Are you there God? It's me, Mangi.
Okay, maybe not quite that kind of conversation at the moment, but the past 40 days of Lent did give me a chance to put a few things in perspective.
It started with my usual perusal of my Facebook news feed on Ash Wednesday. At that point, I was kind of frustrated with what I was seeing. The whole Oregon Standoff drama was finally winding down so there were less posts about that, but the primaries were ramping up and with it I saw a lot of sniping between people on there. It was especially getting nasty between some Bernie and Hillary supporters, to the point I wanted to lock a few of them in a room and say "Okay, either fight it out or fuck it out but you're not leaving until y'all can be civil." Add on that I was also seeing articles being posted that meant I was doing cross-checks on Snopes and FactCheck every day and often pointing out corrections, it was getting tiring to even look at Facebook.
Then I saw a status posted by a friend, MR. She said she was so tired of the current dramas that maybe she should quit Facebook for Lent. I read that and thought, "You know what? That's a great idea, I'm doing that." So after services that night, I logged out of Facebook on my phone and computer, and that was that.
If you're reading this because my cross-posting to Facebook still works, you might think that you missed reading that I was going off of Facebook for a while, or something similar. You didn't. I said nothing about what I was doing (sorry mom!). There were a few reasons behind that. Usually when I have seen people say "Oh I'm leaving/taking a break from [social network] for a while" or similar it turns into this whole thing of "Oh don't go, was it something we did?" I wasn't looking for that kind of attention. Also since I was doing this for Lent and Lent isn't supposed to be a competition, I generally don't talk about if I am giving something up for Lent.
However, since Lent is supposed to be a time of self-reflection and perhaps growth, did I learn something from just hopping offline from Facebook? Yeah, the picture below sums it up:
Social media sites have made it easy to hear about the things going on with people you meet. You can respond to what they have shared, and then move on to the next subject. Yet, the cost can be that you really don't sit and have a richer conversation with that person and so you don't interact as much as you should. Also, I realize that Facebook has kind of been a crutch for being social with some of the people I know. It's been convenient to just respond to their posts and maybe shoot them the occasional message, but once I removed that, I found out where I had been neglecting some aspects of being a friend or at least an acquaintance.
A perfect example was coordinating seeing a concert with SF and a few other friends. He had originally sent me the invite on Facebook. I hadn't made the decision to go when I started my "No Facebook" days, and I discovered I didn't have his number so that I could call or text to RSVP and coordinate meeting up. Thankfully I did have buried in my address book an E-mail address for him, but he happened to also contact one of my other friends for my phone number so he could get in touch with me since he had not heard from me on Facebook.
Okay, so maybe it was a moment where I should have said something before I hopped off Facebook. However, it also showed that I really let that convenience of just using Facebook to contact someone take over to where I really didn't have other methods of communication to get in touch with some of my friends or acquaintances.
I know this may also sound odd to some, but it's like even when I do have things like E-mail, phone numbers, or instant messenger name, I'm hesitant to E-mail, text, or call. I don't entirely know why, but I get it into my head that I'm probably interrupting something and being a bother. It's dumb really, I know, but I guess old habits are hard to break at times. I mean, yeah, a phone call does demand your full attention, though if you can't be interrupted, you can send it to voicemail. A text, IM, or E-mail doesn't have to be answered right away. I don't expect people to immediately snap to attention and answer me the minute I ping their phone or computer. I certainly don't answer immediately if I am in the middle of something else. If it was really that important, then I should be calling. Yet I've never been able to fully break from the idea that I'm just going to be bugging them if I shoot them a random "Hey, what's up?" That's something I need to work on.
So I've seen that I need to improve on actually talking to some of the people I know, especially local people and those I have known for years. It's going to take some work and some time, but I should be able to do it. The first step is to actually get info like E-mail, phone numbers, and IM names from people whose info I am missing. Of course I will share mine, and I have a number of ways to be contacted.
Another thing I found was that I could put more attention into other activities both online and offline. I rediscovered a few websites I had not visited in a while, plus there was more time being put into activities like reading or video games. Of course I still have the backlog of both of those, but I will get caught up.
The funny thing is despite this, I don't feel this urgent need to immediately hop back on Facebook. I know I should clear a few things out because Facebook was oh so helpfully harassing me via E-mail about all of the things I was missing. Seriously, logoff from Facebook and they will start sending you an E-mail every few days telling you how many messages and status updates you have been missing. Then they ratchet it up to every day, sometimes even twice a day. A few new rules in my E-mail account fixed that.
Anyway, so while I'll be back on Facebook, its role in how I use it is going to change. I'll keep up here and there, but I don't want to go back to where I am checking it at least once a day. Besides, if it turns out my news feed is still overrun with sniping politics, I have better things to do with my time at that point than try to wade through all of it.
So onward with a fresh perspective on where I stand when it comes to my online activities and how I keep up with the people I know and the people I will meet.