Remember when, back when I first mentioned my Year of Bravery, I said this wouldn’t be about anything big, like scuba diving or snowboarding or skyrocketing? Well, maybe I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe I’ve decided to do something big, something that will change my life. Something that I never thought I could possibly do.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have given up Facebook.
Allow me to clarify that this is not a permanent sacrifice. I’ve given up this particular brand of social media until Lent ends on Easter Sunday (yes, I am Catholic, and no, I do not know who the next pope will be). While I have a Twitter, I don’t have many followers. And, while Instagram is its own special brand of addiction, it’s limited to photo filtering. I can show you the delightful muffins I made, set to the always bright and cheery Early Bird setting, and I can retweet Lena Dunham’s latest witty repartee. These are fine methods of sharing, but they are, for me at least, limited in their functionality.
But Facebook! Oh, Facebook! You with your photo sharing and status updating and link posting! You of the ill-fated Superpoke, of the overshared memes, of the political statements and animal videos and proclamations of what we all ate last night. You, Facebook! You are magic!
You can see, I imagine, why I had to give it up.
Initially, I didn’t think giving up Facebook would have any connection to my Year of Bravery. Rather, I imagined it would be a fun experiment in exploring my obsession not only with sharing my own information, but also with checking what others have shared. And yet, it’s become increasingly clear that giving up Facebook is no easy feat in this day and age. Within a week of my Facebook fast, I had missed out on two party invitations, forgotten several birthdays, and been involved in multiple face-to-face conversations where someone referenced something he had assumed I’d already seen on Facebook, resulting in me slipping into socially anxious conversation survival mode. This involves me nodding my head a good bit, laughing awkwardly or raising my eyebrows thoughtfully, and quickly changing the subject to something entirely irrelevant.
Friend: So the link Matt posted. Holy crap.
Me (thinking): This person knows I gave up Facebook, right? Did he tell me about this link already? Is it pop culture? Political? *nodding of the head*
Friend: The Jedi thing, oh my God! **cue laughter**
Me (thinking): Pop culture. *laugh awkwardly*
Friend: Oh, and Nancy Pelosi! Nancy Pelosi!
Me (thinking): Oh. Political. **raising of eyebrows thoughtfully**
Friend: What did you think?
Me (realizing this person doesn’t remember I gave up Facebook, and it’s too late to admit I have no idea what we’re discussing, and I have to immediately abort the situation): Did you hear about the pope? I think I know who’s stepping in.
It’s become a problem.
One of the beauties of Facebook–the fact that we can keep up with our friends and acquaintances with a click of a button or a tap of a touchscreen–is also the biggest fault. We’ve become socially lazy and, in some cases, creepily obsessive. A typical pre-Lenten morning would include me waking up, checking Facebook for news, going to work, checking Facebook during breaks, leaving work, checking Facebook at a stop light, making dinner, checking Facebook while eating, watching TV while checking Facebook, checking Facebook during grading breaks, checking Facebook before bed, waking up in the middle of the night and checking Facebook…
Friends. This was a vicious, vicious cycle.
It’s not just the lack of seeing other people’s posts that’s proving difficult, either. One of my vices, I know, is that I post way too much. For some reason, I feel the need to verbally explode all over the internet, telling everyone everything about my life as though it’s abnormally entertaining. Sure, I scribe the occasional funny post, but do people really need to know that I baked a quiche? If I am reading a book on my porch, do I need to post a photo of said book on my lap so that people can see what a pleasant afternoon I am enjoying? If a tree falls and no one posts about it on Facebook, did it really happen?
In the interest of providing you some sort of context for the insanity, here is a sample of what my Facebook page would probably have looked like last Wednesday.
Casey Lefante Anyone remember when Sr. Aloysius used to do announcements in grammar school, and she told us “Happy Hump Day” every Wednesday, and how it was never happy because it wasn’t Friday? And then we got older and it started to sound kind of sketch? Yeah. Happy Hump Day, everybody (where’s my coffee?) 14 hours ago
Casey Lefante There’s a dragon in my car’s engine. 13 hours ago
Casey Lefante Oh, Career Day. The day where students decide careers based on who gives out free stuff and where teachers discover which careers would have paid them more (I might join the Air Force. They had free pencils). 10 hours ago
Casey Lefante Coworker shared her orzo and spinach with me, an eighth grader surprised me with cupcakes, and one of my seniors said she wants to major in creative writing. I love this job. 9 hours ago
Casey Lefante Sitting at the mechanic’s, waiting for them to kill the dragon in my engine. Woman at desk offered me a bagel. I didn’t accept, but man, that bagel smells good. 7 hours ago
Casey Lefante How does a bandit celebrate her car being fixed? Massage! Hump day, you have not disappointed. 5 hours ago
Casey Lefante Listen, massage lady. I’m all for getting the kinks out of my neck, but elbowing me in the throat is NOT HOW YOU DO IT. I have earned Mellow Mushroom for this. 2 hours ago
Casey Lefante Mellow Mushroom, where has your soup been all my life? Soup, pizza, Gilmore Girls, and two cuddly kittens. Grading can wait. Good night, Wednesday. 2 minutes ago
Just typing those fake statuses made me happy. I can’t wait for all of you to like and comment on them.
And yet, now that I am approximately three weeks into this whole thing, I can honestly say I think about Facebook less and less. I don’t feel the compulsion to tap on that little blue icon on my phone and spy on former classmates, old flames, and weekly crushes. In other words, I’ve stopped acting like a twelve-year-old. I have actual conversations with people instead of checking up on their statuses. I read news articles and peruse Buzzfeed links without immediately thinking about posting it to my Facebook wall and getting the credit for seeing something so insightful or witty or just plain ridiculous. And, perhaps most notably, I am bravely taking the smallest of baby steps towards becoming less dependent on basing at least part of my worth on whether or not people find me clever. If I wanted to psychoanalyze it, I know that this would play a role in all of this. Any writer would have to admit that part of writing is the expectation that some sort of attention, positive or negative, will be bestowed upon said writer from the intended audience. What Facebook accomplishes is that it makes everyone a writer, and it encourages us to post with the intent of not only informing, but, more so, gaining some sort of affirmation. Affirmation is great (I hope for affirmation every time I write a new piece), but it shouldn’t become dependent upon the fickle format of social media.
That said, Easter Sunday is March 31. I’m just saying.