought about it, I realized that that kind of sucks.
It was particularly great that I was spending my days holding my three-month-old nephew when I deactivated my account; I could really sink into the moments I had with him. And, let me tell you, that baby is worthy of every speck of my attention, as is his two-year-old brother and his parents, neither of whom have ever used Facebook.
I feel a sense of relief around the whole "feeling spied-upon" thing. I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes of all these crazy websites; I don't understand what "cookies" are. To me they're a delicious snack, best served warm and with a glass of milk. But it was starting to feel like the Facebook folks were standing behind me, looking over my shoulder and keeping track of every move I was making. It was, in a nutshell and with a nod to the upcoming All Hallow's season, supercreepy. I wanted my life back. Or, maybe, I wanted to be back in my life.
In this past Sunday's New York Times, Kate Murphy, in her article entitled, We Want Privacy, but Can't Stop Sharing, talks about the effects of a lack of privacy, or, the sense of being watched, on humans: "So it’s not surprising that privacy research in both online and offline environments has shown that just the perception, let alone the reality, of being watched results in feelings of low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Whether observed by a supervisor at work or Facebook friends, people are inclined to conform and demonstrate less individuality and creativity. Their performance of tasks suffers and they have elevated pulse rates and levels of stress hormones."
I have to admit that a kind of peace has settled in since I closed my account. I noticed, right away, that my thoughts and habits were changing. I would see something interesting or beautiful or funny, and, having no outlet for sharing on a large-scale, I simply observed and let the moment pass. Eventually I did start taking photos again, of things that caught my eye: I saw the full moon as my plane was taking off in Detroit and the way the lily pads looked on the pond across the street yesterday; I saw the gorgeousness of the gigantic, drooping sunflowers in a neighbor's garden, and I sent these images to people I love. They liked them.
Will I miss my Facebook community? I don't know yet. Will they miss me? I guess I hope so. I have some projects I want to complete, and, given all the extra Facebook-less time in my days now, I should be able to tackle those, and then some. And when they're completed, I may want to reactivate. Right now I don't think so, though. I feel like the world is kind of fresh and new. I feel like I'm more fully here. I absolutely loved what Richard Rohr had to say in his post yesterday morning: "He is trying to tell you that there is a place where you can live connected to the Real and to the Eternal. That place is simply the here and now, which always feels like nothing, like nowhere (now-here), but is where everything always happens. So be sure to be here—and not somewhere else."