Saturday, September 23, 2017

What do I fear missing out on, exactly?

This morning, as in the past couple of days, I woke up, made coffee, and sat at the table to write. I wasn't very pleased with myself because, as in past countless mornings, I had spent some time, between getting up and making coffee, checking social media on my phone. Before I knew it, half an hour had gone.

I've been trying to quit Facebook for two years now. After the 2016 elections, I took a 30-day break and that has been my most successful attempt so far.

My Facebook break wasn't as productive as it was healing. I was feeling angry and also a bit betrayed by how the election campaigns were rolled out. I think that Facebook brought out the worst in people, myself included.

At the end of 30 days, I actually felt better and, strangely, more connected. But it didn't take long for me to return to my old habits. Almost as soon as I logged back in, I was back spending time on things that ultimately drained me.

I know a few people who've stayed away for six to eight months. I would love to do that, but I kept getting pulled back because of some news or other. I'm attempting another break again, hopefully for the remainder of the 2017.

It has been four days since I opened my main Facebook account. I still post and reply to comments via Hootsuite, but my hope is for my habitual posting to taper down and eventually stop, at least long enough for me to get over my fear of missing out.

I think the question that I need to ask myself is this: What do I fear missing out on, exactly?

Yesterday, I wrote that as soon as I woke up, I checked Twitter to see if the world had come to an end. I do that all the time, actually. It makes me feel updated. I am comforted to find out that nothing about today is vastly different from yesterday. It's a habit that I am convinced guards me from surprise tragedies -- personal, national, and global.

But, surely when most tragedies strike, they will wait? The truly urgent will make itself felt outside of the Internet. I must stop treating social media as some kind of police scanner for the things I worry about. It's not like I'll be a first responder anyway.

I also need to understand that sharing is not always caring -- reposting is not always a useful response -- and that being the first to know is not a measure of social awareness or social relevance.

Of course, I also use social media as a way to stay in touch with my friends. These days, while I appreciate the gift of being able to maintain contact, I'm also discovering how it has become a crutch. I have online relationships I treasure, many with people I wish I had gotten to know better when we were actually in the same physical space, but, like a true introvert, I've also learned to use social media as a way to keep people at a distance: Why meet up, haven't we been in touch?

I'm not sure I need to be updated on my loved ones' lives all the time -- or maybe I do, but I should relearn the pleasure of having them deliver the news themselves. Someone I know quit Facebook for a year because he didn't appreciate that when he got together with his friends, he already knew all their stories.

I think he was on to something. Besides, it's not nice to sum people up based on what they have chosen to share on their timelines.

Most everything can wait, I think. If it's an emergency, by the time it hits social media, it's often too late. Not everything is news, and a lot of the information I value anyway can take the slow, leisurely route in coming. They're often easier to digest and relish that way.