What I Will Gain by Quitting — 2: Five days after Facebook Lent Give-Up


This post is incredibly self-absorbed, so if you click X right now, I’d not blame you. However… what if what I have to say strikes a chord with you?

Here is my first entry about this topic: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/what-i-will-gain-from-quitting-journal-entry-1/

So it’s been five days since I left Facebook for Lent. (I think of it more as a matter of convenience actually, as I look back on it now because I’m not terribly religious, but I am spiritual.) The first thing I’ve noticed, and have allowed myself to admit is that by being on Facebook for so long, I’d become programmed or conditioned into thinking about my life, my day-to-day, or even my extraordinary experiences as status updates or as blog posts.

Often, I would wonder,

“Is this clever enough, will I get a Like?”

“Will it impress or somehow engage someone on a deeper level, or will it be ignored?”

“Do I want a deeper level? Do I even want to engage? Am I lying still to myself about all this?”

This is deep stuff and I am a deep thinker.

from http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/headcandy/2009/02/10-tips-for-giving-up-facebook-during-lent.html – this is a 4-year-old article. Its best line: “Write down the last five things you did. Wait ten minutes. Read the list. Ask yourself if you give a &%$#.”

Now, after a few days off the grid, I find myself itching to go there, during moments of perceived boredom, during moments of downtime; and I don’t know why yet. In reality, I am a SAHM, so there really isn’t any downtime; something always needs mending, cleaning, attending. I don’t know why I think I’d be better off reading about someone else’s life: it’s a distraction. A way of not dealing with my own.

Is it truly connection?

What is the point?

Is it to compare and contrast?

These are queries; and I haven’t a clue. I don’t judge anyone else; Facebook has been invaluable to shut-ins and people who have little outside exposure. But what about the rest of us? Those who are gregarious and social by nature? Is Facebook turning us, those people into shut-ins? I remember that Facebook lets 13-year-olds on it. I remember how it started: as the revenge tactic of a snubbed young man who decided to release his anger publicly at the woman who rejected him; but that wasn’t enough: he had to pull other women into the fold and embarrass slander them too.

The entire Facebook concept was begat of rejection, shame and vengeance. Of course we are told it has evolved since then, and it largely has, but still there lies a mustard seed of its essence: comparison and emptiness. I am kidding myself if I believe otherwise. Watch “The Social Network” if you aren’t savvy to its origins. Often I would be tired after being online. Seldom refreshed. – Me.

I used to be a news hound. I still am, or at least I thought I am. But I find myself discarding my news updates in favor of going on Facebook. I used to exercise diligently. I used to have amazing self-discipline. That has wandered away. I am hopeful that I will fill the ever-growing void of Facebook with self-engagement, with self-empowerment.

. . . . . . . . .

Last week, for Valentines Day, a “holiday” I would normally reject, I made “lovesagna” (instead of lasagne), I made red velvet cupcakes and I dipped strawberries in chocolate. All of this, this wellspring of familial enthusiasm for the babies I created with the love of my life was encouraged by a meeting with a eldercare consultant, who knowingly nodded to my snub of Valentines Day, my referring to it as a manufactured holiday. It was never really celebrated in my house as a child; my family of origin was not a dependably happy place. Lots of pain, secrets, privacy. I told her these things; we must get to know these consultants in a way we are not comfortable with. They need to know things: like how we engage with our parents. That was a very difficult exchange.

She understood my reluctance, my inwardly directed shame at not being a better daughter; at not tending to my aging and needy mother. She understood my hesitancy to over-perform with people who did not over-perform for me. Who left me waiting outside the camp grounds or the dance alone or with teachers or counselors who’d had places to go and who knew that although it wasn’t my fault, I was the target of their heat vision. So much pain, but so much joy too. She answered me with, “You can not always give back what was not easily given to you.”

She listened to my recollections of the day and others like it and quietly said later on, “I just believe we should celebrate something every day, and if we are given this gift, to celebrate the most wonderful thing of all, the one day we can let it all out there, and put it out for the world to see, we should. We just should.” And she was right. I’ve never given much celebration to anything major or minor occasions in my life; a remnant of my parents’ emotional parsimony and narcissism. I need to change that. I am demonstrative with my kids, but I am not honoring my true inner cheerful human person when I get vexed every time a happy event comes around just because my parents had issues with it.

How this dovetailed though, with the Facebook sacrifice (ouch) is that I wouldn’t have done those things, I wouldn’t have gone to the store, gotten the makings, gotten out the pans and the mixer and the gear to make those foods because why… I would have gone on Facebook instead. I would have logged on and said “Happy Valentines Day!” and I wouldn’t have meant it. Not one syllable. I would have Liked other people’s stuff, and Liked their stories, and I would have Shared some sentiment of the day, and I would have grumbled inside, fueling my inner misanthrope and calling myself a hypocrite because I would have been denying my inner self: the private person I am, the deeply thinking and deeply feeling person I am, the analyst, the artist, all of it denied rejected to stay popular with the crowd. To do what everyone else is doing.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day and the best part of all of this is that I didn’t say it on Facebook, but I said it privately, to my family, and I meant every syllable. For the first time in a very long while. Probably ever.

Yesterday, Sunday, I watched nothing but old movies on the couch. I watched “Gaslight” and “How to Catch a Thief” and then later I watched the not-as-old, “A Beautiful Mind”; I was struck by them all. Every single one of those stories was about masquerade in one fashion or another. We all have vulnerabilities.

Today, I am waking with less self-consciousness of my thoughts; whether they are “Share” worthy. Wondering if any of it matters. But I miss my close FB friends very much. But I don’t reach out; I feel slightly alone, I feel slightly sad about my decision. But this is how it goes. This is where the growth is. This is where the pay dirt is. As my very wise therapist said years ago when I was addressing my addiction to chaos he said, “all resistance is to change.” How right he was.

Thank you.

ps – here is the next entry: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/what-i-will-gain-by-quitting-facebook-for-lent-3-resisting-urges-feeling-left-out/

35 responses »

  1. I miss you too! It is so funny or maybe scary, I could have written this……with the exception of watching old movies yesterday………However I did catch up with some shows that were on the DVR….because for the first time in ages I have been hit with an awful cold and feel a little miserable……….I do not think I have ever sneezed so much in my life…………I grumbled a little on Wednesday because at the last minute my guy’s teacher sent an email stating that they were going to exchange Valentines……he switched elementary schools this year and I just thought since we had not heard from the teacher, and since they are in 6th grade, they would not be exchanging them…………but no….I ass..umed incorrectly…….off to the stores I went……..There were not any Valentines available for a tween on the 13th. So my son opted for dipped pretzels….and of course I did not have enough ingredients! After running around trying to find the almond bark, unbroken pretzel sticks, sprinkles, bags, etc. I was up until 2am dipping pretzels in chocolate and sprinkles……………..I figured it was probably the last one so I grinned and coated those damned things…..mind you, his class this year has 33 kids! It was all worth it when he came home and said how much he and the kids in his class enjoyed them…..

    Guess what? I did not even go onto Facebook and wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s day I thought it might be a little less than authentic so I refrained…..especially since I have not heard from some of my so called “friends”………..Anyway, I am glad you had a great day with your fellas!

    BTW, how is that editing coming along? 😉


    • That sounds like a perfect Valentine. I love love i can eat. I am at a point, AC, where the editing is likely no longer going to suit me if i do it in long hand. I need to get on the computer and do it; I’ve made a lot of changes. Of course I vacillate between Non-Fiction and tearing the lid off or fiction and just slinging innuendo. It’s hard. But it’s good. coming along. thank you.

      i am sorry you did not hear from your “friends” for VD; it’s a hard day to reach out to others as we’re impelled to do; many of us want to stay in and lick our wounds. but we are the change, AC, we are the change.


  2. Wondering if your thoughts are status worry really resonated with me. I catch myself doing that too. I don’t post most of the stuff I consider posting, but the thought does pop into my head. It’s a way of actually avoiding being in the moment. Sort of like the person that is always taking pictures instead of being involved in what is happening right in front of them. It’s a strange phenomenon.

    • i dig this: “it’s a way of avoiding the moment.” LC, you cut right through the fog, as usual. i love that. it is a strange phenomenon. i just added an image from a Chicago Tribune article with an excerpt from the article (it’s 4 years old!): “Write down the last five things you did. Wait ten minutes. Read the list. Ask yourself if you give a &%$#.” — that summed it up. If i pull this off, I may not be back for a while; and certainly as a different person. it will be Spring!!!!

  3. I really think I need a social media break. I’m pretty sure that since you left Facebook, I am making sure to post enough to make up for your absence. It’s bad. I’m very interested in your progress along this journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Molly. YOU ROCK!

    • QC, I appreciate the back-up, but I think you’re right. It’s overwhelming. We can’t be all things to all people if we can’t be ourselves to … ourselves. I will continue to write about this; probably more frequently. I wrote most of this post on Friday on my iPad because I woke with all these realizations; but we had FFFF, which is way more fun than boring old Facebook shedding… but I wanted to post it and I forgot all about it! I forgot about the Internet yesterday. It was nice. 🙂 You rock too… and I’ll be here if you need.

  4. I love that you’re doing and documenting this. I’m cutting down on my Facebook friends for similar reasons. I felt like even on my person page it was a show that took away from my real life. I was a blogger instead of Alex who happens to blog.

    • I feel ya, Alex. Thanks for telling me what you think. The content I write … it’s not meant for facebook. They want 13 year olds who can spend their parents’ money. As I said in the comment after yours — it all began when an insecure little man at Harvard wanted to shame a girl for snubbing him.

      Each time I recall its impetus, I feel sick. I like it for its utility, but I’m hopeful that I will be a changed person after all this. I’ll keep writing about it. Thank you for the encouragement and support. -Mol

  5. Hi Molly, nice to hear from you. And I think that maybe what you might need is a balance of facebook and life. What you don’t want is to get caught up and lost in it, but perhaps it’s possible to find a balance? I’m here anytime you want to talk. take care of yourself 🙂

    • thanks, sus. it’s good to hear from you! i know i need a balance; but this is heading in the right direction. i am clearer-headed. this is all from my seats: i don’t have a need to be online as much; i can’t think of anything happening that’s worthy of Sharing. there is nothing i’ve learned on FB that has changed my life. I appreciate it for the ability to coalesce all my interests / feeds into one place, but that inevitably gets taken out of context and then on to different tangents and 99.9% of it has no bearing on my life. i love the ease of use for the FFFF stuff, but other than as a communication tool, it’s pointless to me. the readers I want, the people who will buy my book and the increase in followers to this blog since I decided to leave has shown me that I don’t belong there; I am not superior, but I’m just a different kind of thinker. i will likely maintain my account; but it will be relegated to a communication utility rather than as a Default Thing to Do every time I don’t want to do something else. it’s a sickness in me, Susanne. It’s very likely an addiction. when I can go for a few days without thinking in Status Update mode, I will feel like I’m doing better. I’m close, but just because I woke without that impulse to Share how I was feeling or thinking — doesn’t mean it went away.

      Remember: Facebook wants your money and your time. Nothing else. It doesn’t care about you. Remember how this whole thing got started: as a way to publicly rate women at Harvard. Every time I think of that… I get sick. The more you post, the more you’re going to look for a Like or a comment. It’s fun, but it’s seldom ever about progress, and it’s definitely addictive.

  6. I LOVE this post and appreciate your candor and honesty. I gave up facebook once for a week for a church sacrifice and found a lot of clarity and a clean house. I also need to read more of your writing re: elder care. My 81-year-old mother moved in with me in September. I’m really happy I found you.

    • Hi Mary! Thanks for swinging by. The boys are in bed and I can steal away a few moments to fully appreciate your comment. This whole offline thing is a work in progress and I am looking forward to being a week free on Wednesday. In the interest of full disclosure, I have a fiction group that I set up and each week I share the prompt and we all write about it on the following Friday. It started on email, then it got too big and too many cross conversations so I set it up on FB. I don’t regret that, for the ease of the communication has greatly improved the efficiency of the communication, but I will admit that I have to go online on Sundays to share the prompt with the group. I see my notifications numbers in red — they seem to be pulsating at me when I go straight to the group! — but i ignore them. I ignore my fan page and I share the prompt and then I leave. The writers are supportive and they know I’m only on for a second and to chat me up with questions on email if necessary, but that group and a fundraiser group I belong to for my son’s graduation are the only groups I’m beholden to and the former is the most active. The other group, the fundraiser … they never want to hear from me! LOL. I was also told that as a Catholic that it’s actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (not the 40 in the Bible) to I can take Sundays off… I thought that was funny when someone proposed it to me, so I’ll take that pass when I need to for admin purposes.

      As for the elder care stuff, I’m new at this. My parents are largely very resistant to the idea and my posts about this situation will likely be personal and reflective and informative rather than actually proposing any ideas because we all suspect that short of a serious crisis, my parents won’t change anything. But my dad came to us this time; the last time we tried this was four years ago with very little success. He sees his life as winnowing away and wants to do what he can for himself now since my mother seems to have surrendered emotionally to her own sadness and seemingly intractable depression. I’m a sick optimist, Mary, always hoping, as Nora Ephron said in a New Yorker piece a few years back, “Still, it made me sad. You always think that a bolt of lightning is going to strike and your parents will magically change into the people you wish they were or back into the people they used to be. But they’re never going to. And even though you know they’re never going to, you still hope they will.”

      Mary, I am happy you found me too.

      • I spent most of an evening reading your writing. Your voice is so soothing and inspiring. You express many ideas that have rattled around in my subconscious and never found their way to the surface. “I’m a mommy and a blogger but not a mommyblogger,” of course.

        I am a sick optimist as well. I have mad hope for people and rarely give up on them. I am struggling, though, to reconcile accepting people for who they are rather than holding out hope for them eventually to become who I want them to be. I did give up on my mother being the mother I wanted her to be and am working on accepting her as she is and instead trying to be that idealized mother to my own kids.

        I send you strength and comfort as you join the midlife elder care endeavor. My experience has been at times sad and humiliating but an amazing life-changing journey as well. All about perspective, as you know. My dad died two years ago, and in the months before, I watched the strongest man I ever knew become weak and childlike. Holding up the man who had always held me pushed me to my make it or break it point. I made it, obviously.

        Thank you for sharing your journey, I feel blessed by your words.

        P.S. No More Bellyaching is a blog I write for a client. My real thoughts and non-photoshopped picture are at: http://overthinkingadventures.blogspot.com/

      • Wow. And thank you. It sounds as though your subconscious and my subconscious could be longtime friends, Mary.

        I will spelunk your personal blog. That line about “it’s hard to be soft” actually came about during one of my own therapy sessions many years ago. We were talking about the great V, vulnerability, and it was brutally difficult for me.

        My therapist went on a two week vacation, and then I had a vacation, so it was three weeks before we saw each other again. Before he left, he gave me a homework assignment. He always was careful about phrasing, especially with people like me who have a tendency to believe and losten to everything they hear. He said, “I have homework for you: I wonder what it would be like for you to be soft and vulnerable.” That just about killed me; i became nauseous at the prospect.

        I had worked so hard over the years to be strong and self-reliant. He asked me when we reunited, “so how’s it going with the soft and vulnerability?” And I immediately said “it’s hard to be soft.” We laughed a little, of course, knowing how deeply true it was…. And still is.

      • Mary, I just read your post on 2/19 and I can relate completely. I was not as devout as you, sitting for hours kneeling and praying, but I was racked with guilt over my sins, my indulgences, my fear of hell and the anger I had as a child of dysfunction, even though I didn’t really know what was dysfunctional. Not until much older.

        I enjoy reading you. Thanks for sharing your personal blog site with me.

      • Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words, Molly. It was life-changing when I had that revelation: Wait, everyone doesn’t live like this? It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my parents really tried to do the best the could with the tools they had and the bags of dysfunction each of them brought to their union. I left the Catholic church as soon as I was brave enough to tell my mom I wasn’t going. She’s passive aggressive, and I’m more in-your-face-until-we-talk-this out. So she didn’t make me go to church anymore and stopped doing my laundry to punish me, hahaha! Have a great Saturday!

      • I’m like you, not essentially confrontational but certainly not shy about talking about issues. I was 15 when I confronted my family (parents mostly) about the gigantic pink elephant in the tutu on the mantel and refused to let up. When I was too young, I was too young, but then we moved, and my world expanded and I met other people from two kinds of homes: ones like mine and others completely unlike mine. And that was when I started to get an idea of how things were and then a younger neighbor yelled at me in a spitting rage about my treatment of him. He unleashed a stream of venom, righteously, and then closed it with, “but we feel sorry for you because your mother’s an alcoholic and your father doesn’t care…” And then…. Sigh. I knew what was going on. And I was unrelenting in my crusade to fix it all. When I was younger, I fixed differently: I unwittingly enabled. As I aged, I became the Gestapo. There was no understanding of codependency. She went to aa meetings, but never committed. It’s what my book is about. In a factionalized memoir application. But the book, like this comment’s intention is about my recovery from chaos and guilt. Work.

        She stopped doing your laundry… That’s rich! Well, you turned out ok.

    • Simone, thank you so much! I appreciate it. I’m working for success in this. I’m blessed by a supportive and kind community. It’s funny how this is rolling out. I’m meeting / hearing from lots of people who say the same thing but haven’t cut the cord yet. I am excited about it.

  7. I love this and have been thinking of you because I’ve been going through my own ‘what the hell am I doing on FB’ moment. I don’t know why I made a page for my blog when I have a hard enough time not being overwhelmed by blogging and Twitter. So I’m deprioritizing it and accepting that I will never be popular on it. And although I like to tell myself that writing/blogging is my creative fuel, lately I’ve dabbled in non-social media hobbies that have been energizing in other ways…puzzles are very therapeutic and a bonding opportunity w/ family. 😉

    • Good for you. I love puzzles!

      I keep hearing this voice that says, “Social media is essential to success” and I consider success to what? I haven’t figured if out. Do I want the masses of FB people as my fans? Some of those … no, most of those people I can’t possibly relate to nor they to me? Isn’t that a path to hypocrisy, selling out? Deeper: the false self? It’s a fine line between admitting my own limitations and sounding like an elitist ass. Neither of which appeal to me, but I know when I’m not being authentic. And when I am as authentic as possible on my blog page I get crickets, save for a couple die-hard fans. I gave no doubt I’m committing social media suicide, but I’m ok with it. At least I’m not busting my ass to reach people who might not care about my journey.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s a process. To say the least. 🙂

  8. I realize I am not reading your blogs in order (my new job has me very busy, but it is all good :). This one is fantastic! I am not a big fan of Facebook because if anyone asked me, I have always said that I thought it was a place for “Look at Me!”. I am not at all accusing anyone in particular, just the way I feel. I think I have actually posted something less than 5 times. I dont tend to go on and look either. My other comment that I often say “If the end of the world was announced on Facebook, I wouldnt know about it”. I sort of feel like this is related to the fact that I have never watched reality TV. It is so manufactured and often watching a train wreck of people’s lives. Maybe the opposite of what you see on Facebook, but kind of the same thing. People are interested in what others are doing. Which now that I am writing all of this..seems very contradictory to my personality. I am very outgoing, love to meet new people, and pretty much do not like being at home alone. So, I guess I need more introspection. The quickest conclusion might be that I think I am better or above everyone else, but I really dont think that. I am just interested in the people in my circles of relationships. A lot of people on Facebook are not truly close to me, so the fact that they went shopping with their kids does not really matter to me! See Molly..how much I have written because of something you put out there!

    Even if I dont see you enough, I love reading your posts because I feel like you have let me in to your amazing thoughts!

    Have a great day!!! Kim

    • Hey Kim! I’m so glad you’re busy and thrilled whenever you comment, so please know I appreciate any time you take to read or comment!

      I was on Facebook too often for too long and that’s not like me; because I’m pretty private to begin with, I don’t need to know other people’s lives either. What they share is theirs but often –per my goggles– it’s “my kindergartner just got into Mensa” or “if you love chocolate share or like this status” or “share this or you’re a flag-burning communist” or “I just bought this new 6,000 sq ft house” or “my kid just barfed in my loafers” or “celebrating 6 months of divorce!” Or “going to the spa” … Really? Who gives a phuck? I am guilty of it, but not very often. I try to keep my posts insightful, positive, interactive or at least bland.

      There are other sentiments, marriage anniversaries and birthdays and personal achievements that are lovely for the people experiencing them, but I wonder about our appetite for such things all the while knowing –personally– I really don’t give a shit. It’s of that I don’t care, but I don’t care… It’s like this: “ok. Now what?” Because for all of us, there’s a sweet spot, and it’s usually in this area between our ears and it says –to me anyway– “what does this matter in the grand scheme of things?” And so for me, going on FB became more like watching the news: there’s a tornado in Oklahoma. Oh… All those people without homes. How sad…. Oh… There’s a G-7 summit meeting in Geneva, super. Oh, a recall on toe nail clippers… Ok…

      And on and on and on… I had to get off the bus. Email. Always works; I don’t need cat memes to stare at; I’m smarter than this. Facebook is a vacuous pit of my mental energy and I while I will keep my account open, I am already predicting a very restrictive use / return. Phones always work; talking, getting out of the house, running errands, seeing the sun… I’d rather be sitting in traffic, in NoVa than be on Facebook. That’s how happy I am to be off it.

      We will talk more in person, I know…. 🙂 xoxo

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