Farewell Facebook

Image of the brain gears whirring as the finger says Shhh...

We know the world only through the window of our mind.
When our mind is noisy, the world is as well.
And when our mind is peaceful, the world is too.
Knowing our minds is just as important as trying to change the world.

~Haemin Sunim

Today I left Facebook. For those who might wonder why, I have three reasons.

1. This month I’m challenging myself to quiet my mind. Seven years ago, following the advice of Leo Babauta, I began to change my habits one month at a time. The three I’m most proud of are eliminating Diet Coke, drastically reducing my sugar consumption, and building up a daily meditation practice.

Had I kept this up, I would have tackled 94 habits by now. But I began to run out of quirks that Leo’s tried and true method could address. Now I just wait until I notice something I really want to change in my life. The urge must be strong. Then if I can frame it as either a habit or a challenge to tackle, the first day of the next month I set Leo’s system in motion.

So back to Facebook. One day last month I happened on both Haemin Sunim’s poem quoted above and a post by Leo on Filtering Out the Noise (i.e., preventing gratuitous mental stimuli, including unwanted emails and social media).

Something about Haemin’s “when our mind is peaceful, the world is too” resonated deeply with me. But where to start? Leo’s noise filters seemed as good a place as any.

2. For many years I didn’t trust Mark Zuckerberg. Thus I hardly ever used Facebook and that became my habit. The thing is my distrust had good cause. I’m a geek and I could tell that my boomer pals, who were diving in with abandon, couldn’t see what I saw. The logical piece was how difficult the interface was for privacy settings. The average user blames themselves when they have problems with settings. I knew better. It was a draconian UI (user interface). But worse, those impossible-to-find settings would also change — unannounced.

Beyond logic, there was my gut. I was a 50-something female geek who worked with many 20-something white male geeks like Zuckerberg, and I had a fair idea of how their brains worked. They’re all about technology (and my hat’s off to Zuckerberg for his tech acumen). But their interpersonal skills were and are sorely lacking. 20-something male geeks are just that way and that’s fine, except in the context of building an online interpersonal behemoth.

So Zuckerberg grew up and Facebook has become less untrustworthy in recent years. But broken trust is hard to mend and time is precious. In other words, there would have to be a really compelling reason for me to get serious about Facebook.

3. And now Facebook is beset by other woes. In my case the issue isn’t fake news. I’m a librarian by training, so that’s no problem. Rather, it’s the political judgments being bandied about. Not infrequently these are people I like, but if they started talking to me the way they write on Facebook, at best I’d change the subject. The only way I’m willing to engage in charged conversations of any kind is using techniques such as nonviolent communication. Perhaps Zuckerberg’s new Building Global Community manifesto will foster this kind of dialog (wouldn’t that be marvelous?), but I don’t have what it takes to help with this initiative. It’s certainly not conducive to quieting my mind.

Enter Leo’s post. Suddenly I wondered: why do I keep Facebook at all? My first answer was I don’t know. I seemed to have a notion that I might want to see photos from family or friends. But that’s never been an issue, even when one of my daughters was living in first Korea and then Micronesia. And if it does become an issue, I can join Facebook anew. Then the real answer dawned. It’s expedient. Ouch.

Obviously it’s time for me to bow out. But to be clear, it’s not a judgment of others — not even those using it as grandstand for political opinions. If Facebook works for you, my friend, that’s wonderful. It just doesn’t work for me.

P.S. of April 5: In yesterday’s haste, I forgot what may be the most important reason of all….

4. I have unintentionally snubbed people. Given my distrust of Facebook, in all the years I’ve been on it, I’ve hardly used it. Every so often people would say to me, “I friended you on Facebook, but didn’t hear back.” Of course I’d tell them I wasn’t active and hadn’t seen their requests, so it was no problem. But what about those who had the same experience and never told me? Logic says there must be quite a number of them — and oh my goodness do I feel guilty imagining them. If you are among them, I apologize. By virtue of having an account on Facebook I set up a false expectation. Mea culpa.

Now that I’ve deactivated, this won’t be an issue going forward. But it doesn’t erase the past. So while I can’t say I feel good about it, in time presumably I will. And hopefully I will be one milliamp closer to a quiet mind.

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