That’s what writing is. It’s never really “done,” never “complete,” and never, ever “perfect.” When I finish a blog post and hit “Publish Post,” I feel a sense of satisfaction. Then, about half an hour later, I realize that I didn’t say what I meant to say. When I’m feeling especially pensive, I wonder if it’s ever really possible to say fully what we mean.
That’s a sobering thought, for a writer. In the end, words fail us, or at least they can only say part of what we mean, convey the part of our experience that is expressible in language. But we try, because that is the beauty of writing, and of being human–that we imagine the unthinkable and attempt the impossible.
After my last post, about ditching Facebook, I find myself wondering again if I really said what I meant to, and it troubles me. I want to try again–or rather, to try in addition. After I deleted my account, I heard from more friends than I have in a long time. Some were worried that something had happened to me. Some said they’d often thought about quitting. One friend captured it better in four words than I could in several hundred–“that hollow Facebooky feeling.” But others’ reactions left me wondering if I’d really said what I wanted to say, and I found myself worrying that I might have come across as harsh or judgmental.
One of the things about Facebook that has upset me the most is its propensity to transmute the extraordinary into the ordinary–to suggest by repetition that everybody else’s life is always totally amazing. Of course, we all know that isn’t true, and yet Facebook depression is a thing, just as Facebook divorces and Facebook feuds and Facebook bullying and harassment are also things.
I know I run the risk of sounding like an advocate for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but that’s not my intention. I just wanted to say that I’ve realized that for me, Facebook should not be a thing. Maybe I philosophized at the expense of getting real. Regardless, another aspect of Facebook that troubles me–a lot–is the possibility that I might unwittingly be one of those people whose posts make other people feel hollow. I tried to mostly post about the bizarre stuff my kids said and the ridiculousness of life with chickens, because I figure if I need a laugh, probably someone else does, too. But I wonder if anything is truly harmless in that medium. It’s hard to resist the siren song of Facebook. I’ve read other blog posts and articles by writers who discuss quitting Facebook because they began to see life through its lens: “I need to take a picture of this so I can post it!” or “This is going to sound so funny on Facebook!” I fell into that trap, too.
At any rate, I just want to be very, very clear that my feelings about Facebook are about me, and not anyone else. They reflect my own baggage and insecurities. I’m not proud of them, but I’ve got them, and maybe what the interwebs needs is a little more honesty and a little less posing and fewer soundbytes. As I reflect on my time in the blue box, these are some of the things that go through my head:
1) I suck at self-discipline. I cannot stop eating cookies if they are in front of me, and I cannot stop scrolling through my newsfeed if it is in front of me. This is a character flaw. I wasted a lot of perfectly good hours hanging around online while my family missed me. My kids hated the computer. I still feel a little sick about this.
2) I am a recovering mess. At almost 37, I am just beginning to look myself in the eye and think, “Hey, you might turn out okay.” I don’t have a Tragic Past, just the insidious brand of insecurity that our culture implants in girls from the time they take their first breaths. I have to make a conscious effort not to criticize myself for things I can’t control, and I have to make a conscious effort to not compare myself unfavorably to others. I also have to make a conscious effort not to berate myself for having to make these conscious efforts. I am mad as hell about this because it keeps happening to girls, and it needs to stop.
3) I had postpartum depression. Sometimes I wonder if it’s like malaria, if it waits, dormant, inside you. When I see photos of happy new moms, I am happy for them, but I ache, too, because I will never get back the months of darkness after my first son was born. Seeing actual moms in the real world doesn’t have this effect, because they are real and not just a carefully curated vision with a sweet caption. After my first baby was born, I hardly left the apartment. I cried. A lot. I was a ghost of a mother, and I feel like I failed my son in this.
4) I am a political moderate. On Facebook, this makes me like a unicorn. Sometimes I feel like the Last Unicorn. I think that the people who want to save the babies are right, and I think that the people who want to save the women are right. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. I have some ideas about how to reconcile them, but I can hardly hear myself think over the YELLING IN ALL CAPS. And I think that only Nazis are Nazis. I have lost respect for people I would like to admire. This makes me sad.
5) People’s food posts make me hungry. See #1.
6) I am not one of the cool kids. I never have been. I’m the awkward imaginative kid. I’m starting to realize that this is okay, but it’s hard to overcome years of conditioning. If you grew up not cool, you know what I’m talking about. You grow up, but “knowing better” and “maturing” don’t mean that you leave insecurity behind, they just mean that you’re aware of it, and this means that you now have something new to criticize yourself for. Facebook is no country for insecure introverts.
7) I don’t like the person I became on Facebook. I wanted to post pictures of my organic lettuce and tell everybody that my four year old can walk backwards on a balance beam and that my six year old started reading Moby Dick and that I have written novels and that my husband just came home from a lecture about witchcraft and gave me THE. BEST. PRESENT. EVER. (a recipe for an Anglo-Saxon salve to repel elves. You know you want one). If I knew that I had made someone else feel bad about her own life, it would break my heart, because I’ve been her.
8) I’m impatient with unsolved mysteries and I don’t like unfinished business. Snippets of life unrolling in a blue box aren’t enough for me. Every picture and quote is just a fragment of a larger story, a scrap of ice above the surface. I want the story and its context. I want to plunder the frozen depths for the truths massing silent below the surface. I want to know and be known, because I tremble when doubt overtakes me, when I look into the gulf beyond this world and wonder if there is anything on the other side.
It’s hard to write these things. It makes me feel like a neurotic mess. I’m ashamed of my doubt, my egotism, my enviousness, and my frailty, but after a year and a half of cramming myself into status updates, I’m ready for some honesty, even if it’s uncomfortable. I am a work in progress, drafting my story day by day. I screw up. A lot. I say a lot of astonishingly stupid and mundane things.
Every once in a while, though, the magic happens. I strike two words together, and they flame into brightness. Things fall into place. The center holds. I am stronger now, because I know where I am weak, and I am learning to put my feet only in places where the ground will bear my weight. Facebook, for me, just wasn’t one of them.