A Very Important Message Re: Facebook

Facebook recently celebrated its 10th birthday and as part of the festivities, they gave everybody a "Look Back" movie of their time spent on the social network, which was basically a slideshow of pictures and status updates they've shared since they joined, set to heartwarming music.

It was supposed to drum up feelings of nostalgia. "Look at all these awesome moments in my life!" And for many, they have been awesome moments. Babies have been born, weddings have been had...in my case, publishing contracts have been signed and my kids have grown more and more awesome. The Look Back movie is supposed to remind people why they love Facebook, why they keep coming back, why it's such an important and vital service. We share so much of ourselves, and many friendships have been forged through laughter, sadness, and triumph.

Except, once that momentary mistiness cleared for me, I didn't feel that way. I felt the same tired emptiness I've felt about Facebook for a long time. Oh yes, indeed, I know some very wonderful people there and have made some great friends since I joined in 2008. REAL friends, lifelong friends. I don't buy into that whole "internet people are fake people" bullshit. I can't. I met my husband online, for crying out loud. Nearly every day since then has been filled with thousands upon thousands of interactions, the overwhelming majority of them positive ones. There have also been bad days, moments when you realize that someone is not who you thought they were, when it feels more like noise than harmony. That's life on or offline, but Facebook amplifies those feelings and it can overwhelm and eventually start to eat the very life you're supposed to be sharing.

People have asked me, since I deactivated my account a little over 24 hours ago, what happened. And the thing is, nothing in particular happened. I'd just finally had enough. It was the same feeling I had when I knew it was time to quit smoking. When every drag tasted like a mule's taint and it was making me feel worse than better. Or when I have decided not to go for another round at a buffet, because I'm already starting to regret how much I've stuffed myself. Or when I have cut myself off at a bar because one more swig of booze will almost certainly depress the puke button.

I was just tired. And the thing is, if I hadn't deactivated, I would have just kept logging on despite my misery, because there was (and still is) a little bug in my head that will not let up. Wake up in the morning, check your Facebook. Stuck in a waiting room, check your Facebook. Waiting for food at a restaurant, check your Facebook. Eating, check your Facebook. Waiting in line at the grocery store, check your Facebook. Take a picture of something cool, share it on Facebook. Writing more than three sentences in your book, tell people about it on Facebook and then check your Facebook.

And BOOM, that last one is hitting at the very heart of why I finally had to step away. Because while fatigue with the overall nature of social networking can wax and wane over time, what hasn't improved and in fact has only gotten worse over the last few years, is my productivity level, and now it's really starting to have an effect on my mental well-being. Working from home, I already face an uphill battle in the discipline department. What is not acceptable is when I work from home and don't have much to show for it. So many goals and projects I had planned to finish by the end of last year didn't get finished. And they're still not even close. Short stories I still haven't written and released, novels started and abandoned as I scrabbled madly to find a project that could hold my attention longer than Facebook.

I finally realized there is no such project. Therefore, Facebook had to go.

I plan on this being a hiatus. It takes around 21 days to make or break a habit. I want to be gone a month. And in that month, I want to finish the first draft of a novel. I want Facebook to feel like something that isn't a compulsion, that I don't have to be on every single day or share every single moment. I want my writing to feel like the compulsion again. In my first day away from the shiny allure of the News Feed, I managed to accomplish far more writing in a couple hours than what I'd been squeaking out over the course of an entire day for the last year or so (with the exception of NaNoWriMo).

So I'm going with that. In the meantime, I have my husband and my friend Jaime Hobbes administering my author page over there. And if anything vital is happening that I must share with the world, you may hear about it from one of them, or you may find it on Twitter or here on this blog. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to my little reboot.

See you all on the flipside.