By Becky Mahoney
I’m pulling the plug on Facebook and all of my social media sites for the summer. I made the announcement just in case someone wanted to step out of cyber world and take a walk with me in the real one. This week, I hit the deactivate button and started my vacation. I hope to write more letters, read more books, make more phone calls, and enjoy more summer sunsets. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really fun things I enjoy about Facebook that I will miss. However, It can be a black hole that sucks both your attention and time into its addictive vortex. I enter, and hours later, find my way out, wondering what year it is.
I’ve used Facebook to fill some needs, like, Grandma’s Brag Book. I’ve played Armchair Philosopher and borrowed quotes from the wise ones, embellishing their already perfect message. Those help me more than they ever will anyone else. I think, maybe writing them in a post, they’ll stick to my life like Super Glue. Occasionally, Facebook’s been my podium for activist rants about politics, insurance companies, injustice in general, and big fat bullies. As much as I complain about it becoming an online magazine, riddled with promotions and ads, I’ll confess to using it to market my own skills, so I could garner a following and maybe bring home a slice of bacon or two. While I’m coming clean here, I’ll bare my soul and tell you it often leaves me feeling inadequate and lonelier than when I logged in. If it’s been a bad day, I can get caught up in comparison, wondering why someone else’s life is so much better. Geesh. Can’t the Universe dole out equal amounts of adventure, abundance, and love? And, let’s be honest here, the Pope is probably the only one who doesn’t pay attention to the number of “likes” received to measure the value and worth of what they just posted, if only for a brief second. I know I’m not alone. We all want to be seen and acknowledged.
That’s when I know its time to take a Facebook break. When I forget everyone has their turn on the banks of the river of tough times and when I become so self-absorbed in what others think or like, I need to get out and be with the world. It’s time to pay attention to others stories and lend a hand, not a Facebook post. Sending a cyber hug, just won’t do. It’s like eating fat-free cheese. It looks really good on the plate, but when you bite into it, the flavor’s just not there, and it leaves you longing for the real thing.
I read an article recently regarding Facebook’s dilemma concerning what to do with a person’s identity after they die. Executives are looking at this issue as an opportunity to help people cope with bereavement when faced with loss. Already having so much of an individual’s personal data, they’re considering following suit with several other companies who collect and process this data, and then, create an avatar of the deceased for loved ones to chat with. A type of Facebook Skype, from the heaven. That might bring great comfort to some people, and if it does, that’s a wonderful thing. For me, I fear it would be the fat-free cheese. The memories I hold dearest involve the five senses and things that no computerized data storage will ever be able to recreate. Quite simply, you had to be there. That’s where I find my sustenance. In the substance. It’s the scent of my mom’s cologne as she waltzed through the room, a fairy princess dressed for a New Years party. Still, she took the time for a ginger-ale toast with her children. I can see her smiling, red-stained lips, leaving an imprint on the glass and my memory. It’s the deliciousness of sitting in our hot tub, my husband and I, on a cold winter night; hair caked with ice, warm from the neck down, chatting about our day and our dreams under the stars. I double-dared him to live like a Swede, get out and roll in the snow. He did.
We all mean well, when we post our Facebook greetings and prayers. I know I surely do. After my recent surgery, my gratitude was tearful when friends showed up, dropped off a meal, a plant, a card, or most precious, just sat with me and kept me company. This was mindful, memorable attention. Last Sunday, I didn’t get the same long term satisfaction with a Happy Mother’s Day text from my oldest granddaughter as I did sitting on the porch swing, trading “can you top this Godzilla stories” and laughing so hard we scared the neighbors. That’s living.
I received the beautiful gift of both a treasure and treat in my mailbox the other day. Written by hand with amazing calligraphy, a card, expressing gratitude for some of my recent writing. It holds a place of honor on my dresser, a reminder, someone took the time to make my day, in a tangible way. That meant more to me than a hundred Facebook likes.
It’s the experiences of real world kinship that enlarges my life, brings me joy and fills me up when it’s been a bad day. There’s no comparison. Fat free cheese isn’t a substitute for the deliciously rich fullness of the real thing. A kiss, a hug, a laugh, a sorrow shared; looking into another’s eyes, holding a hand. That’s real. A virtual life just isn’t for me. At least until September.
Becky Mahoney can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.