The title of this post is rather an oxymoron, I realize. But how "social" is media, really? Since I read it (and clipped it, and fortunately it's on line, too–so then why did I clip it, you ask? You'll have to talk to my inner hoarder...), this article by Andrew Sullivan has haunted me. "I Used to Be a Human Being," appeared as the cover story of September 16, 2016's New York Magazine. It is about what Sullivan calls "distraction sickness" and being bombarded by a constant stream of media, requests, emails, posts and commentary about every subject, as well as useless information. [Do I really need to know that Beyonce is having twins?]
Sullivan has a Smart Phone like most of the rest of the world. I do not. I have a cheap TracPhone that I load with more minutes every six months or so and I use it when on the road or in emergencies, or to text my kids when they're not here. I enjoy that part of it. I can't imagine having a more advanced phone near me 24/7 or the constant temptation to tune out–I was doing enough of that on my home computer, on Facebook, for the past eight years (since August 2008, in fact).
As you know we live on a farm. Stuff happens and phones are necessary. But I've never been able to justify a fancier phone and neither do I want one. If I had a job off-farm or traveled more than I do, perhaps I could justify having one (and yes, Instagram would be a blast but as it is I'm hardly on Pinterest–I enjoy it but it's not tactile enough for me: again, it's the recipe/article clipper hoarder in me). We got our oldest son, nineteen, an iPhone for Christmas on a basic plan. Three years ago my boys and husband each got an iPad (and my husband and other son, almost 17, each have a TracPhone, also). Since that time, with the iPads and the iPhone, everyone is in their devices on much of their down time. There is no letting the genie back into that bottle! So I am glad that we waited so long to computer-ize them (it was also my husband's first computer experience).
It's not that we're luddites (although you could argue that), it's that we're cautious. For a while I've seen how individually isolating this kind of thing is-even the home computer can be a kind of incubus for me. It is seductive, alluring, there all the time and where I can Google virtually anything in an instant and get way too many answers. I can send something to an editor in an instant, I can find many recipes for the same thing, I can spend hours just looking at different websites or searching and collecting things on eBay (that's another thing altogether). For someone with ADD, it is ironic that a computer can provide focus in its hypnotic capabilities. Sometimes I will be on the computer, whether writing, emailing, tweaking and organizing photographs, or, on Facebook, and I'm not even aware how much time has passed.
If I spent the same amount of time doing something productive (well, writing for pleasure, or money, is a form of production) that I spent on Facebook in a given day–without checking the time–I could probably move mountains (or at least laundry piles).
So for me, a Smart Phone has never been an option–not only am I "all thumbs," but I am used to keyboarding the old fashioned-way as I learned on a typewriter after twelve weeks of night classes that I took in high school (because I couldn't fit it in during the day). This summer, before he goes off to college, I will make my son do an on-line typing course, too. Invaluable. I type as fast as I think and, well, that can be a dangerous thing–especially on social media.
I'd reached the same saturation point that Sullivan spoke about, about two weeks ago. In the post-election and inauguration I was saturated by negativity and opinions from all sides and still continuing to give my own. It was a no-win and it was draining. I realize that some people need to vent and need to organize or whatever else they need to do. But for me it was keeping me away from more important things-like my own work, or ideas, or just doing different things with my day.
Obama was our first social media president in that most people over 40 joined Facebook during his presidency (he, too, used social media effectively and positively to help win his elections). During this time, the kids moved on to other social outlets and Facebook became hijacked by adults. For the first time in our lives everyone had a public voice, a forum, and a place to vent and share information about their opinions in an immediate way. I believe this also gave strength to false or alternative facts. We stopped fact-checking or thinking for ourselves and everyone, no matter what their political inclinations, seems locked in their own impermeable bubbles. And it can be exhausting if you let yourself go beyond family photos and sharing recipes or silly Youtube videos.
What have I done to fill that void? Well, I've started blogging again, and walking again. I have a better flow of thoughts and ideas–it's like a valve has been turned back on. There is less "mind clutter" bombarding me throughout the day and it's already cluttered enough.
I've also been writing with a new kind of energy because I'm not putting that same energy into trying to be right on Facebook or to prove a point. The fact is, no one is listening. No one cares. In person, they might but not when you are pontificating or ranting. People shut down, sometimes even if they agree with you. And if you are singing to the choir, wouldn't you rather save that energy for singing with them?
I have many bad habits but this one required my immediate attention. So far, it's working.
Now, about those "Real Housewives"...
You come back when you're ready!