Facebook. Such a silly thing when it started, just a way for college students to check each other out, find out if someone was available or in a relationship, whatever. When it expanded beyond those with an “edu” email address and became available to all, I joined, at the invitation of a friend who wanted me to play the beta version of Scrabble that was on the site. That was 2008. At first all I used it for was Scrabble. Then my kids allowed me to be facebook friends with them, and I discovered it was a nice way to see what they were doing, especially my oldest daughter, Sabrina, who was living in England. Then, when we had a family reunion that Sabrina didn’t come back for, I took lots of pictures to post on facebook for her to see, so that she could feel included.
Gradually, more and more of my friends began to have facebook accounts. But at the time I saw the movie The Social Network in 2010, it still wasn’t a significant part of my life. Then, so slowly that I didn’t notice it happening, I started spending more and more time on facebook. Friends posted links to interesting articles that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. High school and college classmates sent me friend requests and I reconnected with people I had been out of touch with for decades. Ironically, my kids, and most of their generation, abandoned facebook for instagram, twitter, and other sites I don’t even know about. Facebook became a place for boomers. But that was okay with me.
Finally, this dreadful election season. Before the election, I was posting lots of Hillary stuff, and so was everyone I knew. Also, various secret groups started springing up, so that people could post without fear of trolls making nasty comments. Then after the election, these groups became even more important. I now belong to four different secret groups: Pantsuit Nation, Lawyers of the Left, and two more that are so secret I’m not even going to say their names.
So what does all this have to do with temptation? The problem for me was that facebook became too tempting, too distracting. Whatever else I was supposed to be doing — typing minutes of meetings, arranging Harvard interviews for high school seniors, even writing stories for Retrospect — I kept sneaking off to check facebook to see what I had missed. Not only when I was on my computer, but also on my phone, anywhere that there was WiFi. It was seriously interfering with my real life.
So finally, I trained myself to log out of facebook every time I left, instead of just closing the tab. That way, I would have to make a conscious effort to log in again, typing in my email and password, rather than just flipping back and forth between tabs. This has helped to improve my productivity. But I can’t renounce the temptation altogether. It’s too important to me now, both personally and politically. And really, temptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Just ask Oscar Wilde.
Suzy, I laughed out loud when I read your title! I almost literally lost two of my closest friends and my niece to FB when it first arrived. They were so consumed by it they didn’t notice that it had supplanted personal contact between us. Love that you’ve been able to find a working balance.
Great choice of topics re: temptation! Of course. When I write, or am planning academic stuff, I keep FB and email shut off, but the temptation is always there, to flee to the pithy, useful but voyeuristic posts of others. I only use FB and twitter, so I am immune to Instagram and all the rest. Enough is enough. You caught what I’m starting to understand lies at the base of all temptation… dilemma. Nice thoughts, well-expressed.
Hooray for us at Retrospect..we’re elevated to the list of “things I’m supposed to be doing.” Great post. We are all in this dilemma, the siren song of FB.
My sister-in-law put me on it about the same time you got there. I didn’t understand it all, but now find it indispensable and am in two of those secret Hillary societies with you! Like you, I have connected with old camp friends, college friends (I chair my reunions, so we had our own FB group for our 40th a few years back and people still post when a classmate dies), and even high school friends, though I think I’m friendlier with them now than I was then. My husband claims I am addicted, but I think it’s fairly harmless fun, and during the election cycle, and even now, I do see lots of interesting articles that I wouldn’t normally have seen. Hair-raising stuff going on out there. Since I don’t work “outside the home”, the time drag isn’t an issue for me, but I understand the addictive quality. I spend lots of time reading and writing stories for Retrospect. Finished #50 yesterday!
Just a great choice of topics, Suzy, especially as we guys reflexively connect “temptation” with, uh, something else. But you really hit upon a temptation that, if not universal, is one that a great number of us (of both sexes) resonate to. And, as with you, I think that, for a lot of us boomers, it is the political aspect of Facebook — the reassuring echo chamber in this crazy time — that is more important than the purely interpersonal cyber-connecting.
You even suggest what sounds to be a very practical cure for the addiction. (I’m too lazy and/or addicted to try it, though.)
Finally, I love that, at the end, you acknowledge that temptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or at least a totally resistible thing when kept under some control. And your shout out to Oscar Wilde is absolutely spot on.
Addictions to activities can be insidious. I once found myself spending hours playing an early (as in early 90s) submarine-based computer game a lot. When it started to slow down progress on my dissertation. I had to erase the game and destroy the floppy disc. Still not sure if I was addicted to gaming or submarines, but I’ve never really enjoyed computer gaming since.