I realized a few months ago that I was addicted to social media, and it became clear that my creativity was being hampered by the constant bickering and fighting on Facebook. When I signed on years ago, it was a way to connect with old friends, and since we work from home, it became a way to interact with others, since for me, working in an office and having a diverse group of coworkers brings me immense joy.
I felt like my presence on Facebook had some benefits—for example, my interactions on a group called Aspiring Metalsmiths. I could help other new jewelry artists work through issues they were having with soldering or other skills, but even on that forum, people would attack others. My mentor and teacher actually left the group after an almost “religious” debate ensued over whether it was acceptable to use glue to secure a cabochon in a partial bezel setting. Another argument developed over whether colored pencil jewelry was “real” jewelry, even though Deb Karash’s artful pieces command hundreds of dollars.
While important to our modern-day society, I think social media emboldens those who want to toss a grenade into a conversation and run away from the carnage.
So one day, I was sucked into a heated discussion on a friend’s wall, where several people were arguing that free speech gave them the right to say anything they wanted, no matter if someone’s feelings were hurt in the process. The discussion caused me to post the following:
”The limits of free speech should rest in common decency.”
And I was surprised when my so-called “friends” attacked ME. Arguing over decency? I was blown away.
Did I leave Facebook then? No. I kinda wish I had. In my mind, I was conflicted with the fact that I would lose my only connection to the outside world. But was that thinking flawed? Were the interactions I had quality interactions? Were they as enjoyable as going to lunch with a friend? Fusing Friday at the local glass studio? Not at all.
Yet I stuck with my abusive friend. Facebook would serve up a big dish of targeted trash, and I would “Like” and “Love” and post my opinions to the world. I started to feel a rush when I saw some posts, using the “Angry” reaction, but eventually realized that most of my reactions were “angry.” And I’m NOT an angry person…I’m enthusiastic and fun-loving. “Angry” is not a normal state for me. Yet I learned later that each time I posted an angry reaction, my friends were all notified that KAT WAS ANGRY.
Meanwhile, I started a major remodel of my parents’ house after they went to assisted living, so I was stuck in New Braunfels, Texas…alone. Facebook again provided me with an outlet as I worked through an impossible project, and I felt a little less alone. After all, I was surrounded by happy people on social media, right?
My husband, a post-apocalyptic writer who is an expert in Facebook advertising, shared an article with me once that said Facebook knows after forty interactions more about a person’s personal and political leanings that their own spouse. And fairly recently, I was introduced to the feature of Facebook where you could see what they think your interests are, and realized why my feed was overrun with targeted posts that fed on that frustration.
I thought I wasn’t doing any harm by posting thoughtfully written responses to misguided posts by friends. Bobby told me that I wouldn’t change anyone’s minds, but I felt that if I flagged incorrect information and provided facts, I could educate others. I didn’t realize that people didn’t want to be educated, they were just there to vent. I watched friends I’d known for years turn into people I no longer wanted to be associated with. At one point, I turned in a classmate to the FBI for making credible threats to a president.
And I started to vent as well. Not because it felt good, but because I felt like I was drowning. As a barrage of opinions were tossed my way, I responded through simple “Like,” “Love,” “Wow,” and “Angry” emojis, not fully understanding that the world was watching. It felt like being in a batting cage, with fastballs coming left and right, swinging at everything heading my way. It wasn’t until a friend PM’d me to say they noticed.
Mind you, there were also happy things happening on Facebook. Right before I dumped Facebook, a friend’s daughter had her first baby. Since I had known Nikki since she was four, this was an important connection. One of Bobby’s readers, a woman named Andrea, had become a friend, and I loved seeing beautiful pictures of her new home and colorful gardens. My friend Charlie in London was moving back to the States to start a new life, and after becoming reacquainted through Facebook after thirty years, I had a new appreciation for someone I only knew casually since elementary school. I also felt like I had a connection to the glass community, and jewelry community. I even got my news from a few trusted friends on Facebook, and learned about new products. But as my life had started to revolve around Facebook, and my real-life connections became secondary, I felt isolated and alone.
So I did it. I pulled the plug. I deactivated Facebook, and started trying to undo the damage. It was harder than I ever expected. I’ve never been someone with addictions. Well, maybe to Coke (Coca-Cola). But I felt like each day was a little milestone…like “one day Facebook-free,” “two days Facebook-free.” I felt like I was missing out on Nikki’s baby pictures, and Andrea’s happy posts about the flowers and bees, Kim’s new glass art pieces, and silly cat videos. Emily’s daughter’s Girl Scout endeavors. There was definitely something missing in my life. I was determined to fight back and not let Facebook win.
So here I am, sitting at El Nopalito’s, a local Mexican restaurant, with a new friend. A face-to-face breakfast, listening to Tejano music and watching the TV blaring in the background. I’m surrounded by a diverse group of people who smile politely if I happen to turn their way. And tonight, I’m going to Wurstfest to see my favorite accordion player, Alex Meixner—yes, I have a favorite accordion player. The man can play Rammstein and Guns n’ Roses on his accordion, in addition to all my German favorites.
And for this analog day in my life—away from Facebook—I would definitely post this reaction: