I just finished writing a post about leaving Facebook. It was deep, meaningful and had lots of research in it. But here's the truth: I'm leaving because it stealthily took away my creativity and I want it back. It isn't because they experimented on me like a caged rat. I wish I could muster that much outrage, and you'll find any number of posts about that.
Facebook and Twitter somehow satisfy my creative urges easily, letting me scratch the surface of deep feelings without ever diving in. For me, it dulls the creative senses and makes me lazy. Why write 140 words about a moment or event, struggling over word choice and meaning, when I can slap out a mere 140 characters instead? It is such an easy score.
People like me use deep happiness and deep pain to create; we channel it, sometimes into beauty and sometimes into crap. My entire world revolves around feeling raw and meaningful things acutely. It is the cornerstone of what I do and allows me to make a nice living. Without those feelings, I can't create. And for me, Facebook takes that away.
There are many people who manage both. They can be highly creative and pump out blogs, articles, books and do speaking engagements. Not me. After posting, I would just move on, like a junkie moving from score to score, always looking for the next high and rarely enjoying or examining the one I was having. Posting on Facebook or Twitter just lets me flit my nails across the surface of my writing itch. Then I'd move to the next mini-moment, without ever letting whatever I was experiencing resonate within me.
Am I a weakling because of it? Possibly. But I found it started to dull the need for any further exploration. My life became about crafting 140 characters, where it used to be about crafting hundreds of words.
Sample post: "In Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival at such-and-such resort. The pool is amazing and I just saw Robert Downey Jr." Perfect post for Facebook or Twitter: 125 carefully chosen characters. Designed to incite jealousy and envy. Designed to make my life seem fabulous. Designed as a micro-thought, no more.
What wouldn't be said is how my boyfriend and I just broke up. How I ran away to Park City. How I'm shopping too much to soothe myself and that I cry myself to sleep every night. And that I miss him. But that I know I'm doing the right thing, and I want my friends on Facebook to think about Robert Downey Jr. instead of my downer about breaking up. To soothe and encourage me by reveling in my awesome experience in Park City as I assert my newly independent self.
I joined Facebook on August 27, 2008, and my last post was on July 7, 2014. That is 2,143 days. In the past five years, ten months and eleven days, I've posted 2,177 times. Stop here for a moment. That's an average of more than once a day. Daily. For almost six years. What other habit do you have that you've done daily for years? Brushing your teeth? Eating? I also posted 687 pictures and felt the need to comment on other posts 4,364 times. Staggering.
In retrospect, I feel as if each one of those 2,177 posts stole a little creativity from me. Sure, I was clever and witty and got instant gratification from Likes and Comments. But it broke something in me, and it's taken me a long time to figure it out. My observation (mine alone, no science involved) is that it somehow satisfies our craving for connection on a shallow level, but it is so shallow it leaves us wanting more. So we go back.
And in scratching just the surface, it mutes our ability to truly feel.
I wish I had kept track of my writing productivity between the time I joined and now. In the beginning, I had fewer friends, and it was less of a distraction. Now I've allowed people like high school people who didn't even like me to invade my creative space. Why? Well, I wouldn't want to insult someone I haven't seen in 25 years. [She says with sarcasm.] Ridiculous, and yes, I know how it sounds.
Right now I'm sitting on a restaurant deck in Park City sipping on a blackberry mojito. I'm about to eat delicious sushi and soak up the last rays of the sun as it sets. After eating I'll make my way across the street to a saloon and continue writing, surrounded by ever-increasing drunks. I like to write in the wild because it inspires and amuses me.
Will I go back? I'm not ruling it out. I love staying in touch with a few friends and family, although it can't really be counted as "touch." I used to write letters, I used to call. I used to spend time considering how long it had been since I'd heard from someone. Now all the superficial interaction seems real, but it just isn't substantive. I struggle to understand what it all means.
My stepdaughter sent me a note saying that she hoped I wouldn't leave, that she enjoyed my posts and would miss them, and for a moment my ego soared, thinking that I would be missed and should reconsider. But life is short, and I want to know if leaving will restore some of my lost creativity and thoughtfulness. I hope so.
To my witty friends and family who entertain me, I'll miss you. But there is so much I won't miss.
When did you start Facebook, do you enjoy it still, and have you thought about leaving?
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