Saying Goodbye to Social Media

Every year I take a hiatus from Facebook. The first year, I also took a hiatus from Twitter and stayed away from Twitter for 4 years, only returning for a few months last year for an experiment with my students. One day I ran into a friend who had also left Facebook and we lamented about all of the events we were not being invited to, how everyone had turned their backs on true friendships in favor of social media. It’s both easy & impossible to form lasting friendships via social media, particularly those friendships that will live only on social media, those people who are, technically, friends with your Facebook wall or Followers of your Twitter feed, but not friends in real life, not face-to-face friends, folks who you wave at on social media, but who you also sit down to meals with, who you cry on the phone with, who you send postcards and letters to.

It is, to say the least, a conundrum.

The first time I left Facebook, it was an experiment. It was National Poetry Month & although I didn’t ask people to send me their daily poems, they did. Every day my wall was burdened with poem after poem after freshly written poem. People I hadn’t talked with in social media for months had suddenly “seen” me and were bombarding my wall with their drafts. & there I was, responding to them. Until I couldn’t anymore. Until I woke one day in a panic and thought “these people don’t care about you; leave Facebook and see if they even notice”. I left & not one email not one phone call came to ask where I’d gone. I was right, of course, and knew I was right before the experiment. But logging out of Facebook was a relief. No more procrastinating no more endless scrolling no more refreshing no more silly typed arguments no more pressure of being someone’s favorite poster. Suddenly, I could see the flowers again. The pollen was perfectly yellow and the streets of Brooklyn were alive with steaming dog poop and double-wide strollers. The weekend newspaper was once again rapidly being unfolded between my lover & I on our solid red couch, our white cat licking the black ink off & shredding the pages in an hysteric fit. I was alive & the world around me was filled with music.

I went back a year later to promote a book and left a few months later & returned to promote something else. I left, I returned; I left, I returned. How much easier it is to do task-oriented work when I can take a bit of a break to scroll through a news feed. How much easier it is to ignore my non-existent social life when I can get into a heated debate on X or Y’s wall. How much easier it is to not focus on writing those poems when I have a Page to upkeep.

A great friend always chides me for leaving social media. “Just unplug,” he says. I wish I could explain to him the reality of addiction.

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The Non-Negotiable No

In the 1970s & 80s, I would watch these Calgon commercials which would often come on during a showing of “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “Hill Street Blues” or “Taxi”. I’d daydream about the day I’d have an overwhelming job, one that sucks the life out of me, yet one I’d love. I’d run through the door, drop my purse in the hallway, my coat soon to follow, off with the clothes and into my steaming hot bathtub filled with Calgon bubbles.

What a life.

This week, when I returned home from an invigorating conference, a space I needed to re-examine creative writing and racial consciousness, I received a frantic phone call and then a frantic text from one of my students. I was thinking about the two visiting writers who had just arrived, how exhausted I was from the conference, yet how thrilled I was to be able to extend necessary conversations with two writers whose work I’ve loved for a long long time. The beeping phone, with a number I didn’t recognize, was the last thing I wanted to deal with. How easy would it have been to do so? To just ignore it?

When Mercury went into Retrograde at the top of the year, I began to review my relationship with technology. I deleted all email from my phone, deleted all social media; my laptop, in its quest to aid me, stopped allowing me to use the ‘a’ and ‘s’ keys (now it’s increased its support of anti-technology-Metta by refusing me the ‘w’ and ‘r’ and ‘e’ and ‘t’ keys! So kind of it). Computersmash1

I felt lifted. Newly alive. Until I remembered I had poems coming out & I needed to promote those & the journal. Until I remembered I had edited poems for a folio that was coming out & I needed to promote those poets & the journal. Until I remembered

How to say No?

Audre Lorde’s wonderful biomythography has that great near-end, where she’s giving in to the power of Yes. I love that section of the book & have embraced its message for a decade. The power of Yes. But Lorde is saying Yes to herself, her own desires, her own whims, her own curiosities, her own passions.

Self-preservation.

Is necessarily Selfish.

What were the frantic phone calls? It doesn’t matter. I made an agreement & forgot it. Today I opened my email & saw that I have two events on the same day at the same time in two separate towns. Not that being in the same town would matter.

This is what happens when you don’t say No. You say Yes to everything. You over-schedule. You over-book. You nurse guilt. It’s not pretty.  You get ill. You work through the illness. You make a commitment to yourself and it’s the last thing you’re faithful to. You have emails waiting for responses. They all say Urgent. You begin to ponder Urgency. Like

Why do people send Urgent emails? If you want someone to do something for you, why can’t you respect their time and energy and talents enough to give them an ample heads up? A month or two or three or four?

The power of No.

I read this article a few weeks ago & will buy the book. & will prepare myself for the backlash that comes with No (she’s difficult; she’s a diva; she think she all that). Whatever.

Killjoy, or Stop Trampling On My Fun!

I once had a department chair, during a party at his house, suddenly appear behind me with his hands on my shoulders, massaging them. When I looked up to see whose hands were on my shoulder, I saw him scanning the crowd, a distinct look of pride of ownership on his face. I immediately turned my face away from his and took, too, to scanning the crowd, looking for his wife. When I relayed this scene to my mentor, he made a joke out of it. At the time, I laughed; I got it; I’d revealed a very uncomfortable act & he didn’t know how to respond. So, laughter. The problem came later, when the joke became a permanent fixture in our lives; any problem I had with a male colleague or with the male chair would be met with “well, at least he didn’t massage you!” I never laughed & my relationship with that mentor quickly Crash Boomed. 

 Killjoy. 

That’s what we get called by those who want pleasure at our expense and without our permission. Stick-in-the-mud. Proper Patsy. Women are expected to lie quietly and let our bodies be used for men’s pleasure. People of color are expected to muzzle up and let white people create stereotypes about our work ethic, our sexual interests, our choices of music and dance. People with disabilities are expected to turn a “blind eye” to the comedies that turn them into mindless blobs of flesh. After all, Life is Like a Box of Chocolates. & anyone who takes offense to straight men portraying flamboyantly flamboyant gay men is a Humorless Henrietta. It’s all innocent. 128832311673670730