My dad used to day, “TV will rot your brain.”
I gave up watching TV many years ago, but lately I realized that Facebook has kind of rotted my brain.
Don't get me wrong: Facebook has been a real blessing in my life. I have reconnected with old friends, learned about their new lives; I have learned more about my Lopez community than I ever would have by just hanging around the library; I get to see photos of my relatives in far-away places, watch babies grow into little girls; I get to debate with smart and well-informed folks. I learn stuff and LOL.
But also, I get caught up. I find myself picking things up that "don't have my name on them," —things that really have nothing to do with me. I do this a lot:
Not that there's anything wrong with correcting people on the internet, it's just that the job is pretty time-consuming, and time is not a resource I have an abundance of right now.
I am also distressed at the way many of my friends have come to use Facebook: as a platform for disseminating, well, crazy shit. I expected that kind of thing from some of my friends who are farther along on the gonzo spectrum—but now it's happening to people whom I think of as possessing reasonably disciplined intellects. Hysteria, fear, and panic are contagious. It's not good for me to see this kind of thing day after day, even if it's just a passing glance as I scroll looking for something funny, or personal, from someone I care about. Images stick in our brain, even if our conscious mind has stopped being aware of them.
I really don't want to fill my head with stories about nasty racists, or selfish billionaires. I know they're out there, they will always be out there, but that doesn't mean that I need to provide them a home in my head.
It's a lot like watching violent movies: as I get older, my tolerance for violence in films or books diminishes, and that's fine by me. I am not a better person for witnessing gratuitous violence on a screen, and by the same token I am not a better person for witnessing acts of cruelty perpetrated by elected officials on my fellow citizens.
Yes, I understand that it's important to bear witness to bad things done by bad people: but at the same time, exposure to bad things, violence, hatred and the like, tends to desensitize us to those same things.
I don't want to become desensitized by the world around me.
I want to be more present, not just in my face-to-face encounters (not immediately saying, oh I saw that on Facebook! would be a good start..) but in how I relate to the online world. I want to read an article without spending more time thinking about sharing it on Facebook and what I'll say about it than actually reading the article. If I do think someone else might be interested in something I've read, instead of posting it on FB I can send it to them in an email or mention it when I next see them. This approach creates space for us to discuss an idea without the constant noise and distraction of 500 other things that someone shared that day.
One more thing: I started this blog last year, and I rather enjoyed sitting down once a week and collecting my thoughts, and writing a post about an idea that I think is worth exploring, or an experience I have had, or something that I'm working on.
Like: I want to write about last year, about buying land, about Steve's cancer. And I want to write about building our house, and planting fruit trees, and growing a garden, and our friends and this wonderful community we live in. Good stuff, bad stuff, real stuff.
Like: this amazing artist named Suzanne that we met over Christmas.
And if you'd like to have a conversation about anything you read here, I'd love to talk with you—just scroll down a little bit more 'till you see that "Comments" section... ;-)