It’s a beautiful day; so why are you on Facebook?

Sure, you’re outside on your deck, laptop/iPad/iPhone/iWhatever at the ready. And you’ve set yourself a time limit, twenty minutes max. Only curiosity trumps will power once you start scrolling through status updates of friends, perusing pages you follow. Overload is an understatement, but something is bound to slow you down, make you take note; how quickly twenty minutes roll into thirty.
Ruscha copyNo matter how you slice it, you’re kind of hooked. ‘Vacation from Facebook’ should be a hashtag (if it isn’t already), considering the growing body of commentary on what-Facebook-has-wrought. I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me, writes Matt Honan in a piece largely about the FB algorithm and its insidious effect on his news feed. Laura Dimon’s piece in The Atlantic last year, What Witchcraft Is Facebook?, considers whether a woman’s symptoms of conversion disorder were ‘contracted’ via social media. The comments the piece engendered tell a story all their own. Then there’s the blog, Facebook Detox, or you can cut to the chase and read Heather Hummel’s Huffington Post piece, How a 21-Day Facebook Detox Makes you More Creative.


I’ve backed off a little of late. No epiphany or demanding life circumstances pushing me in that direction except maybe the sense that there is no revelation without some reflection. Maybe, too, my curiosity re: how our neurology got so entangled in social media has gotten me searching for answers. Didn’t have to look very far. An opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review two weeks ago (Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain), tells me that on a typical day we take in five times as much information as we did in 1986. The time we spend reading status updates, tweets and text messages competes with time spent on often meatier issues. It’s a brain drain.

So why do we do it? A friend of mine (prior to our Facebook days and forever), a sensitive, poetic soul, once likened Facebook to the town square. We share thoughts, post photos, foster interaction. When it’s good, it’s really really good. Connecting with long-lost friends is a blessing. Connecting with kindred spirits in that serendipitous way Cyberspace brings us into circles outside of our immediate, physical world, gives a different meaning to friendship.

What I genuinely love most is the give and take. Show me a striking photo or piece of art, link me to a poem, post a quote about or by a writer I admire and I stop scrolling. I pay attention. I share.  Everyone needs a good music break during the day, give the brain some relief from headline news with its pounding repetition.

What I like least—and I know I’m not alone here—is the diminishment of boundaries a public forum like Facebook fosters. Its very framework makes us feel the need to say something—about ourselves, about a friend’s status update, about world affairs. If you can’t change a cousin’s political persuasions at a family gathering, what makes you think you’ll fare better on his Facebook wall? Of course, those gatherings may be few and far between these days, what with families more dispersed, but the need to connect is as primal as it gets. And a world that seems smaller and scarier by the day has us reaching for all the reassurances we can find. Or playing the provocateur.

We all want to be heard, if not seen. A selfie that goes unnoticed only affirms the delusion that there’s nothing we can’t do ourselves; what does it take, really, to let someone know you saw/you liked/you commented?

We want all our needs met. We want the president we like to do the humanitarian thing/we trust his motives.  Except if we don’t. Except if he’s the president we don’t like, in which case everything he says is suspect.

It’s too easy to be cynical but let’s not kid ourselves, we’re in collusion. We’ve given so much away in terms of privacy (unless there really is something insidious in the Facebook framework akin to the amount of nicotine that gets smokers hooked). Can’t turn back the clock, and you’d be hard put to go home again; the metaphor of cozy comfort may be ingrained in the word but neighborhoods change, parents move to retirement communities, and what we think of as ‘home’ needs some rethinking.

Facebook is a far cry from home; it negates intimacy even as we share our griefs and joys, and there’s every good reason some of my closest friends won’t go near it. But those of us who see it for what it is at least have the option of what we choose to be swept into on a day-to-day basis.

And when that sea of ships passing in the night starts to overwhelm, it’s a sign to drop anchor. Someplace. Anywhere but Cyberspace.

wall detail copyThese days my curiosity takes me outside. The excavation of my front yard is finally taking a new step – literally, as I watch the front entrance become grander than ever. I’m especially fascinated with the methodical work of the stone masons—combing the property for stones, pounding away at the large ones, chiseling them to fit the puzzle of the beautiful wall they’re building. Pouring concrete for footings. Placing a tier of concrete block for the steps.

Such attention to precision leaves no time for taking a break to check in on Facebook.

14 thoughts on “It’s a beautiful day; so why are you on Facebook?

  1. I have long considered giving up on Facebook, but at my first marketing meeting with my new publisher, they said how thrilled they were that I had a Facebook and Twitter presence. They now follow me on Instagram, though since I joined more than 6 months ago, I have never posted a thing.

    So for me, Facebook is more about a career connection than a personal one. It is very rare that I put up anything about my personal life (yesterday I posted a photo from my wedding since it was my 15th anniversary) but it’s a post I will delete by next week. There’s no reason for that to be permanently on my wall. I am trying to be strategic that way. I’m not sure that it matters.

    A writer friend of mine announced a couple of days ago that she was deleting her Facebook profile. I’m sure for the same reasons everyone else considers it, and I do have friends and family who refuse to get on. There are many days I wish I hadn’t, but then I would not have the network of writer friends, like you, who I look forward to reading every day.

    • I’m so with you, Tracey, re: the circle of writer friends Cyberspace has brought me into and, if memory serves me well, my original reason for joining the party was similar to yours. Even if my interests tend more toward the writing/art/music news feeds, and I don’t typically post personal things, I can’t help but be on the lookout for what friends are sharing. Would hate to have missed that beautiful wedding photo of you. It really was intended as a social framework.

  2. Deborah,
    This is spot on. It’s a constant struggle to balance it all, and FB seems to tip things in a direction that leaves us with fewer hours for real thinking and connecting. Of course, we all have the choice to opt out, but like Tracey said, it’s expected for writers. It’s also hard to disconnect from circles of friends for whom we’ve grown close on FB. For now you’ll still see me there, but hopefully only once in awhile because I’ll be so busy writing!! 🙂 Hope the house project is coming along well.

    • I’ve come to see that there are days devoted to working, and days that I give over a little more to connecting via Facebook, etc. I don’t know that that’s true ‘balance’ but I’m working on it. From what I’ve read, for all the FB friends any of us has, there are really a handful that we interact with regularly — which makes sense to me. Every day, every year, brings shifting priorities. And I’ll look forward to hearing about your writing — even if it’s once in a while. Re: the house — it’s a work in progress, and some spring maybe you’ll even get to visit 😉

  3. I strike my balance this way; 10 minutes in the morning, 10 at night. That’s it. I read an article about a guy who stopped “liking” everything (rather, he commented on specific posts), and he reported that his feed improved significantly: more quality and less frivolous quantity. I just returned home from a book tour; one of my stories was included in an anthology, edited by a woman on the east coast. Three of us read from the anthology; we played music, had an art workshop day, in short, we had a wonderful time…and all of these women I met online (it doesn’t get much better than that).

    • Checking in twice a day for ten minutes or so is a sensible approach, Monica. But sometimes I can’t help getting a little caught up in fascinating links to check out, or at least bookmark to read later. And I know only too well the absolute joy of meeting up with writers I met online. There’s a beautiful mystery to it.

  4. I keep my facebooking to a dull roar because I can’t get sucked into too much or I’ll miss hours. It’s hard when my friends are “on” longer than me and I miss important information – but I like how you mention that “reflection” piece. It’s so important for us to wonder daily. And, sometimes facebook can make us wonder. But we have to get off of it to enact the mime. Great post.

    • To ‘wonder daily’ beautifully expresses that daydream mode we all need to be in. And it’s hardly a linguistic leap to ‘wander daily.’

  5. I know exactly of what you write about, Deborah. Recently, I found myself checking Facebook four or five times a day until I realized that it had become like a drug–and that I had become addicted to the rush of the “likes” I’d received on my posts. How pathetic is that? I now limit the time I spend each day and already I feel better. I must say that I’m truly thankful for the new relationships I’ve formed through Facebook, especially those in our writers group. Thank you for another thought-provoking post. From now on, I’ll only be checking Facebook for photos of your finished landscaping project! Don’t disappoint us, now…

    • I know that ‘pathetic’ feeling very well, Jessica — but let’s not forget that writing (unless it’s a journal) demands a response. And why post a photo if not for the pleasure of sharing — emphasis on the shared aspect? Isn’t it interesting, too, that the sane 😉 FB friends of mine all seem to be in that same mode of pulling back, for all the right reasons.

  6. Facebook’s okay. I’m actually not on that often, but if I’m in between activities, like waiting on a long line at the grocery store, I’ll look through my feed. I only comment if it resonates for me because I don’t like getting dinged every time someone else comments. That’s about it. It’s strange how they pick and decide what’s going to appear in your feed. I think now I’ll be more conscious of when I use it. Thanks!

    • At a seminar I went to re: Facebook as a marketing tool, the facilitator gave some great insights re: how feeds do get prioritized in the FB ‘brain’, she called it. Apparently what FB loves most is photos; next are links to websites, etc. Of course, the sponsored links run several times a day. Again, what started as a communication framework evolved into a marketing one. Big Brother is laughing, I think.

  7. I am finding that it’s all a bit too much.
    Smart Phones.
    Even my blog. (I post 2 times per month now)
    When we go on vacation, I unplug completely. SUCH LIBERATION…
    the problem is I MUST DO THIS MORE AT HOME)
    Thanks for the reminder! xx

    • It’s way too much, Kim, and a little distance brings a great deal of space and perspective.

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