This Lent I am fasting from Facebook. The very first day of not browsing the news feed noticeably quieted my spirit, ironically widened my world.
I miss everyday photos and adorable moments from the lives of my brother’s children. I miss interesting thoughts and news from my friends and family who live all over the world.
But here are some things I don’t miss (things I didn’t even realize were part of my Facebook experience until I shut it off for a while): the urgency to form and express an opinion about each day’s big controversy. The concern to appropriately “like” or respond to comments people make on my posts, so no one feels ignored or left out. The compulsion to snap a photo or record the daily minutiae of my life.
In short, I feel less like a performer on a virtual stage and more like a living breathing person, free to think my own thoughts, spend my own time, in the peace and quiet of my own physical world. My mind feels more expansive, less bogged down with processing all the bits and bytes streaming through it as I scroll the news feed.
My Facebook fast coincides with my reading of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had heard a lot about this book, watched her TED Talk, figured I got the gist of it. But when the e-book went on sale for $2.99 while I was at a conference and burned out on interacting with people, I snatched it up.
I’ve known for years that I am an introvert, but this book pushes beyond basic identification, to affirmation, even normalization – of people like me. Not only is there an explanation for my love of solitude, my consistent mode of taking a long time to build friendships and not feeling a need for lots of social interaction – even my tendency to jump at loud noises, my lower threshold for disturbing smells and the way a poem or song or painting can emotionally knock me out – but Cain shows that this is completely normal for a good percentage of the population. It’s not something I need to fix in order to become a legitimate person.
Dear Facebook friends, I’ll be back, but with a more deliberate perspective after this fast. And I am not judging anyone else’s social media use. Simply noticing that for me, a confirmed introvert and highly sensitive person, too much social interaction (even virtual!) and everyday buzz interferes with me being my best self, and doing my best work.
*Note: You may be reading this post through a link you found on Facebook. That’s because my blog automatically displays new posts on my Facebook wall. So, if you comment about this post on Facebook, you’ll understand if I don’t respond, right? 🙂
Ah, this was interesting, Julia. I quit FB about 3 years ago, for a few reasons, but certainly among them were the sentiments you’ve given us here. I too miss being able to see pics of family etc, but I don’t miss it that much. I don’t miss pointless political arguments, the way “threads” would be on fire for a while and then just fizzle, and how I would feel like I had just wasted a great deal of time and energy establishing what everyone already knew about me.
Of course It was thrilling to see how some guys I used to know had lost their hair. It was also depressing to see how nice some people’s homes and lives were compared to my mean little existence. Chocolaty Shadenfreude and puckering jealousy, each endlessly available and effortlessly consumed on Facebook.
And I remember noticing that the way I presented myself was…not untruthful, but stilted, inaccurate, and I suspect this is so with most FB users. Its like Facebook has its own reality. And really, I don’t like people, at least most of them, so why bother with Facebook (your introversion is my misanthropy). I have kept only a few things from the innerweb, your blog, and a few others, and a few people I email, otherwise I’ll stick to books (the kind with paper in them) and staring into space. I just don’t want to be that connected.
Well said, Nnox. I wish you would write more. And I’m honored that you keep up with my blog and take the time to write here. Guess I’ll be content with that.
Once again, your transparency with your experience resonates for me, draws me toward authenticuty, reminds me of my best self and reality-checks me about my current stance. Thank you!