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On being disconnected

I took a page out of the Ben Franklin Guide to Life last week and took an “air bath.”

According to the Smithsonian archives, an air bath is what Franklin referred to as the practice of sitting in front of the open window of his first floor London apartment to read and write – in the buff. Sorry to put that image in your head. It’s not very founding-fatherly, but the man had the right idea.

The idea of letting go of the daily chaos and simply letting the air circulate his naked body was, in a way, an attempt to rid himself of the noise of daily life.

No, I didn’t physically strip down and give my neighbors a peep show – I deleted Facebook.

This was my attempt to get rid of the “noise.” It only lasted a week, but that week felt like one big ahhhh! of relief.

When I deleted Facebook, strange things happened; I spent time with real live humans and had face-to-face conversations. I made real food and did chores. I slept more. I made art. I took an improptu road trip. I felt less negative, less manic. I felt happier.

I was present.

I’m never present enough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my son, “five more minutes” as I make him wait to play, just so I can check email even though I’m not expecting anything. “Five more minutes” I tell him so that I can mind-numblingly scroll my social media sites. I was more concerned with what was going on with you than what was happening in my own damn life.

The last time I told Fletch, “five more minutes,” his shoulders shrunk, his smile soured, he fetched his phone and retreated to the couch to do exactly as I was. To my horror, that was the moment it hit me – I’m so caught up in my head and my devices that I’m not really here. Instead of raising the man I hope he will become, I’m raising someone who will be just like me – strapped to an electronic device.

GASP!

So, I deleted Facebook and inner peace and connectedness pursued.

Yep. You’re welcome. I just saved you thousands of dollars from paying some guru or therapist, but feel free to take that “Eat, Pray, Love” excursion if you want to. Honestly, to reach that place of zen or chi or what have you, just unplug the computer, put down the phone, and smell, look, listen, taste and feel what’s around you.

You’re probably wondering, if the break was so great, why are you back on Facebook? Well, they make it very hard to leave, especially when I use Facebook to login to every other app on my phone and I’d kind of like to get paid from Ebay!

Now that I’m back, it’s a slippery slope and I’m falling back into my old ways. I really love the pictures of your travels, your projects, your pets and children. I even appreciate pictures what you’re having for lunch. The mundane stuff you post is some of the most interesting to me, because it gives me a glimpse of what you value and I learn a bit more about you.

You know what else is revealing? Those memes. Those news articles you share. Your unfilterated posts and commentary.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’d like to think social media is connecting us, but it’s tearing us apart. 

When did we (yes, me too), become so naive? So hostile? So insensitive?

Maybe I’ve been living in some sort of cotton candy bubble, but, with each passing day, my feed becomes filled with more misinformation, more hate and more laughs at someone else’s expense. I’ve seen perfectly decent people that I know in real-life stoop to their lowest form online. Kind, reasonable and well-spoken people turn into angry, belligerent buffoons. 

Trust me. I’m guilty. I get it. It’s so easy to have our buttons pressed, our emotions tested and our values questioned on the basis of what we publically share. And, don’t fool yourself. Just because your privacy settings are set to “private,” whatever you post online is very, very public.

I know, it feels cathartic to rant online. I do it all the time (and quickly delete it). Facebook can feel like a safe place to voice my personal opinion and inner most thoughts through this digital megaphone knowing that you can’t tear it out of my hands before showing me the door. I understand the validation I feel when my tribe rallies in my favor, rewarding me with “likes” and messages of solidarity. But, in the same binary breath, what we post online can cause a world of hurt, misunderstandings, chaos and be totally divisive.

So now that I’m back, I’m trying something different. I’m making an attempt at using a filter. Just like the one I use in real life.

Is it hurtful or hateful? Is it true? Can it destroy someone’s character or does it make fun at someone’s expense? Is it passive-aggressive or manipulative?

I can’t promise I won’t be mundane and I’m still struggling with NOT making fun of our Commander in Chief, but I’m working on it. Because these words could be my last, and I’d like to go out with some grace.

Are you okay with those words you posted being your last?

I’m not claiming to be the director of internet social morality (even though that title would make for a great byline). I laugh at those jokes and I’m judgy, too, and some people definitely need to be called out, but I’m going to try to ponder before I post.

I hope you will too.

Despite our difference in opinion, politics, values and morality, I still kind of like you and I’d like to keep it that way.

Now, I’m logging off of this thing I’m typing on because my reality is calling me. See you in real life!

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