January 18, 2013

Why I Decided to Break Up with Facebook: A Yogic Perspective.

Facebook, I am deactivating you.

Sorry, but it was part of my New Year’s resolution: get rid of the clutter.

No longer will I bask in your warm, fuzzy codependent glow on cold January nights as the wind whips and howls outside my windows.

Like Gloria Gaynor says, I will survive.

Facebook, you should have a show. It would be called Friend Hoarders. There’s just too much stuff swirling out there in the ether. Instagrams of friends’ morning oatmeal. Pics of their remodeled bathroom updates. Boyfriend drama unfolding in excruciating detail. After half an hour hanging out, my consciousness feels as muddied as a lake after a heavy rainfall.

I am confused. What is my relationship to my 297 Facebook friends? Do we exchange words if we come across one another in IRL, like on the sidewalk or at the store? Does sending a Facebook message constitute ‘real’ communication? Would it stand up in court, like an e-mail or a text mail or a voice mail or a note quickly scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin? And, since when did people start calling their friends a ‘social circle’?

So, break up, you say? Surely there are other fish in the sea?

Yes, yes, yes. I get it. Here’s the kicker. People in my generation don’t spend time face-to-face anymore. With work, school, family commitments, chores, the gym, prime time television, surfing the internet—not to mention Farmville and Mafia Wars—who has the time? Or so we say.

Social communication differs across generations. In the 1990s, when I cam of age, flannel and coffee were in vogue, as was Seattle. We had face-to-face discussions, often over coffee, on topics ranging from politics and feelings. I marvel at people of my parents’ generation, who return telephone calls and text messages with frightening alacrity, often the same day. My grandparents wrote frequent letters to one another. My grandmother saved them all. Perhaps we value what is scarce.

A near-constant availability of others seems to decrease their intrinsic value.

I have seen good friendships go the way of the wall post and the occasional Facebook message. At the risk of sounding like an appalling narcissist, I don’t just wanna a few megabytes on a screen, one of a couple hundred or thousand friends. I would hope my friends feel  the same about me.

I cringe with terror when I see younger kids ‘talking’ with friends all day on a computer. You deserve more than this! I want to yell. You can’t hug a computer site. You can’t laugh with a computer. You can’t go out for a lunch or a dinner or a drink with a computer to catch up.

Recently, a Facebook friend passed away after a battle with cancer. Friends and acquaintances posted their condolences on his wall. It was a turning point. If he’s reading the Internet now in heaven, I hope he takes them in stride.

This is what I’ve decided.

Life is like a yoga class. Always, some people will be perceived as doing ‘better’ than others.

The moral of the story?

You’ve just gotta keep your gaze on your own mat, for sanity’s sake. Yes, it can be darn hard to do sometimes. The most advanced yogi may not be the one yakking it up about what a wonderful parent she is and how much she can get done and then flipping up into one-armed handstand to a crowd of awestruck onlookers. She is the one resting quietly on the floor in child’s pose mid-class, restoring his or her energy.

Status update: It’s not always about the ego, mister.

The same caveats apply to the social networking world. There is too much pressure to ‘create’ the perfect online profile or to be perceived in a certain way. We wish to put our best face forward, to scream from the cyber mountaintops the most intimate details of our lives. Perhaps we’re all just clamoring so hard for love and acceptance in a disconnected and fragmented world that we want validation from anybody and everybody, from our BFF to that guy we used to ride the bus with on Monday mornings.

And so we go on about our perfect guy or girl. Our recent business success. Our mind-blowing vacation to Tahiti. We casually toss in a few photos of ourselves into an online album, including the one in a bikini, doing Wheel Pose on the beach. (“Oh, is that me?”) We are buoyed by a resounding chorus of likes, and some comments we could, perhaps, do without. All of those ‘likes’ and comments have come to serve as real emotional currency, and that is kind of unsettling.

I need some space. At least for a while.

Everybody has a megaphone. Nobody has ears. It is like the scene from “The Wizard of Oz” where man sits behind a curtain, pulling levers and yelling into the microphone and making a terrible ruckus. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” he yells to the audience, when his identity is threatened. What does it take to pull the curtain away, to risk being who we are IRL? Does authenticity sometimes mean being vulnerable?

Yoga teaches us that self-discovery is like peeling an onion. We are constantly peeling away different layers to reveal the shining self underneath. To practice yoga, one must embrace vulnerability, try things that may be painful or unsettling. An asana practice releases tightness and congestion from the physical body. Eventually, blockages ease from the energetic and etherial bodies. If the need for human connection resides somewhere in the higher realms, then we must teach ourselves to view others as flesh and blood rather than a collection of electronic blips on a screen. We also allow them to pursue their own paths, but protect our own energy.

It is high time, I think, to risk Facebook exile. Maybe I’ll join a salsa-dancing club. Maybe a competitive tiddlywinks federation. Is there life outside of Verona walls? I’ll see.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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