Now where did I put that “Like” button?

meh-buttonI recently started reading Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and like most well-told stories the first lines were what sucked me in.  “Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.”  The same thing happened when I saw the essay “Why I Quit Facebook and You Should Too” show up, ironically, on Facebook:  “For a desk bound procrastinator like me, Facebook had the gravitational pull of the Death Star.”

I went to work out yesterday where I talked with my doctor.  She sweats next to me on Tuesdays, and she asked, as she often does, what I was reading.  I told her about Celeste Ng’s book.  I quoted the first lines.  Then I told her a story about a friend and no matter how I pleaded my friend’s case, the doctor continued to smile and shake her head and shut me down.  She said, She’s not being honest with herself.  

If I’m being honest, guess where I’ve spent more time this week, reading Celeste Ng’s gorgeous book, or on the Death Star?

What is it, really, about FB.  FB is like a diary you want everyone to read, and what kind of diary is that?  I’m great, you’re great, everyone’s great, right??  And what’s with the likes, or worse, the not likes?  With the friending and un-friending, the blocking and restricting?  When did I accept the word “friend” as a verb?  What is a friend?  (I’m suddenly counting the growing number of friends not on FB)  Why does the space sometimes remind me of the 5th grade lunchroom?  Do I really just want to see people’s pictures, which is what I tell myself, tell other people, or is that a lie?  Am I on FB because I’m lazy or lonely or bored or a (not-so-closeted) exhibitionist or a climber or a pretend-statement-maker or a procrastinator sucked in by the Death Star, or or or or ….????

I’m pausing now, thinking about all of this wasted energy.

I made a few secret resolutions for the New Year.  You know about secret resolutions right?  You pretend you don’t have any because they are beneath you but you make them anyway?  That’s me, your resident resolution-maker-denier.  Here are mine:

1. Quit Twitter.  And I did quit Twitter.  Kinda sorta.  Before Christmas.  But here’s the truth:  I’m off Twitter, but I also know that all I need do is log-in within 30 days to keep it going.  And I’ve logged in.  Four times.  And I’ve logged in to check the Twitter feed of the prolific Writer/Twitterer who is the EXACT mean and petty tweeter I left Twitter to avoid.  Oy.

2.  Keep my mouth shut.  On New Years Eve, I said something to a woman that I wish I could take back.  It was snarky and unnecessary and then, of course, I spent the rest of the night trying to back-pedal and explain myself.  Why do I do this?  Why do I feel the need to comment on, just about, everything.  I’m trying to do that thing parents do with little kids:  take a time out before I talk.

3.  Eat and drink better.  I say this even as I’m having wine and pasta with sausage and cheese for dinner, but hey it’s only January 7th!

4.  Get away from the computer, spend more time outdoors.  I spend a lot of time outdoors, but enough?  No.  I need more.  I need more mountains and more water and more sunshine; I need less interwebs and that includes less social media, which is seeming so much less “social” than it was when I first imagined what “social media” might be.  Social media, I’m learning, is just another way to be anti-social, to be once-removed.  And that’s not at all what I want for my 2015.

So.  Here’s to the death of the Death Star.  Here’s to the new year and to getting back to Celeste Ng’s incredible book: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”  Here’s to not knowing if anyone likes me or my dogs or my pictures or my not-so-real-on-line-life, or not.  Here’s to reading real words on real pages.  Those are called “books.”

______________

Do you have secret New Years’ Resolutions?

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21 thoughts on “Now where did I put that “Like” button?

  1. koehlerjoni

    I make resolutions every Friday, which I normally ignore on Monday, so they are always slinking beneath the surface of my self-conscious, like time bombs or used car salesman. My resolutions are usually pretty simple. Move more. Eat less. Keep writing. Love my work or find other work that I do love. As for Facebook and Twitter, I don’t get it either. I’m on both of them because I just want to understand. Twitter makes me feel like I might have an epileptic fit at any moment, because the symbols are so jarring. Facebook has been a good place to connect with old friends, and so far no one has asked me to join them in their radically conservative or wildly liberal causes, which is what happened in my first foray into Facebook. I think I’d feel differently about Facebook if four people were begging me to join the Amish Fan Fiction club like the last time. And people have pretty much stopped asking me to feed their virtual farm animals, give them a fake martini, or play Candy Crush with them like we were five year olds playing in the school yard. The jury is still out, but I’ll probably outgrow it when I can tell myself I understand the big Facebooking deal.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thank you, KoehlerJoni. I think you get this whole social (not so social??) media thing more than me. Here’s to moving more and understanding that “online” is not a pseudonym for “real life.”

  2. Joe Ponepinto

    You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to close my facebook account, but it’s part of our journal’s marketing effort, so I have to put up with the baby and cat pictures, and the outrage of the day. My real issue is that most social media services are like a cheap cable channel where half the ads are for the channel itself—the whole enterprise seems designed to cajole/guilt users into spending more time.

    1. Teri Post author

      I quit FB about 3 years ago, only to hop back in a week later when a writing conference I was attending created a FB group and made it clear that was the easiest way for everyone to communicate.

      If I had to lay down percentages, I’d say it’s about 20% useful. Now if I can only figure out how to only look at that 20% ….

  3. independentclause

    FB is part of how I work at home without dying of loneliness. It is hugely flawed, but I think its benefits outweigh its flaws. Twitter I would quit in a second except that it exposes me to some really interesting reading. That’s why I stay somewhat involved.

    I’ve shot my two resolutions this week. But in my defense it is pretty flipping cold out, so the long dog walks have slacked off. As for the taking my work fucking seriously? I guess I’ve done OK on that except for the day before yesterday.

    Also, yesterday’s writing epiphany was that the dread and loathing I had when looking at my manuscript was not because I didn’t want to work on it, but rather the beginning of the chapter sucked and needed to be reworked. Once I did that, the loathing passed. Who knew?

    1. Teri Post author

      The last time I scrolled through a Twitter feed I had one thought: this is exhausting. The skim-reading to get through the junk to find what anything useful.

      Of course what came clear to me in writing this post —- that whole Joan Didion saying, “I write to find out what I think” — is that it’s not FB or Twitter, it’s me. I find myself caring about things I shouldn’t even know. (off to ponder that ….)

      1. Lyra

        Yes! That’s it exactly! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but what bothers me is what i shouldn’t even know. Yes!

      2. Teri Post author

        48 hours without Facebook and honestly I’m not missing it. At all. Which is surprising me, but I’ll go with it!

  4. donnaeve

    This post reminded me of the strange, inexplicable, mixed feelings of curiosity and irritability I get every time I’m out on FB. I can look at some posts, and thoroughly enjoy them, while others I’m busy rolling my eyes, and thinking “get over yourself already.” Sometimes the irritability outweighs the curiosity and I shut it down. Then I open it back up, like five minutes later. I’m so conflicted.

    And, don’t get me started on duck lip selfies. Or the “oversharing” where people are laid out on their bathroom floor and yet somehow find the strength to post about their deathly flu symptoms. Or drama. The drama. The drama. The drama.

    It’s like an online freak show. Or online train wreck. We don’t want to look, but we can’t help ourselves.

    The outdoor thing. Oh yeah. I love it outside. Soon as it’s warm enough, I take my laptop outside and work from the porch. Little dog is with me, bowl of water nearby, and while he chases squirrels bigger than he is, I get to work on the project while not worrying about how nice it is and I’m stuck inside. It’s the best of both.

    1. Teri Post author

      Here’s the question: can I keep my FB account and stop looking at it for giant blocks of time? Giant blocks meaning weeks or months. Now there’s an interesting experiment …

      I know one woman who had her best friend change her FB password so she could only get in by calling her friend and getting access. Sounds extreme but totally understand it.

  5. Pamela

    Twitter is/was a place where I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It also directed me to the link to watch the live Wendy David filibuster, back when none of the news networks were streaming it. If the most informative and interesting people leave Twitter, then it’ll make what you’re saying even more true — so of course I hope you stop back in from time to time. If it’s keeping you from reading real books instead of introducing you to good books and good people….well, then, I get that.

    Facebook is fraught, but I’m still on it. Less, though. I like seeing my nephews, who live states away. And I love seeing my mom’s interactions with people. I’m aghast at how many of my high school friends wave confederate flags. I keep my privacy settings pretty high.

    I read Ng’s book and liked it. Other favorites lately: The Empathy Exams, Praying Drunk, and In Between Dreams.

    Happy Reading, Teri. When/if you stop in briefly on Twitter, come say hello.

    1. Teri Post author

      Pamela, you’re right, of course. There’s a reason the first line got me in the woman’s essay about leaving FB — social media exposes one of my biggest flaws: tendency to procrastinate. Maybe what I need is to check in once a week, say on a sleeping Sunday morning, instead of when I have work to do!! (but that’s not the procrastinator’s way, is it)

      Okay, now I’m just whining …

  6. Averil Dean

    I’m gradually becoming one of those fogies who lives entirely offline. It’s taken me a while to be okay with that, to not feel like I have to slavishly follow my agent’s recommendations or my publisher’s guidelines or respond to my family’s complaints about how out of touch I am. I’m really not out of touch. News might take a little longer to reach me, but that’s okay. I’m living my day-to-day life in a way that makes sense to me and is fulfilling. Maybe that makes me less successful than I could be—or maybe it will have the opposite effect, and improve my productivity and the quality of my writing.

    Who knows. What matters to me is that I spend my time doing what I love. And I really, REALLY don’t love Facebook.

    As for the secret resolutions? Totally have them. I’ve been vegan for a solid nine months now and I’m having great fun with all my new cookbooks. So much fun, in fact, that I can’t quit eating! Why stop at one bowl of South African peanut stew when you can have two? Ditto the Indian dal and roast veggie sandwiches and pasta sauce made with lashings of cashew cream. This stuff is not calorie-free. So my resolution is to pay attention to how much hummus I’m shoveling in, exactly, and maybe try to keep a lid on it while I can still button my favorite jeans. (Which, actually, I’m not sure I can do. Oof.)

    1. Teri Post author

      You are not an old fogey if you’re not on FB. My (grown) kids would say exactly the opposite, that FB has been taken over by the old folks and the kids have moved elsewhere to get away from us.

      So much of being able to use social media to your greatest benefit, I believe, is having a personality that fits with the platform. Re: Twitter, I can’t say anything in 140 characters or less, and when I try I sound either (a) bitchy, or (b) ignorant, or (c) bless her, she’s trying too hard. Re: FB, I think it’s the constant stream of happiness and perfection and doing the right things and reading the right news — it feels very club-like, or like I said above like the big group table in the 5th grade lunchroom, and neither concept is all that appealing. Yet, there I remain. For now. But I see the end in sight. Like you with the hummus, Averil, I’m a gorger. I had to delete Words With Friends to make myself stop playing. I’ve never once played a video game and there’s a reason for it: I would never put the controller down.

  7. Suzy Vitello

    I love this post, and the thoughts surrounding social media/onlineness and how that does or doesn’t impact your connection to the world.

    As far as FB, I should probably be spending less time there, but I don’t see it as a complete time suck – my problem is that I spend so fucking much time in my own head – it’s actually helped me to be more expansive. My biggest issue with FB is that we’ve created more social chores. More ways in which to feel like we’ve left someone or something out. For instance, needing to press “like” as a way of acknowledging that we’ve read and appreciate a comment under our status update (same w favoriting a tweet on Twitter). Don’t even get me started on the birthday stuff. Or the demanding tone that we honor every single whim someone has when they embark on a new “page” they will typically abandon in due order.

    Now that the physical newspaper only comes a few times a week, I’ve taken to the screen for day-to-day info. But here’s the thing: I physically cannot spend more than 6 (spread out) hours on-screen per day without head/neck/back/eye consequences, and since I make what meager living I scrape by on editing/teaching/copywriting and writing, other onscreen activities must be limited. What’s gonna give? I choose 90% of the time I spend on FB. Starting…. now?

    1. Teri Post author

      And that’s exactly where my problem lies: if my eyes/brain can only take so much screen time (so true) I know I’m wasting time I should be working with the constant “taking a break” to check in, and comment, and like like like like. I can tell I’m on the precipice of a big birthday — like, I finally cancelled my gym membership because I hate going there, not a mentally healthy place for me. I’m trying to look at what I’m doing everyday and asking, “What is this doing for my life? And what would happen if I opened up that space for something else to come in?”

      We will see what happens. For now, I’m taking a FB break. I might last 2 days or 2 weeks, who knows. I’m curious.

      And then there’s Louis CK on the whole, texting and staring at the phone thing. I’ve been thinking about this today.

  8. Paul Lamb

    The only resolution I have is the same one I’ve had for the last two years: run at least 1,000 miles. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. Other than that, I don’t really make resolutions, certainly not at some arbitrary date.

    Oh, and get in a better mental state. 2014 was not a good year.

    1. Teri Post author

      That’s one hell of a resolution, Paul, and I have every faith that you will do it. For your mental as well as physical well-being. Looking forward to the updates on your blog!

  9. amyg

    Sorry, i would have commented on this earlier, but i was on FB (wa-wah)

    i’m a total FB troller. i own it completely and without shame. we are part of a culture that feeds on instant and immediate feedback; how better to indulge my ego’s anxiety whether or not it exists than monitoring the number of likes my post about my son’s funny comment received, or the one picture of myself i finally had the guts to share.

    i wish freud or jung were still alive so that i could follow their facebook pages.

    this year, i promised myself (and my husband) that i would stop shopping online. (that sounds so ridiculous and privileged and and first world – ugh, but there it is). i’ve already failed, so i’m staring over this week.

    i want to run more.
    i want to write more.
    i want to see more movies.
    i want to drink more coffee.
    i want to spend more time with people who matter to me.

    (not in that order)

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