Sunday, September 7, 2014

Life Without Facebook: War and Peace

A few days ago I deactivated my Facebook account so that I could read 'War and Peace.' There was no grand political or social statement in the decision. In fact, I love Facebook. It's my social media candy. I have accumulated a great core of socially-active, artistic, creative, pro-active friends and my newsfeeds are filled with amazing stories, quotes, news from around the world. Conversely I have pruned my 'following' links and politely un-followed friends who just post cat videos, engage in rage rants, pick fights, and live in a world of gossip and violence for entertainment. And still I know that Facebook is sugar. Granted with my careful selection it may be organic sugar or agave extract, but it's still processed in the brain like a quick addictive stimulant.

Several days ago a FB friend tagged me in a post of top 10 favorite books that changed their life and challenged me to list my own. As I wrote down my list I realized that I could compose it entirely of Russian literature. In college I also double majored in it, and I had enough credit to easily claim a minor in the field. And yet I have never read the mothership, the lodestone, the 'loose baggy monster' of the genre that reached its sublime peak at the end of the 19th century: War and Peace. Sitting up on my shelf was a new translation I purchased a year ago and never got around to it. 1100 pages of brilliance.

I took down the Tolstoy tome and snapped a pic with my phone before tagging it to Facebook. As I began writing the FB pic description and making a quirky vow to tackle this monster, my joke suddenly became a challenge to myself. I was writing the words 'farewell to Facebook and Twitter.' I looked at that farewell and realized that, on some level, I must have been serious. I then concluded the pic description by making the rash vow to not return to Facebook until I have finished 'War and Peace.'

I went to my FB status and tried to find a way to freeze my account, but I realized that the temptation might be too great to sneak back on. I needed a way to lock myself out until the reading was done. I decided to deactivate it and thought I could sneak away quietly from social media and return after a month of Tolstoy. The deactivation warning, however, suggested severe consequences. I would be wiped away from all posting, messages, and tags. It would be like I didn't exist any more.

I paused for a second. Why was this such an important thing to me? It's just Facebook, who cares. Yet, I felt nervous at the thought of being wiped away. What would people think. I had new messages from directors and potential collaborators for the future. I hit the deactivation button and closed the window.

When I pulled FB back up a few minutes later I noticed that my name and password were already plugged in. Even though I had deactivated the account, all I had to do was click one button and I would be back on. Facebook sent me a message about my deactivation, reiterating what I would lose if I stayed away too long and how I could risk permanent deletion if I didn't come back within an unspecified period of time. This was going to be an exercise in impulse control.

I began reading the first few maddening pages of "War and Peace" with French translations in the footnotes. When I woke up the next morning I rolled over, picked up m phone and -by rote habit- went to Facebook. When the sign-up page popped up, I remembered the decision I made a few days before. I resisted the urge to click on it. A few days later, there is a greater sense of freedom. I'm no longer looking at an article and beginning to share it on FB before I finish reading it. I read the article and then that is that. There is no share, there is no commentary or group activity that results from this activity.

Another day passed and it feels like something pleasurable is beginning to return to myself. There is a joyous insularity of thinking without judgment or appraisal of others. This blog is automatically connected to Facebook, so every time I post something, it's shot off to the front of my page, as well as on Twitter, and LinkedIn. Now there is only this blog and the writing I'm doing right now in this moment. There will be no FB 'likes' or comments on what strength or silliness I'm displaying in my War and Peace hiatus from the social behemoth. There is only this joy in writing these thoughts.

I figured it should take me 1-2 months to work my way through "War and Peace." But a few days into this process, I'm enjoying the detachment from FB as much as I'm loving the solitude of reading a classic for the pleasure of the experience itself.  

No comments: