I’ve pretty much decided — no, I’ve decided to bail out of Facebook.
In brief, I find it (have always found it) aesthetically ugly — to quote myself, “It’s like meeting your friends in an airport concourse: I can smell the synthetic carpet, spun of formaldehyde.” It’s also emptily addictive. Others have written knowledgeably about the little hit of dopamine — which is not about reward but craving, anticipation — that our brains get from each little instance of human connection or admiring attention for our wit or whatever: the promise without the delivery. I’ve linked to those articles on Facebook (!), I’m not going to hunt them up again now. I’m not going to research this. But the point is that Facebook substitutes for more substantial kinds of expression and connection, and can stealthily begin to replace them. It becomes like living on potato chips: you lose your appetite for anything else, but you don’t feel nourished.
What’s seductive about it is that it is quick and easy in a time when none of us seems to have any time. Brevity is seductive for good reasons (thus the success of Twitter, where many people do their hanging out): there are many things that, if you can’t say them in 140 characters or less, you really shouldn’t bother saying. (That’s not true of everything, though. “Give me the wisdom to know the difference.”) Brief updates are fun. The illusion of communality is another big draw. We are tribal animals leading far-flung lives, and Facebook makes you feel like you can find many of your friends in one “place,” and pick up the essential news and gossip that you need to know, like people used to at the well, or the country store. It’s genius, really, to lure us in with these simulacra of deep old goods, and then “farm” our “likes” and sell us stuff. We are cattle being raised for cash in a feedlot with virtual-reality goggles of green pastures. But every once in a while you feel the standardized narrowness of your stall.
Facebook makes us lazy, or I should say, it makes me lazy. (Some people will relate and some will not.) It becomes too much hassle to make a date to see someone, even in the same city, when you feel you’re sufficiently in touch because you meet on Facebook. It becomes too much hassle to write a blog post (how ironic to think of that as a feature of the “good old days”), and certainly too much hassle to go read one. More ominously, it becomes an annoying distraction to deal with a relationship (even with one’s cat) that is crying out for attention, or to wash the dishes, or to look for work. (Such reversed priorities are symptoms of addiction.) But these are worthwhile things we used to do, and maybe we felt we had more time, back then. Was that cause or was it effect? We certainly had more three-dimensional challenge and more substantial satisfaction.
There’s a lot I won’t like missing: pictures of my friends’ and cousins’ babies (I’m talking about you, Alisanne Korologos, Jonathan Geis, Nicole Constandis Twohig, Patrick Martin, Andrea Flynn); pictures of my friends’ pictures (that’s you, Albert Mitchell); flurries of fun and funny responses to something I’ve posted, making me feel I’m not in an isolation chamber on the moon; good articles I’m glad someone pointed out to me. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s feed (but I know how to find his notebook, which he links to). Comically, I’ll miss pressing a button to “like” something (though I often missed pressing a button to “hate” something). It will be more work to write a private e-mail or (gasp) an actual letter, make a date or a phone call, follow the media and blogs where those good articles and posts crop up. But I used to do all those things! How has Facebook made them seem too much of a bother?! I was having a better time when I was doing all that “work.” Some of my most valued friends aren’t on Facebook at all, and I manage to stay in touch with them.
I feel better already, and I’m not even all the way off Facebook yet.
And I’m not going to link this on Facebook. I’m not asking you to or not to. I just feel better (if lonelier) for not going there myself.
I’ll be here. If anyone wants to come over and not just comment but post, let me know and I’ll make you a set of keys. Some of you already have them.
I can’t express my loving tribute to him better than in this 1996 review, even though it is critical of an instance in which he fell short of his best. He set such a high mark. How sad to lose him.
On April 19, 2013, Ron West was taken by (or, from another vantage point, finally broke free from the clutches of) the same illness that took Jacques, Lewy body dementia.
My God, Ron was only 70. I’m just realizing that right now. I didn’t know him, but his wife of, now, 48 years, Marianne, and I met virtually in an e-mail support group that has been a lifeline for those of us taking care of spouses with “Lewy” (yes, we have been known to break into a chorus of “Lewy Louie”). We’ve witnessed one another’s struggles, provided practical tips and vital information, permission to be human and lose it from time to time, sources of faith, strength, and laughs . . . and most of us have stayed in touch even after “graduation.”
That’s how I found out Ron had passed, and that’s how I got to read this magnificent word portrait of him by his youngest son, Doug. I asked permission to share it here because it is just the essence of what you want a father to be and how you would hope to feel about your father. It just makes you love and admire the man, wish you’d met him, and feel that you have. Sail on, Ron. Thank you, Marianne and Doug.
* * *
You taught me the real meaning of Honor by living it every single day of your life and holding yourself to a higher standard than to where our world tries to tear us down. Honor is the most difficult when dishonor has become fashionable.
You taught me Compassion by your actions towards all the things that needed that little extra helping hand; especially that tiny, awkward and misshapen runt that had choked on a piece of big-dog food. I watched you furiously fight to remove the blockage and then breathe life back into its limp form. You named him Lucky when you set him down on the ground and he wobbled over to stand on your shoe. That very same puppy you had rescued a few days earlier, along with its brothers and sisters, when the wood shed flooded from a terrible rain. With lightning striking, you laid yourself down in a pool of water and reached under the wall of the shed to pull out pup after pup, refusing to give up until the entire litter was safe.
You taught me Patience, Forgiveness, Wisdom and Worthiness, by taking the time to be sure that I knew precisely what I did wrong, why it was wrong and how it can hurt others, but most importantly ourselves. It wasn’t until I was long grown that I was able to look back and remember those two to three hour long lectures and see that you spent the majority of any free time you had available striving to being certain that I knew right from wrong.
You taught me Love by hugging me tightly every night and never being afraid to tell me you loved me every chance you got. I remember the many times while I was in chronic pain, you would sit with me, my head on your lap and your strong, callused hand gently rubbing my back. At my darkest moment, you turned a two hour distance into less than an hour, just to sit with me. I don’t even think we said ten words, but your presence drove away the darkness.
You were never boastful and you were never cruel. You were a lion facing our fears and a lamb facing our sorrows. You could thunder wrath, crack your quick wit and smile whenever we were nervous or frightened and nothing could ever hurt us.
You were the oak that stood strong during all of our storms and your roots will hold our ground together forever.
Thank you for being my Dad! I will love you always!
~ Douglas West (Colorado Springs, CO)