“‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said the Lady of Shalott.” – Tennyson
If you were at one time one of my “facebook friends,” and are reading this post, you may remember that when I quit facebook almost two months ago, I cited reasons like “the new format stinks and I don’t have time to figure it out,” “I can’t find my people anymore,” “I am concerned about my privacy,” and “my family needs me more.” I really can’t remember what all I put on there. I have recently heard that some friends have expressed concern that I succumbed to the “facebook is evil” school of thought, and pulled the plug for that reason.
In actuality, though, while each of these issues was indeed obnoxious and did influence the tipping of the scales, what happened for me was simpler, and I’ve decided to share it with you here, since I didn’t have the guts to actually post it ON facebook.
Here it is:
I received a special batch of irresistible “friend requests.” They were packaged in a small wax-paper bag, and were sitting next to my laptop one day when I went to log in to facebook. Each was cut down to business card size, and each had a crayoned face drawn in the corner – they were the faces of each of my children and my husband. With each familiar and beloved name, there was a choice underneath – I could choose “confirm,” or “ignore.” My (then) 11-year-old daughter was the one responsible for crafting the requests, mostly because facebook looked like fun to her, and she wanted to participate, too. As so often happens (for me, anyway), asking myself if I was acting as I would want my children to act in my place helped to put things in perspective.
I wish I could say I responded immediately and closed my account at that moment, but sadly, the power facebook wielded in my life was such that I couldn’t do it right then. To my shame, I still waited more than a year. I thought I would be able to merely reduce the time spent there, and be OK. But let me tell you, those paper friend requests were a LOT heavier than the electronic kind. The conviction that I would ultimately trade in my time on facebook for time with my family gradually grew, and each time I logged in, I began to weigh the value of the time I spent there against the time I was simultaneously missing with my family. At last, I decided to accept those paper requests and deny the electronic ones.
Yes, I’ve had a few moments of regret since – but very few; lots fewer and farther between than I had when I was on facebook regularly, for sure. They come when I know someone just had a wedding or a baby, mostly, and I want to see their pictures. Kind of ironic, if you think about it. . . that the things that draw me to facebook are the very things I am ignoring in my own life to go there – husbands and babies – things I know to be the important things. Torah requires us to “Teach (these things) to your children . . . when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way,” which I think implies our children should largely be included in our daily lives.
I began this post with a quote from Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott. I think it is an interesting picture of facebook. The lady of the story is locked up in a tower, forbidden from participating in her own potential life, because she is assigned the task of weaving a beautiful picture based on what she sees reflected in a mirror.
I must say, I have really enjoyed getting back to “real life” without the preoccupation with the question of how to frame what was happening for my “facebook audience.” My head is a lot quieter, and I feel like I have freedom once again to fully engage in what’s going on around me.
Without facebook as the “default” setting for what to do with my free time, I’ve gotten a lot more creative! Here is a list of some of the things I’ve done with my “free time” instead:
1. Crocheted a blanket (my first EVER!) for my new little one’s upcoming arrival,
2. Played “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano (with plenty of hesitations due to lack of practice, of course!),
3. Helped my family complete a 550-piece puzzle,
4. Beat my 11-year-old son (only once, by one point) on the new “Pop-A-Shot” game my parents gave the kids for Hanukkah,
5. Laughed with my daughters and husband over the hilarious “Bad Baby Names” blog,
6. Organized a 5-city, 10-day tour of the US for friends visiting from Israel,
7. Posted to my blog for the first time since April (twice, now!),
8. Watched (and listened to) my children playing together,
9. Supervised them better, and taken more time to teach needed skills,
10. Listened to my husband say the words, “Thank you for leaving facebook.” Repeatedly.
Lots of love to my friends still in “facebook-land,” but I envy you less every day. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still hear from my real friends, too. Maybe not on a daily basis, but when we talk, we are able to have honest conversations and catch up without the presumption that we know what is going on inside the other, simply because we’ve read each other’s “status.”
Because I was once an English major, I’ll close with a quote from another poem that I found to be on-point:
But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us — to know
Whence our lives come and where they go. . .
Only — but this is rare —
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another’s eyes read clear,
When our world-deafened ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caressed —
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
— Matthew Arnold, from The Buried Life