BY HEATHER P. LEE
VIRGINIA BEACH — There is an old poem that I love by Mary Elizabeth Frye called “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.” I have had cause to think about this recently because I have decided to deactivate my Facebook profile for a bit.
Some of the reactions that I am getting are akin to as if I said I was dying.
I’m not dying. I’m just not going to be on Facebook for a while. In fact, by the time this article is published, my profile will be gone.
By many accounts, including my own, and as verified by a quiz I took on Facebook, I am a Facebook addict. Posting selfies, pictures of brunches, checking in to funerals, taking ubiquitous quizzes about why I love taking ubiquitous quizzes, liking/loving/reacting/posting emojis to other people’s posts, sharing articles, sharing memes, and, oh, the memories!
My goodness, because I have posted so many things on Facebook, it is stocked with so many good memories – and bad. Because I always tried to keep it very, very real – regardless of the consequences. I may have altered my filters frequently – several posts are actually just to me, as a sort of journal – but I tried to not only post the happy, shiny but also the entire rainbow spectrum of human emotion. Anyone who followed me while my mother was dying can likely attest to just how real I try to keep it.
But 2016 was rough on both sides of the political spectrum in social media. I think we all took a beating. I am a Democrat, and I am not ashamed to say that I was and am unhappy with the results of the election. Worse than that, the hatred and abuse that came pouring out felt like a fire hose – from both sides of the aisle.
It calmed down for a while for the holidays, but after the inauguration and the subsequent Women’s March, it’s grown far worse.
Since the election, Facebook has been mostly like-minded friends sharing articles and memes and calls to action and other friends also sharing articles and memes and mocking calls to action. I’m tired of all of the hate on both sides. But I am also tired of feeling bad every time I touch the blue and white “f” because of those calls to action that I am not answering. If I am only yelling down into my own echo chamber, how is that doing anything?
People have suggested just “staying away for a while.” Just don’t go on it. That’s like saying to pop open a can of Pringles and just have a couple. I am deactivating Facebook as an impetus to start activating in real life.
I really feel like we are in trouble – not because of who the current president is, but because we are not listening to each other, and we are not talking to each other. And I wholeheartedly blame social media — Facebook in particular —for much of that current state of affairs.
I think a great deal of good can and has been done through the power of Facebook, but I think in a country divided this has only served to further broaden our divide and highlight our disagreements rather than forced us to compromise. When we only hear “the news” from voices that sound like our own, we grow immune to the fact that there are voices that are not like ours.
What’s been interesting to me since I first posted on Facebook about my pending hiatus is that I have had several friends who are from both sides of the political aisle who have said that they too have thought about taking a break. I know a few people who already have, though not to the point of deactivating.
Feb. 1 was the beginning of a hiatus from Facebook and the beginning of a new journey. I’m travelling to Washington, D.C., to take an aptitude test at Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, a much better indicator of what I should be when I grow up than Buzzfeed quizzes. I’m joining the Virginia Beach chapter of the Democratic Party. And I’m going to visit one of my very best friends in California and try to go hug a redwood.
With apologies to Mary Elizabeth Frye: do not stand at my Facebook and react with a weep; I am not there; I took a leap … into real life.
For a little while.
Lee lives Salem Woods with her husband and their “fur children.” She enjoys reading, watching too much TV and drinking wine. Read her blog, Inside Heather’s Head, at thereisthat.blogspot.com.
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