I’ve posted before about my love/hate relationship with Facebook and not using the filter. After three incidents, I finally decided it was time to limit my time at the virtual water cooler. Without getting too much into the dirty details, here are three vignettes that pushed me to make this decision:
The Curious Incident of the Thin-Skinned Writer
A writer friend (someone I briefly dated in the mid-1990s) posted a photo of himself and a former girlfriend circa 1980s. His entourage commented about the photo, and I added my own light-hearted remark. It didn’t sit well. An angry message from him said my comment was petulant with bitter undertones. How he managed to interpret it that way is a mystery, but instead not responding, I wrote back and told him not to be so thin-skinned. Three or more messages followed, and by then I was fed up with his nit-picking that I informed him he wouldn’t hear from me again. Apparently, he felt the same way. We both deleted, blocked and unfriended at the same time.
The Thin Facebook Line
Last month I wrote about the UnConference and the friendships that were formed online were solidified in Salem. What I left out was a painful incident on the last day of the UnConference. There’s no question that I’ve overshared my woes on Facebook, but be told I lacked “self-integrity” felt like a dumped bucket of ice water.
After the shock and mulling it over for a week my conclusion was the following: my fault for stupidly crossing my own personal boundaries, but if you disagree with a person’s choices and don’t want to be friends there’s a simple solution—don’t interact with them online or in person. There’s no need to cross boundaries and be hurtful.
Looks Who’s Not Talking
Porter Anderson recently wrote two pieces, The Gate We Should Have Kept: And Was Mystique That Bad? and Writerly Mystique Vs. Self-Exposure: Mind The Gap. He laments that we’ve lost our mystique because we’re blathering on and on about every detail in our lives. In my Facebook writing groups, many were offended by his comments. In one piece, he singled out the UnConference, and appeared to miss the point of a specific session on Voice led by Meg Rosoff, but also the UnCon itself. Some interpreted his piece as, “you have nothing to say so shut up.” While others thought, specifically with social media, that he had a point.
I sided with the latter (in fact, I think I may have been the only one in the UnCon group to agree with his lament). There are aspect of social media I like: the camraderie of experienced and novice writers; the opportunity to meet my online friends in person; to discuss craft, books, and share information about the publishing industry.
However, the other stuff—the incessant noise (wherein I also contributed ad nauseum), the need to be “out there” all the time, the food pictures, the talk about illness, the kids, the abused and tortured dogs, and the hours wasted yammering online became too much. I ran away to the woods to escape the noise so I could write in peace, but as it turned I brought it with me via Facebook.
Facebook Anonymous: The Four Step Program
For about a week I mulled whether I should deactivate my account, but because I belong to the Writer Unboxed community, I’m a co-moderator of Pitches & Plots, and more importantly, there are a number of people who are family, friends from childhood, college and the UnCon, whom I don’t want to lose touch with, so I decided to keep it live but with limited access.
To kick the social media habit, I created the following guidelines: First, no more posting anything personal. Second, unfollow friends (not unfriend) so as to not see their updates and hide the newsfeed using FB Purity. The reasoning behind this: you see one interesting post and you’re sucked in the vortex of the newsfeed. Third, use an app to block access to social media (Shout out to Self-Control and for backup BlockSite). Fourth, delete all social media apps on your phone and tablet.
It’s still early to tell if curtailing social media will work, but so far the only noise I hear are the dogs barking. I’ve worked out a system where I’m unable to access Facebook for at least twenty hours. In the mornings, prior to setting the blocking app, I check my page, respond to any comments made directly to me, provide an update to this experiment (ironic, huh?), log out and set the apps. I have Facebook Groups on the tablet, I check it and add my two cents on interesting posts in the evening The result: I’ve spent less than an hour per day on social media.
These series of unfortunate events became relearned lessons–jokesy comments can be misinterpreted; oversharing can bite back; and really? You have nothing better to do with your time?