Exactly one month ago I decided to go on a Facebook fast, and I’m feeling better about it daily.
Not really a bold step since I had been paring down “friends” for a while in order to get it down to the people who I actually knew, who I actually had an interest in, and yes, eliminate some people who basically annoyed the crap out of me.
So, being that I found myself having to partake in that culling exercise, one evening I decided to completely deactivate the whole thing — without first posting that I was doing so. I unceremoniously cut the cord and let it drift away. However, after my quiet liberation, I emailed about a dozen of my close friends and told them to just call or email me for a while and let me know what they were up to.
Maybe my idea of what Facebook is supposed to be about is wrong but I thought it was a platform where I could access topics to be entertained, to be amused or to catch up on the latest offerings from businesses I’m interested in. I always like seeing the latest skis, mountain bike gear or seasonal movie premieres from Powderwhore, Teton Gravity, Warren Miller, etc. Instead, it got to the point where all I saw was a constant flow of political and religious opinions (most hateful and bigoted), updates on people’s latest dietary malaise or endless diatribes about why a particular sport or activity is far superior to anything else on earth.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with loving what you do, I guess I just don’t understand why if it’s such a huge part of your life why you would stop doing what you love to log on to a device to let other people know you are doing it. Does it matter if they know? If people love hiking or backpacking “to get away from it all”, why would they stop and reconnect by posting on Facebook that they’re currently hiking or backpacking and getting away from it all? If a person does yoga in order to center their mind-body-soul, isn’t it counterproductive for them to break out of that “centerdom” in order to snap an Instagram photo, key up Facebook and let people know they’re currently in the middle of being centered?
In the last week or so here in the Boulder Valley we’ve had rains that have since been described as “biblical”, “epic”, “historic” and “500 year in nature”. My little neighbourhood had an official total rainfall of 16.8” in a matter of four days. A neighbourhood in South Boulder actually had over 22” in that same time period! It’s been crazy to say the least. News footage of scenic mountain roads getting completely destroyed and seeing people’s homes collapse and fall into raging torrents that were once just babbling mountain streams has been both shocking and heartbreaking. And even more tragic is that people have lost not only their livelihoods, but their very lives.
I admit I was tempted to reactivate my Facebook account to try and get as much information as I could…really tempted in fact. But before I hit the button to open that world up again, I decided I wouldn’t. To be honest, I wanted to keep the experience inside my small little circle of family and friends and sadly, I didn’t want to open myself to the pissing contest I knew would be unfolding where people would be trying to post the most shocking things in order to get “likes” or comments.
I called the people closest to me who I thought might be in harm’s way to make sure they were safe and accounted for and assured them if they needed anything I’d be available. I then watched the news on television and on the internet in order to stay abreast of what was unfolding around us and to keep apprised of the events in my own neighbourhood. Even though I wasn’t dialed into Facebook, I never once felt disconnected to the situation. In fact, I’d say I was more connected because I wasn’t distracted from what was actually happening to me personally. Furthermore, I never felt compelled to post a picture of myself checking our window wells and sump pumps in the basement every half hour to make sure the water wasn’t flowing into the house just to let people know I was experiencing a flood.
After a couple days of positively pouring rain, we got a little break where the flood water began to recede and the sun actually tried to break through for an hour or two. I took that opportunity to jump on my mountain bike and go out to survey the damage in the community as well as a few of the open space trails where I typically ride. It didn’t take long to see just how random and widespread the destruction was since Mother Nature hit our communities hard and without mercy. As I left my house, part of me said to leave my camera at home and just go experience it, but part of me said to take it. As much as I love taking photos I decided I’d take it, plus I could show Donna some of the area when I got back.
It was sad to see our community hurt and bleeding. The trails I normally ride were heavily damaged and in some areas they were completely gone. Creeks that normally had beautiful tree-lined paths and lush parks were completely wiped out. A picturesque turn-of-the-century ranch just down the hill from us had been completely inundated and the land surrounding it scarred deeply. A meandering country lane with nostalgic concrete bridges, reduced to ruins.
This was my community, the one I love and call home and this was how I was seeing it first hand — with my own eyes. Yes, I was shocked. Yes, I was heartbroken. Yes, I saw hope and perserverence as my neighbours were already picking up the pieces though the threat of even more “epic” rain was imminent. I did stop here and there to take a photo (about a half dozen over the couple of hours I was out), but I never once felt the need to validate my experience and emotions by posting them on Facebook. I knew what I had seen and it made me sad. Would a “like” or a comment make it more real? Would it make me feel better for people to feel sorry for our community? Would it make me feel important or add validity because I was “there”? The fact is I felt more connected to the experience by being disconnected. I was free to see it as I needed to see it — see it without filters.
I’ve debated this Facebook thing now for a month and most likely I will reactivate my account in a few weeks, but with a strict set of rules. I want to be entertained and not be preached to, competed with or told incessantly how one thing is far superior to another or how one thing or another is ruining our lives. I know this sounds mean, but if I truly want to make Facebook a tool to entertain me, I myself have to make it what I want and not let it be the dictator. I know getting to that point might mean paring down more “friends”. It’s like watching television. If I don’t like the content on certain channels then I have the very real option to turn it to a different one or discontinue my cable service altogether.
I really do want to see what the people I know and care about are doing, I do. But when looking at my news feed starts to resemble watching reruns of the same old tired dramas or sitcoms day after day after day, well, it’s then that I have to decide whether to change the channel or discontinue my service and catch up the old fashioned way — over a beer.
Although I didn’t see our flood on Facebook, I’m pretty sure it still happened and I didn’t need to “like” it.
Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live big