I am terrified of offending my Facebook friends by letting them know that they offend me on Facebook.
Ironic, I know.
8 Terrifying Potential Consequences of This Post
- People will be genuinely, personally hurt and I will have directly contributed to their self-censorship in the future, and in my own small way I will become an agent of Expression Oppression.
- People will think I am a bitch.
- People will feel sorry for me because they'll think only someone who really hates her life would be so critical.
- Friends (or worse, acquaintances) will call or message saying they’re “concerned about me” and that they’re there if I ever "need to chat”.
- I will unnecessarily have contributed to the negativity of the planet when I could have spent the evening serving in a soup kitchen or something.
- People in my industry will think I am rude and/or a complainer and/or depressed and thus won’t want to work with me.
- As someone of...changeable temperament, I will wake up with an entirely different point of view on everything I am about to disclose but then I won’t have time to write a follow-up post so I will have canonized a point of view I no longer espouse.
- I won’t have the discipline to implement the Facebook fast I advocate in any significant way and thus not only will everyone know how weak I am but I will feel bad about myself for failing yet another self-improvement experiment.
5 Reasons I Am Sharing This Post Anyway
1. Every time I publish something I worry is a bit too edgy or pushes the envelope of appropriateness, within a few hours I usually log back on with the intention of deleting it only to be amazed at how popular the post has already become – not just measured in internet ‘engagement’ terms but also by the personal messages and emails from the most unexpected range of people, thanking me for an honesty that has inspired them in a way I would not have expected.
2. While it’s true that there’s already more than enough negativity to go around on the internet already, I think admitting real human emotions is as useful to society as those real women’s bodies campaigns. There is definitely a line between honesty and oversharing, between ranting and being destructive, but I don’t know where the line is yet. Sometimes you have to cross it to find out.
3. The self-imposed threat of public shaming has proved an overwhelmingly effective source of motivation for me. Once, I declared on Facebook that I was not going to sleep until I had finished my taxes. I had been procrastinating for months, and that one-sentence post worked like a charm. So even though I’ve been wanting to do a Facebook fast for awhile, I know the only way I’ll do it is if I make some grand sweeping declarations about it beforehand.
4. I am probably not the only one who feels this way. This is kind of like #1 but different. People should know they’re not alone.
5. If I could get over my fear of the 8 Potential Consequences in general, I would probably be a lot happier and a lot more successful as a human and artist.
I have a theory that there is a measurable, proportional relationship between the amount of time I spend on Facebook and the degree to which I dislike myself, my life and everyone I know.
Approximately 5% of what I see in my newsfeed is totally hilarious and completely makes my day, like this:
It's worth noting that the actual amount of time I spend on Facebook these days is probably at an all-time low for me since I joined in late 2009 (I was a very resistant, very late adopter). So it’s not really about reducing the wasted hours in the way that it used to be, say, when I first moved to New York and had a lifestyle more conducive to frittering away hours online in my empty apartment. Now I mostly just use it from my phone when I’m waiting in line for a bagel or something, and then the occasional cyberbinge on a Saturday morning.
But I’ve actually found that the less I use Facebook, the more obvious it becomes that it has such a negative impact on my mood when I do.
I’m sure there’s a lot of studies on this kind of thing. I am not really interested in those. I’m just interested in liking myself and my friends more. I hope a Facebook fast will help.
(This is where I get mean. You should skip this section if you're offended easily.)
1. Anything to do with Christmas or the ‘holiday season’ .
In fact, that’s the primary reason I’m doing this detox now. I find myself no longer able to contain my inner grinch and I would just like to Unsubscribe to the entire online holiday experience. I’ve always sort of aggressively disliked all the brouhaha. I despise the music, the fake camaraderie of strangers, and…uch, the list goes on.
I was raised Jewish, so as a child Christmas was just Going-Out-For-Chinese-Food-And-Maybe-A-Movie Day. And people were always like, “But Christmas is for everyone!” and I was always like “Meh, it’s actually not for me at all, but thanks.” I was seventeen when I first figured out you could make a pretty penny if you just worked over the holidays when no one else wanted to so then I pretty much have done that every year since.
I’ve definitely had some cool Christmases over the years (including five glorious beachy ones in the South Pacific, which I’m not sure I’ll ever get over), and have enjoyed participating in the family traditions of various friends and boyfriends. I actually have nothing against any of the three-dimensional holiday spirit I have experienced (except for the f**king music!), like glitter and watching Love Actually, but having it shoved down my virtual throat on Facebook is a truly viscerally revolting experience for me.
2. Status updates with detailed descriptions of your pregnancy, the development of your fetus and your subsequent baby’s development.
I hope that I am never a pregnant person, but if I ever am, and if Facebook is still a thing then, I vow to honor the invention of custom settings to ensure I disclose the finer details of that journey very selectively.
Now, multimedia baby posts I totally do enjoy: videos of your baby are fantastic, cause your kid is f**king adorable. I will totally watch clips of your kid learning to walk, roll over, say Pookie or whatever. Photos of your baby are also fine, cause your kid is cute! And baby photos are always preferable to cat photos.
But reading words about all that? Not so much. Unless your detailed account of your breastfeeding and toilet-training attempts are actually funny. Basically if anything you have to say is actually funny, then all is forgiven, even if it is about your cat. No. I take it back. Nothing about your cat is ever funny. Please don’t post about cats anymore. I am dying.
3. Cat photos.
Why, for the love of God, why must cat photos be a thing? I know I’ve posted about this before, but I genuinely want to invent a kind of filter that just blocks all images of cats from my own personal cyberspace. I think it’s probably not that hard to do. I just need to find someone who can code who is as passionate about the cause as I am.
4. Gratitude posts.
Look, when it comes right down to it, I just don’t believe you. I really don’t. If you really were that grateful for your blessed life, you would not be posting status updates about it. Maybe you’re giving the ol’ fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy a go, which is admirable in its own way, but that’s why they invented journals and affirmation cards and stuff.
5. My-acting-career-is-just-blowing-UP announcements.
To cover this topic fully would require its own dedicated blog, or even a whole book – oh wait, someone just wrote one.
It’s not just that I’m jealous that they're doing better than I am or that they are more positive about their career. I definitely am jealous, more of the latter than the former, but that’s not why I am imploding. The insidious tackiness of it all is just too much for me to bear sometimes.
It’s a little bit like #4 but worse. There are a handful of actors I genuinely liked and respected way more when I only knew them IRL. I mean, think about it. That’s the opposite of good marketing. I actually met you in person first and thought you were totally cool and talented and interesting, but since then your online personality has made me like you so much less even though I know you’re not like that cause I already met you and you were cool in real life. How messed up is that?
(Perhaps this would be a good time to acknowledge that I’ve recently experimented with auto-adding some contacts to my monthly email newsletter even though they hadn’t specifically subscribed. Many would argue that is a much more egregious actor marketing faux pas. In the past, I was deeply devoted to the Tenets of Permission-based E-news, but after charting trends over the last year - cause I’m a huge geek about that stuff and also it was part of my day job - I’ve recently changed my perspective on that. I digress but…my point is, we’re all trying to navigate this self-promotion terrain with class and we’re all wankers sometimes but…let’s all try really hard not to be tacky, k? And please do feel free to unsubscribe at any time.)
6. Prayer templates for the people of the Phillippines/Haiti/Japan/etc.
They usually start with “My thoughts and prayers are with…” but every now and then you get a, “I am shocked and horrified by…” Some people think it’s tasteless not to acknowledge the major tragedy of the moment in their timeline. I think it’s tasteless to radiate stock responses about how devastated you are and how the plight of thousands has really put a damper on your day. A select few manage to combine #5 with #6 for maximum humblebragging, but I won’t get into that here.
7. Graphic animal rights exposés/graphic violence photos of any kind.
Hey, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost seventeen years. Though I’m no longer fully vegan at the moment, I deeply believe in veganism, I try to remain vegan with my dollars and I do hope to reintegrate that more completely into my life. I should totally be, like, your best target market. But I’ve had to unfriend most of you and Hide All From the rest of you because I deserve to have some control over the content I allow into my psyche.
And isn’t this what this is all about, after all? I just need to take a bit more control over the kind of content I allow into my psyche.
I understand the problem isn’t them. People should be able to post whatever they want on their very own Facebook walls. There are definitely worse things in life than sharing your gratitude for booking yet another national commercial costarring your cat, even though your eyes were all red from crying about Nelson Mandela before your audition. Go you! You’re pregnant and still killing it!
You should be able to post whatever you damn well please and I should be able to not have a meltdown about it. And since there are several hundred of you and only one of me, and since you’re obviously so delighted and fulfilled in your life, I’m the one that needs to step back and reframe.
And to do that I need to take a little break.
5 Places I Hope To Go on My Facebook Vacation
1. I want to live the bagel line. If I’m waiting in line, I want to feel it. I want to be aware of the passage of time. I want to know where my mind wanders and not be afraid to follow it. I want to feel my body again from the inside. I want to be aware of the soles of my feet against the insoles of my boots, remember that I have hip-bones connected to knee-bones connected to ankle-bones. I want to see the other people in the deli and wonder what their lives are like and notice how their presence affects me and be aware that I may affect them. I want to exist again as an embodied, three-dimensional being. If the line is boring and tedious, I want to be so bored it can’t break me. I want to outbore the boredom.
2. I want to make space for sadness. At the risk of being too zeitgeisty, I am going to tip my hat to Louis C.K. here and investigate where I’m at the moment before I feel the impulse to Facebook. The Moment Before is explored all the time in scenework, but not enough in life…or at least, in my life. What was happening just before my brain circuitry cried, “Help! Connection! Expression! Distraction!”? What if I felt that impulse but…didn’t go there? What if I stayed in gray murkiness until it wasn’t gray or murky anymore, or what if I just decided gray and murky was okay?
3. I want scripts more than status updates. Here’s the thing. Some of my best work goes up on that wall, or into a tweet, text, whatever. Something funny happens, the creative spark is ignited, I express away, there are a few likes or comments, a share if I’m really lucky and poof…it’s…gone. Not, like, Snapchat gone, but gone to all but the select few dedicated stalkers that I imagine scroll back through my timeline enraptured over and over again.
And there’s another aspect to that: I love to post about funny things that I experience, but I am deeply, almost pathologically, obsessed with honesty and although I will allow myself to embellish very slightly I pretty much stick to the facts in any kind of anecdotal medium. But sometimes, when something outrageous happens, it would be even funnier if....
But what if there was a safe place where you could take those funny moments and make them even funnier or cleverer or more poignant and it wasn’t lying cause it was just…art? And what if I took all those magical moments and kept them safe in my memory or my heart or even better in Celtx or OneNote until…well…until eventually a Fringe show happened to write itself? Then maybe I wouldn’t be so bitter watching everyone else’s dreams come true on Facebook.
4. I want to like people again. Not just “like” them, but like them. I read a really interesting article awhile back on redefining introversion. Now, mostly everyone that’s ever met me would probably choke on their egg nog laughing if I tried to claim that I’m an introvert, but the article was all like, “It’s not about whether the person is outgoing or social or not, it’s about the source from which they draw their energy.” Like introverts recharge through alone time and extroverts recharge by sharing time and space with others. I thought this was a beautiful and enlightening concept. It helped me understand myself better. If I have three to four hours a day where I do not interact with anyone, preferably as the first few hours of the day, I can generally handle whatever comes my way. If I go too long without solitude, I start to go a little crazy, then a lot crazy, and then I’m that girl crying in the bathroom at the cocktail party.
December in New York can be a really fun and invigorating time of year, but there sure is a f**kload of cocktail parties.
When you catch yourself hiding out by the spring rolls constructing an elaborate fantasy wherein everyone else inexplicably (yet voluntarily and peacefully) leaves the city for a 21-day period, except for somehow the system still works so you can still get food and stuff from stores and ride the subway and watch Netflix and all that - and it’s not the first time you’ve caught yourself constructing that fantasy --you know it’s time for a time-out.
5. I want to like myself again. I used to think I was pretty amazing, to be honest. I thought I was kind, creative, compassionate, smart, pretty, hilarious and fun. I’m sure the copious amounts of Vitamin D, daily yoga practice, squeaky clean nutrition and commitment to commuter cycling had a lot to do with all that. I also thought anyone that didn't like me had their own demons to deal with and I would mentally wish them spiritual healing and inner peace in the most condescending, cringeworthy way. That was pretty f**king obnoxious, looking back, but at least I was nicer to strangers on the subway.
Since moving to New York a year and a half ago, I have watched my personality, values, lifestyle and priorities disintegrate and reorganize at such an alarming rate that I genuinely don’t feel as if I had any choice in the matter. It's true that I enjoy feeling more real now, more honest. But there is a…hardness in me now that genuinely horrifies me at times, a judgmental, dismissive streak I haven’t had (or made) time to really understand.
Maybe it’s just part of being of a New Yorker, where the vibrational frequency of suffering in the city is just so painfullly intense. And maybe f you didn’t develop some kind of exoskeleton, then you couldn't survive. You would just crumble anew at every homeless person you see.
I don’t know if taking a break from Facebook will make me like myself more, but it will invite me to spend more time with myself, and that seems like a good start for rebuilding any relationship after a period of estrangement.
And so, in honor of the winter solstice, I officially announce a hibernation of sorts. Effective immediately, all extraneous activities will be reduced and all resources diverted to core survival, rejuvenation and reinvention operations.
I’m not going to be too hardcore about it. It’s really just Facebook I want to avoid. My digital burnout this time is very, very specific and it is a matter of…careful content curation. I don’t use Twitter enough for it to be problematic and I feel comfortable with the way I manage email in my life. I’ve adjusted my settings so that I’ll still get actual messages on my phone, which is basically like email as far as I'm concerned, so I can still interact with anyone who wants to communicate as individuals. If we don’t care enough about each other to interact directly, I think it’s probably fine if we’re not entrenched in each other’s lives for awhile.
I’m also not going to set a time frame for this journey (those of you that know me well know I love my time frames). I’ll just feel it out. I’m figuring a couple weeks, tops? Nothing too dramatic that would require preparation and organization, or outweigh the practical benefits of learning to live a balanced life. I’ll probably jump back on once all the New Year’s gaiety has come and gone, or just…whenever it feels right. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually felt anything on my own without crowdsourcing commentary so…who knows?
Happy Winter, Facebook! This is just a break, not a breakup. It’s not you, it’s me, I promise. I just need some time apart…to remember who I am without you. All that jazz.
Until we meet again.