Sunday, November 30, 2014

Five reasons why I need to get off Facebook

Tonight is the last night of November. I posted here every day of the month, a goal that's not as easy to achieve as you might think. November always leaves me sleep-deprived, much like someone taking care of a newborn or a 2-month-old puppy might feel. This month has been especially rough, because I've had a lot of papers to grade, and that always sends my muse Dolores running for the TV remote. I've also struggled with the topics that drew me to write: feminism, dating, addiction. I didn't find much humor in most of them. In fact, I thought many of my posts this month came out dark and cynical. It's a place I'm in these days.

One overwhelming influence on my mood is Facebook. I'm addicted, and by that I don't mean to underplay the terrible effects of drug and alcohol addictions, but I can't look away. My mom always said I was afraid I might miss something -- what writer isn't? -- and Facebook is an evil, time-wasting temptation that I can't resist. It's my connection to the world when I'm home alone, and for this extreme extrovert that's no small thing. Sometimes I think it keeps me sane; other times I know I'm wasting my life away staring at any one of my screens looking for the next high.

So here, purely to give myself a kick in the ass, are my 5 reasons why I should get off  Facebook.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying my 530 (as of this writing) Facebook friends shouldn't post whatever the fuck makes them happy. The point this list will make is that I need to make better use of my time.

1. Dog and cats. I fear I may soon find myself guilty of adding to the overwhelming clutter of cat and dog photos and videos that clog my feed. Look how adorable Poet is when he chews his ball, wraps up in a blanket on the couch (won't happen on my couch), rolls in the dirt, sleeps, sits in the sun, takes a shit .... We all think our own pets are cute as fuck, but really, who else does? Nobody. Every once in a while Facebook will automatically play a video of a cat who lets a toddler crawl all over him or a dog that saves a kitten from a raging flood or a golden retriever who nurses a tiger and I'll watch with tears in my eyes, but most of the time, I don't give a shit.

Disclaimer: I think my friends should post whatever pet photos and videos make them happy. I just don't need to spend my time looking at them. This shit is all about me, Queen Reticula.

2. Football. I don't give a fuck about football. Football is one of the reasons my decades-long marriage failed. I'm not going to go into details, but that's time my kids and I will never get back. Fuck football. The only time I cared about football was when I was dating a football player in high school. If I wanted to watch football, I would watch it on TV or go to a live game (definitely more appealing), but the constant stream of comments about every play and every fumble would not enhance my experience of either. And they certainly don't when I'm not watching and don't give a shit. If I did give a fuck, I'd be watching, not reading Facebook. I wouldn't need a minute-by-minute stream of commentary. (Same with soccer, baseball, and any other sport I don't give a fuck about.)

Disclaimer: Football fans probably love hooking up with each other on Facebook and sharing their excitement. This is not my problem. My problem is that I don't need to spend my time scrolling through a bunch of football posts. I've always been a person who would rather play than watch.

3. Food. I don't give a shit what people ate for dinner or lunch or breakfast. OK, maybe if it's a special meal at a restaurant I might like to try. But honestly, even then, if you want to share food with me invite me out to eat. Photos of the food you eat are meaningless to me. I cook and eat food every day. That doesn't make me special. I don't feel the need to share a photo of my scrambled eggs or my grilled chicken breast or even my blue-ribbon cowboy cookies every time I make them. Nobody gives a shit.

Also .... beer. I hate beer. I don't need to know how many beers my friends have untapped, especially if they're 3 blocks from my house, and I wasn't invited. I mean, yay, you're out having a good time with friends and I'm here watching Netflix. I'm so happy you unlocked that hoppy IPA that would taste like skunk piss to me. I might feel different if an app called Uncorked came across my feed.

Disclaimer: If it makes people happy to share their food and beer consumption, why should I care? I don't. But again, I don't need to spend my time looking and scrolling past. I'm rarely interested, and sometimes I really do wish I could be there instead of here watching the fun scroll by on my feed.

4. Celebrity deaths. Is it not obvious to most people if they see on their feed that a celebrity has died, and they've seen it 25 times, that most of the rest of us have already seen it too? Why post it again? Is it that compelling to have to share the tragic news? We know already. We saw it too. And for some of us, the constant barrage of information about, for example, suicide can trigger some ugly anxiety or even panic. I had to stop reading Facebook for several days after Robin Williams died, and I'm not the only one. I don't think sharing and speculating and digging up the dirt is respectful of the dead. It's a feeding frenzy. Lots of people die and commit suicide. Let's focus on the people near us who need help and support. They aren't celebrities, but their lives are just as important.

Disclaimer: Some people think they're spreading information about suicide, drug abuse, or various diseases that will help their Facebook friends. Maybe. Or maybe it's like blasting a sermon from your car speakers and hoping somebody will find Jesus. In any case, if my friends need to grieve over dead movie stars in public, that's up to them. My point is that I don't know those movie stars, and I need to spend my time with the people I do know and love.

5. Quizzes. Fuck those stupid quizzes. I get sucked into them too. The last one I took was what my job would be in a post-apocalyptic world. I posted the results to Facebook. Who gives a fuck? Nobody! Nobody cares about the color of my soul or what Princess Bride character I would be or which Hogwarts house I'd live in. Nobody gives a fuck, including me. But still I take those fucking quizzes, because it's such an easy waste of time. It's such an addictive way to do anything but the things that would create real value in my life. Like write a book. Like invite people over for a party. Like .... almost anything. Almost anything contributes more value to my life than taking one of those fucking quizzes.

Disclaimer: Take the fucking quizzes if it makes  you happy. I'm sure the people you're sitting with at a bar don't mind that your face is in your phone. Hell, they're probably taking the same quiz. Hell, I probably am too.

Do you see a thread here? The problem isn't my friends or what they post on Facebook. The problem is that I can't look away from Facebook. (Joe, you were right to save yourself, but who will save me?) As Mary Oliver would say, I have one precious life, and I spend too much of it on Facebook. I don't have time for half an hour of yoga, but I can spend an hour and a half on Facebook. I don't have time for a long phone call to a friend (remember those?), but I have an hour to spend on Facebook. I might even get out and find somebody to play music with, but I'm on Facebook instead. I don't have time to write a book, but my Facebook friends will back me up when I say I've written an entire fucking book this past year .... on Facebook. I take forever to answer an email, but I shoot off Facebook comments all day. I have a problem.

And yet ... I have reasons. Just like any other addict, I have reasons. I'm connected to people I never see in real life, and wouldn't but for Facebook. Today I saw a photo of my wonderful Aunt Shirley, who has suffered with dementia for years, sitting in her wheelchair with a puppy on her lap, smiling. I would not have seen that if not for Facebook. I saw a TED Talk given by a teenager that I will share with my students this week. I saw a plea from a dear friend asking people to support her in fighting heroin addiction, which killed her stepson a few weeks ago. I was invited to several parties. And in the wee hours of the morning, I posted a link to last night's blog post, and a bunch of people offered their support with my new puppy blues. A friend reached out to talk about the return of his cancer ... another friend asked me if I wanted to go dancing ... people helped me decide on a name for my puppy and gave me advice on training him ... I saw photos of my niece's family putting up their Christmas tree in Iowa ... I signed up to bake some cookies so my  neighborhood can give homemade gift baskets to organizations that have supported us. I saw this Sir Perky bottle opener.

I am conflicted. I get so much from Facebook. I truly do. I'm in contact with friends from high school I hadn't seen in decades. I can show photos to  my mom. I know when my friends need my support, both online and in real life. I can get support from lots of people when I have a problem.

And most of the people who read my little blog come here from either Facebook or a Google search for something + vaginas. I'll get 200 hits from the Ukraine alone just because I included the word "vagina" in this post. It's no small thing though, because although I don't get a lot of comments here (or any, most days), I do get comments on Facebook. And people follow my links from Facebook and then I'll be at a party and someone will say something about  my blog and vaginas and suddenly I'll have a new reader. Facebook feeds me almost as much as it sucks away my time and my life and all those things I could be doing, because we only have this one precious life, these precious minutes and hours.

Do people who shoot up heroin give the same excuses? How many books might I have sitting in a drawer somewhere, probably unpublished, if I didn't spend so much time on Facebook?

I wish somebody could throw me a life preserver, but I fear I'm on my own. Most of you suffer from the same addiction I do, and Joe can't save us all. (Joe is one of the few people I know who refuses to get on Facebook.)

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe we could all be more careful about what we post on Facebook, and yet, I know my friends are posting what's important to them. As am I. What the fuck is a person to do, once the poison has gone down the hatch?

Puppy update: I put this at the end because I know some of you don't give a shit about my puppy. Fair enough. I don't give a shit about your pets either. Read on or don't read on.

I've finally decided on a name, and it's one both of us like: Poet. That's my final answer. It's perfect for this puppy who loves to lie under my desk chair and sleep, even when I'm in the other room. As soon as I let him down in my office, he runs to my desk chair and curls up underneath it. Seems like Poet is as good a name for him as any other.

I've decided I might like him a little bit. We had a somewhat better day today .... or maybe I'm just adjusting to his asshole puppy ways. I think I cleaned up 5 or 6 pees as opposed to 7 or 8 yesterday. We went on a long walk, at least 3/4 mile, and he did great on the leash. He's sitting and shaking on command, most of the time. And he's not howling as much when he's in his pen. Still more than I'd like, but not as much.

I think this little guy and I will eventually form a bond. It will be a battle between his peeing and puppy nipping and my impatience, but tonight I have a little more faith that we'll make it. Something about his puppy exuberance gives me hope.

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