My heart is sitting in a basket on my desk next to my computer. I stare at it wondering if I should leave it where it is or if I should shove it back in my throat where apparently it now belongs. I am faced with a dilemma I have fleetingly looked in the eye before but this time I pause much longer as if memorizing the outline of the face of a loved one I may not see again.
I love Facebook. I am like a Pavlovian dog when I hear that DING! and will switch over from work to see whats going on my feed. Facebook is the most existentially layered version of the real world I can imagine. Everyone from my closest friends to those folks who have crossed paths with me for a brief yet meaningful time are there. It’s the place where my elementary school besties and bullies post about their versions of how they turned out. People from a former life who hold keys to doors which ushered me to my current self are there too. There are writers and authors and even a real-life famous person here and there (sorry…I won’t out anyone) in the cache of my 560 nearest and dearest. And I have access to all of them at the same time all of the time.
I take real 1-2 minute life diversions on Facebook multiple times a day. It’s a weird and somewhat pathetic paradise. Being a working mother is complicated enough, but I have a few extras thrown on top including a husband that travels and kids with varying special needs which means extra meetings for school, schlepping to therapies, staying current on research, hiring, supervising and managing a home team…and that’s all before actually dealing with the territory of settling in at the end of the day with kids who just need extra. Just when I might be taking myself a little too seriously or am feeling a little too isolated…boom….a cat video or Joe Biden meme reels me back. Connecting in cyberspace is so much more my style and because of that connection I know I am not alone in this. When I deal with work situations that matter to me, I am a rock star. I have a purpose and can completely focus externally on the needs at hand. But socially…yikes. Eye contact, staying focused, not accidentally making a connection out loud as to how the topic focuses back on something I can relate to better….none of those things are my forte. When posting on Facebook–I can be funny and smart in sound bytes. I can get hoards of people invested in an ongoing saga about my fear of spiders. I can walk away from a conversation mid-sentence without consequence. I don’t have to think about where to look or how I am coming across because unlike in real life, by the time my human brain catches up to my monkey brain I have not yet hit “enter” and can edit what I REALLY wanted to say. Sometimes those two things don’t catch up and that is what the “delete” button is all about.
Facebook levels the social playing field for quirky people like myself. It gives me a social outlet when I don’t actually have time for a real one. It keeps me invested in people, events and causes that are important to the real world all around. It provides an escape into brief, clever and timely humor. It helps me find like-minded people. It expands the repertoire of discussions and ideas of which I might not otherwise be exposed. And I can have all that in tiny spurts all day as needed. It really is miraculous if you think about it. Communities of individuals who never stood a societal chance before are finding their communities right here on Facebook.
We know to take the good and the bad here. On good days, Facebook is my outlet. Internet trolls and maddeningly misinformed opinion presented as fact are the yin to the yang of my Facebook fascination. I can roll past things or people who ultimately shouldn’t matter to me. Something that I fail to do all that well in real life. But this is changing too quickly for me to cope with in a way I find acceptable by an election that divided the country before I had any idea we were THAT divided. I am overwhelmed by Facebook friends and their words of hate or indifference being presented on a platter and served up as just another white meat with no other options for dinner. I am breathless because I don’t feel like I can scroll past any article that has anything to do with leadership appointment, policy or ideology that may affect my family or anyone else I love. Suddenly, realities of Facebook friends as minorities, the poor or disenfranchised are inundating my news feed faster than I can read, process and consider and as a seasoned social worker I feel like I am back to my overwhelming roots of weeding which causes need to get the majority of my energies and time. I have a list of issues and phone calls to congressmen that will trump my everyday life tomorrow. I am sad and fearful and agitated and distracted and rightfully so. While I have felt this way before on social media, I shut my computer down for the evening, be completely present and come back to a virtual life renewed. I can go back to meaningless status posts that make at least me chuckle at myself. However, in this political climate, I would be this way without Facebook and am having trouble finding meaning in those meaningless status updates. And with it? Well, I feel much like I often do about real life. Like I need to take a break from it.