Why I Am Breaking Up With Facebook (Again). (Post #420)

My writing is a mixture of quasi-autobiography and fiction. I pull from my life but then run it through my imagination. Some people go to sports events, bars, sex shows or movies to have fun. I have fun by combining my real life with my imagination and then blending it all together through writing.

Several years ago I wrote a mini-story called Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. It was ten percent autobiography, the rest was fiction. This is why I distinctively remember having a lot of fun writing the story in my small writing studio in Davis, California. I sent the story out to several publications but no one was interested. I posted the story on my blog and no one read it. Confessions Of A Facebook Addict, like most online stories, hung there suspended and unread in digital space. After a few weeks I forgot all about it.

But then I began receiving emails. The New York Times, The Huntington Post, Money Magazine and many other on and offline publications I had never heard of wanted to interview me about my Facebook addiction. I thought about whether or not I should tell the truth and let them know I am not really addicted to Facebook and it was just a story I made up. But I have always been interested in the intersection between life and art. I love it when art gets away with imitating life. Doesn’t happen often that art can be victorious over the forces of banality and conformity that are continually trying to destroy it. But sometimes art sneaks in and no one knows it’s happening. Blending art with the banality of real life is something I never had the opportunity to do outside of my blog and other writings. This was my moment, my one shot to make my small contribution. So I played the part and pretended to be the character that I wrote about in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. I was interviewed and confessed to being a Facebook addict and before I knew it the fictional character was being made real in many on and offline publications such as The Huntington Post. This just goes to show that A LOT of what you read online is not true.

I did leave Facebook not long after. I broke up with Facebook because I already had enough anxiety in my own life and felt like Facebook was adding an extra level of anxiety that I really did not need. Like most people, my relationship with social media is complicated and not having this added complication present in a life that already felt complicated, was really nice. Facebook keeps a person in touch with people who in a world without Facebook would remain in the past. I think it is healthy for most people you have known to remain apart of your past. The past heals. We know each other for a period of time and then we don’t. This is natural. But holding on to a past that should be long gone creates all kinds of unnecessary difficulties. It is something that is not supposed to be happening and we suffer the consequences for holding on to something that really should no longer be there.

As it is with a lot of complicated relationships that have a blend of love/hate feelings, after a three year absence I returned to Facebook not really knowing why. It was good to be back because Facebook is a realm in which time stands still. In a world where time ravages everyone I know and knew, it was nice to find a warm place seemingly immune from the ravages of time. Sure the interface and various Facebook accessories changed, but more or less everyone was still doing the same thing; posting about fun times, feelings, people they love, opinions, songs and bands they love, things they have accomplished, political and spiritual perspectives and on and on. As a man who is not entirely comfortable with the rapid passing of time, Facebook provided me with a kind of SAFE SPACE in which to hide from storm. A space where whether people are aware of it or not, everyone is taking collective shelter from the ravages of time. This is what creates that underlying sense of community on Facebook. It is a community of people all connecting up together and pushing back against the forces of entropy.

Like most communities that provide people with a safe space, it is easy to get too involved, too quick. Of course I involved myself too much, too quick. I got in over my head as I often tend to do with most things. I shared and said too much. Without Facebook, a person is much more alone in the outside world. Fewer people listen to things you have to say. You get to be less yourself. At times being alone in the outside world can feel isolating. You might even question if you really matter anymore especially when you know that to be relevant in this tech driven world, you must join the gathering going on inside. I already have a tendency to share too much in my day to day life. Give me a microphone and I become that quiet guy who has so much more to say than you ever thought possible. Like most people, I keep a lot in, but when given any opportunity to express myself, it will be a gushing forth.

This time around on Facebook, I deleted more status updates than I shared. The status updates I did share, I felt apprehensive about. Did I say too much? Maybe I should not have said that? This was my common thought process every time I posted something. I did not want to post banal status updates about say my new puppy or the plate of food I was eating but I was also aware that Facebook is a pretty conservative place where people are overly concerned about what others might think of them. Most people on Facebook just elect to play it safe. Personally, I find this boring but maybe that is my downfall. Like Icarus, despite your warnings, if you give me wings to fly I will definitely get too close to the sun. And besides, do most of my “friends” on Facebook really need to know this stuff about me? Maybe they need for me to be just as a part of their past as I need them to be apart of mine. This is not a bad thing.

So in a sense, maybe Karma has bit me in the ass. The character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict is a neurotic man overly concerned with all the different nuances involved in the Facebook world. He is continually wondering about what others think of him, angry about the vast degree of passive aggressive behaviors and judgement of others that is an epidemic on Facebook. He is annoyed with his own narcissism, human folly and frustrated that he allows Facebook to turn him into what he feels like he has become. In a lesser way, maybe this is what is starting to happen to me now.

Some people, like my wife, can be very responsible with their Facebook usage. They check in every few weeks or so and that is it. Some people have no need to share at all. They play the role of the voyeuristic troll going on Facebook to see what certain people are up to. But then there are those of us who go on Facebook several times a day. When given an opportunity for self-expression, we indulge. As an artist, writer or any creative person this is a great asset. The artist or writer who has a lot of self-restraint when it comes to self-expression makes mostly boring art. All surface no depth. But Facebook is not the place for most kinds of self-indulgent, self-expression and if someone does not take the mike away from me I will keep expressing myself when maybe what I really need to do is shut up and sit down. This is why I am breaking up with Facebook (again). It feels like the right thing to do before karma really sneaks up on me and turns me into that character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict.

It is always a beneficial human ability to know when it is the right time to jump ship and then to be brave enough to actually jump. Without this ability, we just live our lives stuck on the edge.

I’m jumping (again).

How To Do Nothing At All


Doing nothing is not for the weak-willed. It is one of the more difficult things a person can do in her or his life. In a culture that is built upon the premise of distracting ourselves from ourselves, doing nothing is one of the most radical acts. Doing nothing requires the capacity to tolerate going against the ingrained values that everyone in a capitalist culture has accepted to be true. It requires the ability to step outside of the proverbial box. If Kierkegaard was correct when he wrote about how our impulse to escape the present by keeping ourselves busy is our greatest source of unhappiness…..well then it might be of some benefit to us to start finding a way out of that always invisible but always present box.

In the suburban Los Angeles neighborhood where I live, everyone is always hard at work. There are constantly cars, ambulances, trucks, motorcycles, fire engines and cop cars speeding down the road on which I live. Gardeners, tree trimmers, construction workers, city officials, bike riders, joggers and homeowners seem to all be constantly pushing themselves towards some sort of illusive edge. The downtown area of my suburban city is always bustling with frenetic business. Restaurants, stores, cafes and movie theaters are all alive with the rhythmic pounding of social activities. Airplanes continuously fly over my home making their descent into LAX. Plants and trees are the only living creatures that seem to stay still for any length of time around here. I realize it is 2014 and if you want to survive with some degree of domestic comfort you can not act like a plant or a tree (then who would be able to sell you something?), but in those moments where I do not need to be working I still find that it is incredibly difficult to stop, do nothing and feel good about it.

I am building a nothingness box to escape from the cultural box. I read about a particular poet who lived in San Francisco and he was trying to design a nothingness box. He wanted to build a box that could counteract the forces of doing and busyness that were always all around him. Every time he sat down to be still (which I hear is a fundamental thing that a poet needs to be able to do) he felt like he needed to do something. For him it was usually to go to the bar, socialize, look for a lady to have sexual encounters with and get drunk. He found it difficult to write poetry in a city that was always trying to pull him out and his idea was to build a box within which he would be able to feel still enough to write poetry. I am not sure if he ever managed to complete building his nothingness box but I do still have a sentence from one of his notebooks that I wrote down in one of my journals: Boredom … protects the individual, makes tolerable for him the impossible experience of waiting for something without knowing what it could be. He wanted to build a box within which he would be able to comfortably wait for something.

This is the most difficult part of taking on the task of doing nothing. Dealing with the boredom and the accompanying need to do something that is soon to arise. Granted the sense of boredom and the fear of missing out will be stronger for someone who lives in a happening city or is addicted to Facebook and Instagram (the great contemporary distractors) then it would be for a person who lives in the countryside and is not interested in social networking. But the main reason everyone fears doing nothing for any length of time is because of the boredom (absence of productivity) that they will eventually feel. But what do we end up losing? I can not help but think of what the writer Cheryl Strayed said: The useless days will add up to something… These things are your becoming. When we do not have useless days, we never really get to become anything. We just end up getting led around.

I like what the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote about boredom. He wrote: Boredom: that state of suspended anticipation in which things are started and nothing begins, the mood of diffuse restlessness, which contains that most absurd and paradoxical wish, the wish for a desire. This is exactly what boredom can feel like. A state of restlessness where a person finds themselves no longer being pulled by desire. A state of suspended anticipation, waiting for something to happen. This is what makes doing nothing difficult for so many people (including myself). They (I) just cannot tolerate the feeling of being in a state of suspended anticipation. It’s too uncomfortable, too boring. But call it what you will, you can know that you are doing nothing when you feel exactly this way.

Obviously a person who was raised in a capitalist-based culture needs to develop the capacity to be in this state of suspended anticipation. In capitalist-based cultures, the moment a person feels like they are in this suspended state, they will freak out. They will feel like they are not being productive enough and as a result will experience feelings of fear and shame. They will feel like they are missing out on all the fun, which they equate with missing out on their lives. Whether it is to check the phone, read something, work on something, go on-line, watch something, go out somewhere, worry about something- the way we are conditioned in a society that values doing something, is to freak out the moment we feel like we are doing nothing. We feel at risk of losing our value.

Currently I am working on re-wiring my more capitalistic conditioning. I am learning to tolerate the experience of boredom and suspended anticipation. My dog seems much more advanced in being able to tolerate and enjoy the experience of doing nothing than I am- so I use him as my guide. I watch him and study how he rests. I realize the inherent value of being able to be bored. I know that being bored and doing nothing has a plethora of rarely discussed and often ignored benefits. Being bored and doing nothing are just as good for a person as jumping into a pond of healing, mineral water is. It is like taking a bath in a substance that puts a person in direct contact with the experience of life. And it is this substance that generates the experiences we find most desirable in life: happiness, satisfaction, creativity, peace and presence.

I bought a large cardboard box from Home Depot and I lined it with several layers of tin foil. Today I will be applying styrofoam sound boards to make the inside of the box as quiet as possible. I will then put a layer of pillows on the ground and also make sure that there is no way for the light to get in. I will then place my nothingness box in my backyard so it sits on the grass and soaks up the earth’s grounding energy (I may have to put a tarp over it because of the sprinklers that go off every morning). I want to complete the project that the obscure poet may not of ever found a way to finish. It is within this nothingness box that I plan on learning how to be bored. I will spend at least two hours a day inside it doing nothing. I will just sit there and be. I may let my dog come in with me, since he already knows the way. Once I feel like I have been able to stop the compulsions to do something, or to at least comfortably live with the pull towards doing without needing to give into it by checking my phone, cleaning my house, listening to music, watching TV, having sex, socializing, working, going for a drive or checking my email- then I will know that I have started to benefit from doing nothing at all.

Confessions Of A Facebook Addict

My name is Randall and I am a Facebook addict. This is why today I will be deleting my Facebook page (and my Twitter account). After long consultations with my therapist it has been decided that I should cut back on as many unnecessary distractions in my life as possible so that I can make more time for the things I really need to do get done. If I did not have a tendency towards compulsive behavior maybe I could continue on with social networking sites but because I am easy prey to the temptations of social networking it is best that I stay away. For me having a Facebook account is what I imagine having a toothache or a subtle yet lingering back pain would be like for an ordinary person. There is this chronic throbbing feeling someplace in my body that is always pulling me towards my computer to check my Facebook page and it is this throbbing that I want to go away.

Six years ago I was a luddite. I wanted to have as little to do with technology as possible. I think I knew then the potential threat that technology posed towards my love of reading, writing, painting and my peace of mind. Someplace deep down in my psyche I was able to know that if I got caught up in the storm I would get drenched.  The end cost would be my free time and my passions for reading, writing and painting would have to take a back seat to my need to be on-line. So I was smart to stay away but like most temptations in which everyone else around you is partaking in- it was only a matter of time before I gave in.

I consider myself fortunate to have avoided the storm of My Space. I stayed out of its way and watched the My Space storm drench everyone one else with its downpour while I was proud to avoid getting wet. But then came the gift of a Mac PowerBook G4 for Hanukkah a few years back when Facebook was becoming a popular on-line destination. I promised myself that I would stay away from social networking sites and use my new laptop with an Aikido like discipline. My wife was having a blast re-connecting with lost friends and connecting with current friends on Facebook while I read my books alone in my darkened room. I scoffed at her willingness to turn all of her personal relationships into digital ones but she would often tell me to “not knock it until I tried it,” so I took that as a challenge and one day decided to sign up.

I was getting bored just using my new laptop for googling, email and blogging. I knew that my PowerBook G4 had enough power in it to take me into multiple virtual worlds at once and change my experience of communicating and living on earth into something less complicated- but I instead was choosing to not tap into my laptops full potential. I admit that I had some semblance of guilt about this and felt bad that the laptop was growing weak because of my inability to really use it for all it was worth. Facebook felt like a good place to begin.

Like any addiction in its initial stage my introduction to Facebook was innocent and fun. I was excited to re-connect with a few old friends and engage with current ones on-line. Facebook was a good way for me to connect with certain friends without having to talk with them on the phone or see them in person. I am already a slightly solitary person who would rather read a book than socialize so there was something initially liberating about Facebook. I could stay in touch without really connecting. I enjoyed reading the various articles and watching videos that my various friends posted and felt like I was creating a positive community of people that I was motivated to be apart of. But like any addiction- my Facebook addiction became an out of control obsession before I even knew what was going on.

Within a month I went from 10 friends to 175 friends. I had never had this many friends in my entire life and there was something about the number 175 that made me feel slightly popular. “I have 175 friends,” would often run through my mind like a mantra or a declaration against loneliness and isolation. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a fan base, an audience and status updates became an important way for me to communicate to others the way in which I experienced the world. My friends were listening to me, reading my status updates and leaving comments- and this feeling of being known or heard or seen filled me with the illusory sense that I was unique, maybe even slightly famous. After less than two months on Facebook I was beginning to feel special.

As a child my parents worked all the time and I spent a lot of time alone. When my parents were home I felt like they were too preoccupied to pay any real attention to me. Deep down I knew I was someone special but to my parents I felt like I was just an ordinary kid. I tried to do everything I could to stand out. I got in trouble at school, ran away several times, started a new wave magazine, was determined to play professional tennis and one day be famous. But for some reason all of my attempts to stand out never really attracted the attention I needed from them. I got punished, or told that I was a dreamer and then they went back into their worlds. I felt abandoned, unseen, unheard and determined to one-day make something of myself in this life- so they would have to see who I really was.

This feeling of isolation that followed me into my adulthood was muted or watered down by my compulsive desire to leave status updates. With every status update that I felt like I was constructing a persona that was not really “I” but was more like the “I” that I wanted to be perceived as being. I kept a notebook on my person at all times where I would write down status update ideas when they came into my mind. Before I went to sleep at night and when I woke up in the morning I would work hard to think up various status updates in my mind. I was leaving three or four status updates a day and checking my Facebook page seven or eight times a day to see if anyone had left a comment. Before I knew it, months had passed without me reading a single book or putting a splotch of paint on a canvas. It was then that I began to have the lingering feeling that I could be addicted to Facebook.

The worst part of my addiction was not the false sense of self that I created from leaving Facebook status updates. Nor was it the loss of privacy or the amount of repetitive times that I spent checking my Facebook homepage everyday. No, the worst part of my Facebook addiction is the most difficult confession. I hope you will forgive me this transgression. You see, I would work hard at constructing various status updates. The updates had become my main preoccupation and my main form of creative expression. The status update blank digital box had become my empty canvas or a blank page upon which I created my art. I felt like I was making myself vulnerable to all of my Facebook friends and the least that I expected in return was a comment or two. Some kind of acknowledgement from my peers. But when I would post a status update and none of my friends would leave a single comment- I felt a sense of rejection so deep that I could feel fire burning behind my eyes. The fire filled my mind with a blistering indignation towards all my facebook friends who had failed to acknowledge my one form of creative expression. I felt unseen and unappreciated and this in turn ruined my whole day. But like every addiction- a quick fix was just around the corner.

My consumption of alcohol increased during this period. I would put out the flames of my indignation with the cold carbonation of beer. After two or three drinks I would return to my Facebook page and not feel so bad anymore. I would leave another ridiculous status update about being drunk and usually receive a comment or thumbs up which caused my indignation to disappear. I would return to business as usual. My wife never noticed that I was checking my Facebook page sometimes twenty times a day to see if anyone had commented on my page and/or to catch up with my friend’s status updates and various posts. Sometimes, I would even take pride in comparing my status updates to my friend’s status updates and take great delight in the superiority of my status updates. Ridiculous, I know- but Facebook was making me into the kind of man who I did not want to be.

A lot of my fifty minutes in therapy has been taken up with discussions about my Facebook addiction. My therapist became concerned about my lack of self-control and was worried that all the time I spent using or thinking about Facebook was distracting me from what I really needed to be thinking about in my life. She found for me a few Facebook anonymous groups in Sacramento, which I promised her I would look into. I was convinced that my Facebook addiction was not as bad as she was making it out to be and I knew that I could stop going to Facebook when I was on-line if I wanted to. But I was wrong- Facebook had me exactly where it wanted me and was not going to let go any time soon.

Like any great form of self expression- my status update creative phase fell victim to a writer’s block. I was only able to leave one or two status updates a day and I knew that these status updates did not have the brilliance and charm of my earlier status updates. So I slowed down on my updates and spent more time consumed by my friend’s status updates and the various superficial cutouts of information and entertainment that they posted on-line. I would pass hours watching videos and reading articles. The first thing I would do in the morning was to check my Facebook page. It was also the last thing I would do before going to bed. My creative impulses were becoming weakend by the amount of digital information I was taking in and when it came time to sit with a book my eyes were so strained that I could not clearly ingest a single word.

Prior to using Facebook I spoke to my friends on the phone or saw them in person. It has been months since I have talked to a friend on the phone. The loneliness that I thought was being nullified by my time spent on Facebook has only increased. Like a cancer it has not gone away but simply changed its form and moved to a different place. Loneliness is one of the greatest symptoms of our new social networking world. Communities like Facebook create a false sense of friendship and belonging but what I think really happens is that the more digitalized our friends become the further away we grow from ourselves and our corporeal world. Communicating becomes reduced to status updates or brief cutouts of personal information. But human beings are complex organisms with multiple layers of self. To really be a friend one needs to spend a lot of time peeling back these layers and getting inside. The more I have used Facebook the more layers I have been able to keep concealed and this has turned the majority of my friendships into nothing more than a superficial status update.

So I am going to stay away. As of today I will delete my Facebook account and get back on track with living in the world of flesh and bones. I will get back to my books, my writing and paint on a few canvases that have collected cobwebs and dust in the corner of my room. I will start keeping a journal again with pen and ink (where I am the only one who can read my personal thoughts) and re-establish a sense of privacy that I feel I surrendered the moment that I joined Facebook. Maybe deleting my Facebook page is a radical step in the wrong direction but for a compulsive person like myself Facebook is a virus that I must wipe out if I want to feel my normal, vibrant self again. I know that it will take a few weeks to re-adapt to life without Facebook but I am prepared, optimistic and excited for this challenge to live a life that is not spent on-line. Who knows, maybe I will pick up the phone and call a few friends.

My 89 New Year’s Resolutions

1) eat more walnuts and pistachios

2) impregnate wife (with her consent, of course)

3) work on overcoming anxiety

4) buy new underwear

5) recycle and compost most of my waste

6) recite a daily mantra

7) build something

8. spend more time with birds

9) spend less time on-line

10) drink less booze

11) be a better lover

12) leave less facebook status updates

13) have sex more

14) cultivate a daily meditation practice

15) make a new friend

16) get rid of a few old friends

17) contemplate the real meaning of freedom

18) be free

19) work as a Teacher

20) read more poetry

21) learn to enjoy doing the dishes

22) listen to my heart more than to my head

23) row a boat at least once a month

24) read everything Richard Brautigan has written

25) read everything John Fante has written

26) get a dog

27) become financially independent

28) remain healthy

29) continue to pursue dreams and do not be discouraged by those who have given up on their dreams

30) pay off credit card

31) grow vegetables

32) consider finding a mistress (with wife’s consent, of course)

33) spend less time alone

34) write more poetry

35) self publish a novel or book of short stories

36) practice compassion and gratitude

37) eat more (organic) hot dogs

38) bring my own shopping bags to the market

39) use less plastic

40) grow hair long (n0 haircuts)

41) ride a horse

42) participate in a protest march

43) save $2,000

44) be honest even when you feel like lying

45) publish a few poems

46) figure out where all my lost socks go

47) start feeding cat more regularly

48) sleep less

49) visit a farm

50) dance more

51) smile more

52) laugh more

53) stop listening to voices in my head

54) stop talking with the voices in my head when in public

55) surrender all need for control

56) listen deeply

57) socialize more with people even though I do not enjoy socializing

58) play board games with wife

59) volunteer someplace

60) buy more socks

61) find true self

62) hug and climb trees

63) accept my life fully without needing anything to be different

64) love

65) help others when I can, but do not sacrifice myself for others who want to get out of me whatever they can (for their own gain)

66) plant a tree

67) stop eating so much cheese

68) learn how to fix bicycles

69) cultivate a relationship with someone over the age of 75

70) buy myself a gift once a month

71) drink more herbal tea

72) plant a garden that grows dollar bills

73) embrace growing older without fear

74) go on a meditation retreat

75) iron clothes more often

76) eat less white flour

77) swim

78) let go of the future and the past, simplify

79) work towards being able to bend over from waist and touch fingers to feet

80) visit a dentist

81) get a foot massage

82) be comfortable with being weird

83) build up arm muscles (preferably, the result of having more sex)

84) work on improving my marriage

85) buy a kitchen table

86) drink more water

87) spend time with a river

88) keep fresh flowers in my home at all times

89) do not get upset with myself if I do not accomplish all these resolutions, instead remember that I did the best I can