Just say no

I just deleted the Facebook app from my phone again, for the third or fourth time since March. I see that I’m not unlike a person in an abusive relationship who keeps going back because they want to believe that this time it can be different.

What I want, in this time of social isolation, is connection. Over the summer I’ve dabbled in Instagram, but I’m connected to far more people on FB, and I miss seeing their posts. So I go back. I change my rules for engagement. I set time limits. I unfollow. I’m also not unlike an alcoholic who thinks they can drink if they only drink beer and not the hard stuff, or only on the weekends, or only after 5:00.

Every time I reinstall, before too long, I’m mindlessly scrolling for too many minutes of my day (which is, you know, my life). I’m getting angry with people I don’t even know. (Too many of my friends have friends who can be real dicks.) Or about things I can’t do anything about. I’m feeling defeated and sad. (These are rational responses to the world right now–at least, they are according to the therapist I used to see, and that was before this freaking pandemic–and therefore not necessarily a reason to stay away. We should know what’s real, including how our fellow humans are seeing things and feeling about them.)

And then, something snaps and I realize I have to again cut off easy access to my abuser, to my drug, to this thing that can make me feel so shitty (about the world, my fellow humans, the future, myself) and enriches a guy who I think really doesn’t care much about anything other than making his massive fortune more massive. This time, it was a comment in response to a post about the pandemic in which an analogy was made to airline crashes and how many daily plane crashes it would take for us to have the same death toll as we currently have from Covid. A young person made a comment about how many people die of other illnesses each year and how illness and death are just part of life and how we have to accept that and get on with living.

Maybe I snapped because earlier in the day I’d had a conversation with a friend, who shared that an acquaintance who is a gerontologist and the mother of a young child recently voiced that we have our priorities all wrong because we’re not taking care of our children and our elderly have already had their lives to live and the ending of their lives would be the lesser loss. She wants her kid back in school.

Maybe I snapped because a few weeks ago, my parents and I finally agreed that we would not see each other this summer (which means not this fall/winter, either), and I’m so tired of feeling sad when I see others posting pictures of visits with their elderly parents. I thought we could visit safely if we met outside and kept our distance and wore masks, but they just didn’t want to take the risk. “We would love to see you, but we also want to protect you. We hate the idea of what you’d have to live with if one of us got sick because of seeing you. We don’t want you to have to carry that.” And, of course, they also don’t want to die a painful, protracted, and isolated death.

Jesus. Those last three sentences. This is where we are. This is where we are.

At any rate, I snapped. And deleted. And I don’t feel sad and defeated.

I feel better.

Boundaries, baby.

(Image from Courtney Carver’s bemorewithless. I like Courtney’s take on a lot of things.)

Sign me up for more time, freedom, and energy, so I can maybe do something to make this world (or, at the very least, my world) better, rather than drowning in it.

10 thoughts on “Just say no

  1. Marian says:

    It occurred to me early on in the pandemic that it was a REALLY good thing that I had stopped going on Facebook a few months earlier. I have had all the same reactions to FB that you’ve talked about here—and that was pre-COVID; I don’t even want to imagine what’s on there now.

    I think your characterization about FB as a drug or an abusive relationship is exactly right. I might even go so far as to say the Internet in general can also be seen in this light. I have spent way too much time doomscrolling in the last five months. And the sad thing is that no matter how many times I tell myself NOT to do it, I still find myself picking up my f-ing phone. First I type in Ontario COVID, and then US COVID (because we live next door), and then I go from news site to news site (all credible sources, and all because I tell myself I cannot be the person I know in real life who doesn’t have a clue what is going on but who nevertheless makes pronouncements about the situation). This is all so. freaking. exhausting. (The silly thing is I’ve read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I took notes! I should know better! Argh. I now have his book Deep Work on order; maybe that will do the trick.)(And also: boundaries. Yes. This week I cut ties with the above-mentioned person. I already feel a wee bit lighter.)

    I’m so sorry you can’t see your parents this summer, Rita. Although I suspect you have a different relationship with your parents than I do with mine, I understand how hard that is. I haven’t seen my parents since 2017, and there was a time this summer that both of them were in hospital. I had to quickly come to terms with the idea that I may never see either of them again. It’s occurred to me that we can only make peace with difficult ideas such as “lesser losses” when we present the ideas to ourselves. Anything else smacks of diminishment and dismissal.

    Sending you love,

    • Rita says:

      Yes, I’ve read Digital Minimalism, too (thanks to you!), and I also should know better. I also struggle with that tension between wanting to know and wanting to avoid. I haven’t figured out how to have the right balance. I don’t want to be that person, either. Your comment reminds me that it’s not just a Facebook thing, or even a social media thing. It’s a just plain media thing.

      Thank you for your kind words about my parents. I’m sorry (for whatever the reasons are) that it’s been so long since you’ve seen yours. I last saw mine in February. I almost didn’t go; I was feeling worn out from all kinds of things, and it meant taking a personal day off that I didn’t feel I could afford. But I had this feeling I needed to go. It was before I really understood what was happening with the virus, so I don’t think it was that. Anyway, I’m so glad I did. But I really miss them. I feel sick about the time we’re losing. We don’t have enough left to squander any.

      Sending love back to you—

  2. Kate says:

    You get a resounding hell yes from me on boundaries.

    I’ve had to do some rearranging and prioritizing because Abram has really been struggling and I need to get him social interaction but I’m not sending him to school. My community is doing a lot of things that scientist recommend against and our health department is beleaguered whenever they try and make ANY attempt at keeping people safe and healthy. (People really DO NOT like to be told what to do.)

    I’m guilty of the doom scrolling. Lately I find myself going to our local news station FB page to read comments which is exactly as you described – returning to the abuse in the hopes that this time it will be better.

    I think what I have found most challenging about ALL of this – Trump’s presidency, coronavirus, police killing black people, fires, and all other forms of world calamity, is that people really are ASSHOLES. Or the assholes are loud. I spend time every single day crying because people are mean. I’ve said it before, but it makes me feel like a toddler.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of leaving some social media (instagram, FB) because before this happened I was really good at setting it aside but now I’m not. And I can tell. It makes me feel icky and cranky and I have shit to do. But I, too, am craving connection.

    I’m sorry about your parents. This just sucks.


    • Rita says:

      Oh, my yes: People really are assholes. I want to love them, I really do. Of course there are lots of individual people I love, but I want to love us collectively and more and more I just don’t. I wanted to tear the heads off of some women ahead of me in line at a store today because they weren’t wearing their freaking masks. I mean, they were: around their necks. And I could feel anger just burbling up in me! I’m just feeling really tired of us, and I think the social media breaks are maybe more about needing a break from all of us so that I can better love us.

      I’m pretty sure we’re all being assholes because of that litany of terror you listed and we are all freaked out (even if we don’t realize it). Pretty sure I sound like a toddler right now, and I think I feel like one, too.

      So much sucks. I’m sorry Abram is struggling with the isolation. It’s real. I feel so sorry for all of our kids.

  3. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I am writing about this too.
    My mom and dad also left facebook and they feel so much freer which is why I don’t feel so guilty leaving.
    I have also created this amazing habit of calling my mom on the phone every day since March and it is what I love so much. It is so much better than facebook.
    facebook is to social media what fox news is to news.
    I don’t know if I have the guts to write that on my blog, so I will write it here.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…There’s No In-Between With MeMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      WRITE IT ON THE BLOG. Please. It’s true.

      I need to call my mom more. Thank you for reminding me. I’m really close to my mom and she’s both my mom and one of my best friends, but we’ve sort of run out of things to talk about because we’re not actually doing much of anything. Only so many times I can hear about my parents’ trips to the post office and grocery store, and who wants to talk about anything in the news? But I should do it anyway.

  4. Ally Bean says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I’m totally with you on the boundaries. I deleted my FB account years ago, but I hear about what is going on there. I don’t miss being there because those people who really care about me have stayed in touch with me outside of the vile world of FB. And as for the other *friends* I had there, they’ve showed me their true colors. Life is too short to keep up with people who don’t sincerely want to keep up with you.

    • Rita says:

      “The vile world of FB.” That pretty much sums it all up, right there. Except for when my friends share pics of their kids. I remember when it was mostly that, with longing.

  5. Skye Leslie says:

    Hi Rita –

    I sincerely believe that I cut my anger levels – related to the body politic and social justice issues – by 75% when, 3 years ago – I left FB.

    In the first weeks I struggled a bit because, I too, truly missed my friends on FB and their posts. Additionally, I missed post by people I didn’t know – which had caused me to think, ponder and consider.

    However, the cumulative effect, discontinuing connection to something which constantly could raise my ire and seeded the soul and soil with cynicism was, for me, beneficial.

    I read somewhere, once, that we are fortunate through interaction with others if we can benefit and receive benefit from about 30 people. I am comfortable with that.

    Love to you –


    • Rita says:

      Well, I haven’t cut it off completely. I check in about once a day, and if I feel myself starting to get riled up, I just leave. I hear you, though, and find that idea about 30 people an interesting one. I am liking Instagram, because it seems to be largely free of commentary on the larger world. I’m following fewer people there, and those on my IG list tend to focus more on their personal lives. Or they post pretty pictures of things I like to look at 🙂

      I’m interested in thinking about other ways to connect digitally, especially now when we can’t connect physically. Places like blogs/personal websites are one. I’m glad to have reconnected with you here. <3

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