Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

LIFE WITHOUT: Facebook

By SARAH ELLIOTT

 

APRIL 11, 2014- I have always prided myself on being a sensible Facebook user. I don’t talk politics, don’t discuss religion, stay far away from any squabbles. 

I appreciate being able to stay in touch with distant family members whom I would otherwise not communicate with on a regular basis.  Now I know where I can find them if I need them. 

I like being in contact with friends from my past lives — I’ve had about nine of them; lives, that is — and from various aspects of my life: those I’ve met through work, our mountain adventures, running, traveling, buddies from my school days, the favorite friends of my children now all grown up and doing amazing things, and others.

In fact, I never knew I had so many friends. Around 300, I believe. It’s a high-schooler’s dream to be as popular as I am. 

But Facebook has changed my life in ways I’m not too crazy about. It takes a lot of time and nurturing to stay current with all these “friends.” Every. Single. Day. The time I used to spend reading, writing, or creating seems to now be spent scrolling Facebook. I have realized for some time now that Facebook is a huge time waster.

It is an addictive little pastime; digital dope. It’s easy to spend more time than planned on social media, and this tends to lead to time pressure and neglect of other activities, not to mention bad ergonomics and mental overload.

Facebook is actually competition for a newspaper, so I’m consorting with the enemy. If people want to sell anything from their house to puppies, these days it gets posted first on Facebook. Classified ads used to be the bread-and-butter of any newspaper, but not so anymore.

Letters to the editor have taken a hit too. No one feels the need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) once they’ve vented on Facebook. Letters in a newspaper have rules of conduct and need to be somewhat polished; not so on Facebook.

(For the record, ads and other communique published in this newspaper will reach a greater and more diverse audience than most have access to on Facebook.)

For someone who eschews everything corporate, I have played right into Facebook’s hands. I want “likes,” I want to be “tagged,” and I want to know where everybody goes on their vacations or at least where they spent their Saturday night. 

I especially don’t appreciate how much of a record Facebook keeps on me. It’s alarming. Don’t believe me? Go to your profile, click Activity Log, then “All.” 

(I guess I should offer the disclaimer that some people might not want to do this with a significant other peering over their shoulder. There could be trouble if there is more to one’s Facebook than just “friends.”)

Something I never took the time to do on Facebook was to play the games that come around — list this, copy and share, tag friends — or take the incessant quizzes that will tell you everything from what your favorite color is to what Disney princess you are. 

This past week, however, a game came around that severely tested my restraint. The rules: list 15 authors in less than 15 minutes who have been inspirational. I couldn’t resist; this is right up my alley. 

I typed those 15 authors in about 30 seconds. Then, because I have so many beloved authors and didn’t want to betray any of them, I expanded on the list. 

My first game on Facebook ever. And one Facebook pal went all politically correct over it. It came out of left field, I never saw it coming, and I still don’t understand the irascibility.

Not a big deal, really, because I have been waiting for an excuse to say goodbye to Facebook. When it comes down to not being able to proclaim my passion for reading phenomenal literature without having a protagonist, I’m out. Call it a mid-digital-life crisis.

At first, I wasn’t going to turn Facebook completely off. As a stopgap measure, I pulled up my list of friends and started weeding them out or, to use a Facebook verb, “unfriending” them. Facebook didn’t make it an easy process to eliminate these virtual stalkers; purposefully, I assume. The site quickly bogged down and the list of people would rearrange itself, so I had to keep starting from the beginning and scroll through over and over again. 

After about 60 deletes of non-contributors, I didn’t have the patience to continue. The next obvious choice was to consider Life Without Facebook.

And so it shall be. I am going to de-tech. For the next 30 days at least, then I’ll reevaluate if life is better or worse without my computer-generated social life.

As a journalist, this might not be a good choice, and I have struggled with this for a while now. These days, sadly or otherwise, life happens on Facebook. Professionally, this could be a challenge.

But now is as good a time as any. I am breaking up with my “social network” of virtual friends for an anti-social network (?) of enriched experiences with my real friends and family. Or maybe I’ll just use my newfound time to clean house.

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