Can You Do Social Without Social Media?
Sometimes seeing a news feed full of smiling happy babies, parents bragging about their kids, cute announcements about new pregnancies or photos of newborns in the quintessential baby blanket is too much to take in. When that happens I deactivate my Facebook account until I stop feeling so emotional. I don’t announce these breaks. For all of my joking about being self absorbed, about being my own favorite subject (all true, though, as most jokes are. I kid, I kid) I don’t like to call attention to those moments. What’s the point, really? There’s nothing to be gained by it. So I quietly go away and quietly come back. And rarely has anyone commented on that.
I was trying to explain Facebook to a friend the other day. Though she doesn’t have an account, she asked me if I’d seen a certain bit of news. “No,” I said, “I disabled my accounts weeks ago.” This prompted her to ask if anyone had reached out to see if something was wrong, if I was okay. I laughed, “No,” I said. “That’s not how Facebook works.”
I believe that and, yet, I also wonder, if I were closer to people, maybe it would work that way?
I remember when I started blogging back in 2000; back then, if you were someone who posted on a regular basis, not posting something for a few days, a week, would trigger at least one “Hey, are you okay?” email. It isn’t that I think people cared more but I do think having to actively visit blogs created a level of investment that News Feeds don’t provide. You had your list of ten, fifteen, twenty blogs that you made the rounds on, and you could get to the point where you felt connected to someone. How deep that connection truly was, of course, is a question.
But now, in the days of 5000 friends lists, and endless ability to follow or subscribe to content, the act of taking in information is more passive and impersonal, I think. “But,” she protested, “haven’t they noticed that you haven’t posted or liked an announcement?”
“I’m sure not,” I said. “That’s just not the way it works.”
Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family in El Salvador in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past; for that I appreciate the service but it has its cons. Though, truly, when it comes down to it, I don’t blame the service entirely, or at all, really. If this tool isn’t the one I need right now, then it’s on me to use any number of other services at my disposal. And maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll just reactivate my account. It is strangely fascinating to me how little I’ve missed it this time around, and at three weeks and counting, this has been the longest break I’ve taken.
I’m not ready to see any cute babies, just yet though. So I’ll continue the self-imposed ban for a little while longer. Maybe I’ll even use the time I would have spent scrolling and commenting by tackling some of my unread books. Wouldn’t that be something?