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 Béluga, 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:
- An article by Jenna Wortham, on NYT.com: The Facebook Resistors
- Beautiful January on Birth Without Fear: 10 things I've discovered in 10 days off Facebook