Pregnant and Friendless: On getting knocked up and quitting Facebook (again)

So. I have some news.

First, I'm pregnant. Second, and perhaps more life-changing, I'm leaving Facebook.

Let's start at the beginning: pregnant means we're expecting another baby! It might be a boy and it might be a girl! It might also be intersexed! I'm about 11 weeks, which means the little one should be arriving sometime in mid-May – perfect because that's when Zu's done teaching his classes and he's all mine for the rest of the summer. I'm excited for SBJ to have a younger sibling and, although it postpones my plans for world domination by at least two years, I feel blessed to have the chance to raise another baby. This time, I know what I'm doing.


And Facebook - dear, darling, Facebook. How I have loved thee... I used to be a huge Facebook supporter.
I wouldn't have my baby, my foetus, or my husband if it weren't for Facebook. He was an acquaintance I tagged in a picture of graffiti. Then he moved to Montreal.
I've loved connecting with old friends and teachers I surely would always otherwise have wondered about.
Through it, I managed and promoted Studio BĂ©luga, a 'self-pedagogical creative community' in a warehouse in St. Henri, and it was amazing.
I was an active member of several mommy-groups, and I learned so much about pregnancy, birth, parenting and group dynamics. I also made some good (but alas, digital) friends.

But now I'm not promoting or managing anything (except my toddler). I'm not looking for a mate (or, more accurately, teasing good-looking bald writers who live in New York). I got bored with my mommy-groups at about the 50th conversation about when to introduce solids; and the old friends and teachers, well... I will miss them.

I've been off Facebook for more than a week and here's what I don't miss:

  • Hearing, on a daily basis, about the bad things people do to their kids. No, I don't think it's OK to leave your child crying for five hours. Sorry.
  • Overwrought conversations about American politics, vaccines, autism, the supposed (and debunked) connection between vaccines and autism, how mental illness should be managed entirely through herbs and positive thinking, how ADHD 'doesn't exist' and how pregnant women should not be allowed to drink coffee. Even decaf, "because of the chemicals".
  • Somehow not ever receiving my closest friends' notifications. At some point, Facebook decided that I'm a MOMMYMOMMOM (how could this be? ....) and began to exclusively update me about other moms on my friendslist. It's fun to know that the girl in your grade 10 English class has two kids and lives in the UK; it's fun to see how other moms are living out their lives in perfect Pinterest fashion, and it's fun just to know you're not the only middle-class mom in America who does not have an irrational fear of her toddler starving to death. But most of the people I really wanted to hear about - the old roommates, the artists, the adventurers, those who dwell in my heart - don't have kids yet. This doesn't make them less interesting to me, but Fb never seemed to get it.
  • The best self phenomenon. They say that people only portray their best selves on Fb, and that this makes everyone else feel insecure and unhappy. But I think the truth is the inverse: it's not that people are reluctant to admit that anything is wrong in their lives; it's that doing so is seen by the Fb community as inappropriate, kind of... gauche. Like, don't share that on here, I'm looking at pictures of cats stuck in window blinds. 

    The Fb environment encourages - nay, demands! - your 'Best Self'. A significant moment in my falling out of love with Facebook: I had to take my newborn into Children's Hospital for surgery on not one but two hernias. Given the mounds of love we'd received in announcing his birth and posting his pictures (hundreds of likes! I was so touched!), I expected people to be worried. You know, post some sympathy. I got one compassionate message, and a dear friend sent us a delivery gift basket. But overall (aside from a joke, 'was he moving furniture?', and, yes, a few condolences) the silence was deafening. And here's the rub: I know that each and every person who congratulated me on SBJ's birth would be sympathetic and supportive if I called them up and said he was in the hospital for surgery – but when your little one's intestines are protruding in a mass (two masses!) outside of his belly, it's just not something to talk about on Fb. This sucks.

There was a time when Facebook was 'right' for me. I don't expect all my friends to quit. But can I tell you what I really think about it? Will you get offended?

I think an active Facebook page and a spiritual life are mutually exclusive. I'm not entirely sure of the mechanism behind it (does it change your brain and the kind of stimulation you need in order to feel alive? Does it simply take up all your 'free' time that would otherwise be spent in spiritually fulfilling tasks?) but a few ex-Facebookers I've spoken to have also found this to be true. You can't 'like' the divine, and you can't 'share' your way to Nirvana.

Technically, it need not be. Technically, I should still be able to meditate, breathe deeply, go for walks, dream, journal, pray, and be fully present with my loved ones even if I spend an hour or more on Facebook each day. But it doesn't happen.

In the first week I was off Facebook I got a lot of tasks done. I started making a list of all the awesomeness I was experiencing IRL (crepes, bread pudding, pumpkin carving, laundry...) but the most important change has been deeper. My dream life. I hadn't really had profound dreams for at least a few years, and I was secretly blaming it on motherhood ("What happens to the dreams of sleep-deprived new mothers? Where do they go?" - Adrienne Rich), or just being happier and more settled in my life. I was secretly a little worried.

But now, without the Fb chatter, my subconscious mind is doing things again. Lots of problem-solving and plot-lines based loosely on The Wire, but also some deeper stuff: a week ago I had a dream that I came to peace with an old ex (and met his new love. She's a little young but a lot amazing!), and last night, with a former co-worker (we shopped for earrings). I think this is a good thing. When I look back at my life, this is what I want to see. I want more of this...

And less of this.

I miss my Fb life. Since I'm planning to keep my profile up so that people won't think I've de-friended them, it sometimes feels like a whole other Svea is carrying out a whole other life somewhere else. It's strange to know that my data is still being kept and my newsfeed is still being generated. All just waiting for the day when I cave and come back. Because, you know...

I'm not the first person to leave Facebook. At least two other people have done so:


  1. I think you're onto something, re: dreams and the internet. I went offline and without my cell phone for 24 hrs. This was kind of a feat for me because a lot of my work actually involves facebook and cell phones and I was so nervous I would miss something important or fall behind or that the universe would implode...

    Nothing happened.

    But what did happen is I had an incredibly vivid dream last night. It wasn't pleasant nor was it unpleasant, it was fascinating and I've remembered the feeling it left me with throughout the rest of the day.

    I wonder if there's a relationship here?

  2. Oh and P.S. CONGRATULATIONS! (That should have been the FIRST thing I said!) and I am hoping that Oko and his hernia (how does this happen to babies? That's terrible!) are doing better now.

  3. Thanks!

    Baby hernias are pretty common - umbilical ones usually clear up on their own (SBJ had one) but the other kind, which only occurs for boys, needs surgery. They operated on both.

    The 'other kind' is an inguinal hernia: when the testes are being formed in utero, they form in the foetus's abdomen. Then they have to 'descend' down the inguinal canal, which traverses the abdominal wall. In some babies, this canal doesn't close up afterward, and becomes a nice little opening for his intestines to pop through. Truly terrifying but, with the wonders of modern science, fixable. I was more scared of the general anaesthesia than the surgery itself.

    I should probably write a blog post about this. Clearly, I still have some feelings around it. ;-/

  4. Sweet Svea -- I'm so excited for your family. Another baby!! You go girl.

    And I applaud your choice about FB. It's the only place I have to connect with really old friends and so I'll keep at it. But I do use it as a distraction from doing things that are important but require inner discipline. I'm glad you're still blogging so that I can keep up with your life (now that we've reconnected).

    Best to all of you.

    Love, R

  5. You remain one of the most amazing and inspiring people I know. I wish we could do chocolate more often, so I could keep up with you in a more tangible way. Enjoy the freedom of being FB free. I may just join you some day soon. Oh, super duper, awesome congrats to all of you on the upcoming familial expansion.

  6. Svea, that sounds so terrible. Thankfully medicine has reached a point where this kind of thing can be cured. But, yeah, general anesthesia is a scary thing. I've never gone under before... I think it would be interesting and also worthwhile to write more about the experience. It seems like something to be worked through. I know I would need take some time to get through something like that.

    I'm glad to hear all worked out though!


  7. Congratulations! I'm so excited for you, Zu, and the field commander. xoxo

  8. What a great, well thought out post. I actually needed to read this today as I was slightly going back and forth on it in my head. I keep coming to the conclusion I did the right thing. I want to reach more ppl, but I want to be happy and do what's right. 3 weeks away now and I truly do not regret it. My brain...are just different (and better) without FB.

    I have to say, that's interesting about the dreams! I have been having vivid dreams again and could not for the life of me figure out why. Huh. I am proud of you. It's hard, but if you want to relapse, we can meet up and stay away together. I have enjoyed getting to know you better away from FB. I am actually getting to know a few ppl better, than knowing a lot of ppl basically not at all. Thanks for sharing Svea!

  9. I dislike FB but I am not addicted to there is no need for an online diet. I check in because I have nothing else more pressing and lots of my contacts are there.

    I watch the news too. I am peculiar but it does not depress me. I like getting all the news from various sources.

  10. Ohmigosh!! I had no idea bubba was sick! I'm so glad to read he is doing better! And I really really loved reading this post. You rock (and roll), mama.


    Facebook is just a platform. In some ways noble and in many other ways quite invasive. But what's problematic is the culture we've created around it. We've had spent years defining boundaries between public and private. A definition that had many short-comings, but still worked quite well in many cases. fb changed all of that, and it will take some time until we come up with the right ethics around it.

    FB does give a voice to those who would not be heard otherwise (eg Iran's green movement.) but at the same time it also gives a platform to those with sexist, racist and problematic agendas. Yes, there is not a day that I'm not annoyed by the sexist shit the douchebag at the office posts. No matter how wrong, but that is his opinion. I also have the option to challenge him on his views, on FB! (Although I tend to not waste my time, and simply hide his stream.)

    The other problem with it is the contrast; that is the difference in intensity and context of things people post. I'm subscribed to the page of many political prisoners in Iran. There is a photo posted of Nasrine Sotoudeh's worried 5 year old son who hasn't seen his imprisoned mom who has been on hunger strike for nearly 20 days. And below it is my friend's post about how awesome her Bodum milk frother is. The contrast is very disturbing. That friend is all good intentions and I really appreciate that she is sharing her excitement, but then the contrast make it come off very differently.

    Facebook's news feed is called news feed for a reason, as it does to our personal stories what News does to events, that is assigning entertainment value. I can ensure you that all your friends cared about Oko's hernia surgery very much (I for one cared a lot specially since I have had the same surgery myself), even perhaps as much as his birth, but birth is a much more exciting news as to a surgery, even though it must have been a very hard time for you and Zu. Sandy killed many people in Cuba, and destroyed their houses, but all we heard was how some clothing stores in Manhattan got flooded, because sadly that is a more exciting news. I went through few extremely devastating events in the past few years, from nearly being deported, to a very shitty break-up. at the time I did contemplate sharing it on facebook, but at the end despite the urge i decided not to, simply because I didn't want it to become just another news. I shared it with my close friends (in person).

    There are many other problems with fb, but with a lot of effort and time we will at least gradually refine our user culture and ethics (the only part of it that we actually have a control over.)However I'm too busy for that myself, so for now, I'm just gonna enjoy the pictures of kittens stuck in window binders.

  12. I'm really loving reading everybody's comments here. Mazi, you make some great points. Fb certainly 'prunes' our social experiences - beyond just being a platform for emotional/personal expression it has become their moderator. For example, with T's hernia surgery I could have posted something really hysterical and thus increased its entertainment value. But as you said, when something is important to you, you just (usually) don't wanna do that.

    An interesting side note - since Fb decided that I'm everything Mother, I started receiving a small but significant number of "I'll love you forever mom, RIP" posts from people I hardly knew. That was strange. Was I supposed to comment on those posts and express my sympathy - your mother died, of course I feel sympathy! - or just allow them to have their space and not be reminded of their post's reach?