I deactivated my Facebook account for the month of February with every intention of returning March 1st. I figured I’d miss Facebook, but it would be worth the time away to accomplish a few things. I even named the month Focused February, convincing myself that alliteration and time away was all I needed to tackle a growing to-do list of home, family, and work tasks.
In some ways, I was right. I was more focused in February, and I did complete a large number of those tasks.
But I was also wrong. Because on March 1st, I didn’t log back into Facebook. And I don’t know when or if I will again. I don’t feel any pressure to make a permanent decision, so for now, I’m staying away.
I’ve written about my concerns about social media before, mostly on social media. I’ve written about how too many of us look like this most of the time. I’ve written about the ways social platforms are co-opted by people who wish to cause us harm. I’ve shared this video. And this one. I’ve shouted from the rooftops of my Facebook page over and over again and heard my voice bounce around the echo chamber.
And then there’s the file. The Facebook file.
Right before I deactivated, I requested a copy of my entire Facebook history. It’s super easy to do, and Facebook emails you a file of every post, every photo, every message you’ve ever posted to the site. I scrolled through ten years’ worth of time spent on the site, trying to measure its worth. It captured some great memories that might have been otherwise lost to time. I saw where I reconnected or newly connected with a few people whose impact on my life is beyond measure. There is good in this file. There is good in the time spent on the site. Undeniable good.
But the sheer size of the file is stunning, and it doesn’t even begin to account for any of the time spent scrolling or clicking on the comments sections (why oh why do I still click on the comments sections). It doesn’t count the time spent bearing witness to people treating others in such cruel, dehumanizing ways, slinging words like rocks. The file holds only a fraction of the time I spent on the site in ten years, and I think if I were offered that number by Facebook, the true number of minutes, I’d say no. I wouldn’t want to know.
I don’t need to know the exact number to know that it is too high. I don’t need to know the exact number to know I’d trade most (but not all) of those minutes back if I could, and spend them instead on:
More watching the snow fall out the window…
More making pie with my favorite guy…
More walks in the woods…
And in all of these things, more presence.
Two dear friends recently dropped a couple of pieces of wisdom that are still swishing around my brain.
The first told me that when your first child enters high school, it’s like putting him on a bullet train. Time will speed up, and those years will be the fastest years you will spend with him under your roof. In my case, when my oldest graduates, my second child will already be on that same high-speed train. This means come August, it’s time to buckle up.
The second told me that time is like one of those funnels that you place a coin in and watch it spiral to the bottom. The early years feel long, as you watch that penny loop around and around the wide brim of the tunnel, but as you age, the years feel shorter and the penny seems to move faster and faster.
I’m turning 40 this year, and if I’m lucky, my penny is in the middle of that funnel. And I happen to like trains a lot, especially when I take the time to look out the window. So if it’s going to move fast, I’d better pay closer attention to the ride.
And there’s no windows on Facebook.