Confessions of a (Former) Facebook Goddess

disco queen 

   Most people would die rather than quit the social media form known as Facebook. Yes, I said that, and you’ll get no quantitative research turning living, breathing human beings into numbers from which to draw conclusions for my opening declaration. I speak from five years of experience. Though I did quit Facebook and, as you can see, lived to tell about it. Quitting FB cold turkey was not easy – is not easy. I have been forced to come face-to-face with some personal truths – those two glasses of nice wine truths that slip the dark bonds of one’s heart and make it to the light of the page – this page.

  I miss Facebook now, in a calm moment, because I understand the democratic beauty evident in offering everyone a platform from which to put forth ideas. I am sad too because it is the birthday of a dear friend and I can’t show her (and others) how clever I am by sending a picture of a cute birthday cake (purloined from some other site) and telling her to take a “BIG slice of HAPPY.” Personal truth # 1: Until I quit, I never acknowledged those self-aggrandizing Facebook moments (of which there were many). Why did I spend so much time on Facebook in the first place? Surely time could have been better used to complete (more than a few) writing endeavors, listening to lectures, reading novels and book reviews, and attending to my personal blog left unattended with no creative additions from me. Personal truth # 2: I was (am?) a Facebook addict. Many times I had been accused of being addicted to Facebook over my adamant objection to the contrary. I even invoked the addict’s creed, “I can quit anytime I want.” I couldn’t acknowledge any thoughts of addiction as I continued on what had become one of the major slippery slopes of time-wasting elements in my retired life. My thinking became corrupted with all the power afforded me by the Facebook platform (read soapbox). I found myself judging others who would spend entire days on Facebook complaining about their hyper-active, rambunctious kids, messy houses, absent spouses, rowdy students, and rude coworkers. “If they didn’t spend so much time on Facebook maybe their kids wouldn’t act out, their houses would be cleaner, and their spouse would return.” I had dissolved into an opinionated mass of objection and lecture on anything cultural and, especially, anything political. I have used my timeline as an emotional bully pulpit to further my political judgments and set any offending white person straight on their misguided use of cross-cultural expressions. I was an equal opportunity offender; everyone deserved the right to my opinion. It wasn’t long before I started my morning, coffee in hand, at my keyboard attempting to insert some creativity in what should have been, if anything, simple responses. And by the end of three hours I could be found sitting small and emotionally exhausted in my desk chair – having leaked all creative energy in responding to misspelled info-graphics (a pet-peeve that I felt compelled to share with everyone), ignorant politicians, and horrendous, heart-numbing videos that pulled back the curtain on some of the most heinous, inhumane examples of the human species. And there I was – ultimately reduced to railing against the darkness in us all. I knew I was approaching addiction when, in an effort reduce resistance, I culled my list of Facebook friends, jettisoning all those whose politics ran antithetical to my own. (So much for enjoying a diversity of opinion). In-spite-of this culling, I managed to offend – even those people with whom I was in total political affinity. I was hell-bent on getting my opinion across by any means necessary, letting readers know my 60’s & 70’s big-city California job, Compton High School street-cred as I angrily pounded the face of any disagreement with my varied life experience. I was right. Always and forever. It wasn’t long before this anger infested every part of my social discourse on and off Facebook. I was rabid – snapping and  biting at any thought of injustice in my self-righteous attempts to single-handedly stamp out ignorance and wickedness. I’m sure I had no pulse until I responded to some bit of backwards wisdom in need of social correction. Many times I lamented that stupid people should not be allowed on Facebook. As a Facebook Goddess (and addict) I could say that. Personal truth # 3: I spent so much time on Facebook because it was a way of feeding my ego. Facebook presents a quick fix for the narcissist in us all. But for me, it afforded undiscriminating recognition of the underappreciated writer within. On Facebook, I’d get my acceptance in small sweet doses administered when unseen hands simply clicked the word “like.” Oh, the power in that word and the time wasted in believing it a code for ‘worthy.’ Personal truth # 4: The fault was not in Facebook but in myself. I failed to see that I am on the same road as every other author aspiring to a book offer. I took a Facebook quick fix that doesn’t quite feed a soul in need of honest feedback. There are no shortcuts to writing and editing. We all deal with the demon of procrastination – a demon strongest when we sit down in front of the blank screen; a demon easily sated with the neat white print embedded in the inviting blue background of my Facebook Log in. Now, all I have to do is sit at my desk and perfectly order those 26 letters at every writer’s disposal – a task not nearly as easy as becoming a Facebook Goddess.

   Currently we are experiencing a social upheaval regarding privacy and how much information purveyors of social media should be privy to. A month ago, I too, entered the argument castigating Facebook and other social media for using information about us in secret ways. But yesterday, as I listened to the radio and arguments pro and con on the use of information that is freely offered up by most users of Facebook, I was reminded of an old Polish saying (yes, from Facebook). I turned the radio off knowing this Facebook argument is “[no longer] my circus – [no longer] my monkeys.

Coffee and Me: An Affair to Remember – (updated)

I’ve been in love with coffee since I was 25 years old and had the misfortune of being put on the graveyard shift at an all night talk-radio station in Los Angeles. Like most lovers, I have to admit, I have not always been faithful and the sight of the new Starbucks in the CCC commons dining hall brings back more than a little chagrin at my most memorable transgression against the beautiful brown bean.

Coffee is an addiction. I know this  – even as I genuflect every day in front of my coworker’s Keurig® Platinum Brewing machine praying she does not step into traffic, find reason to hate me, or is somehow reposted giving cause for her to dismantle her coffee altar. And I am not a prolific drinker of coffee either. I start my day with one cup, that’s all, but in 1995, my doctor suggested that I give up all caffeine. I stared at her, stunned. How could she even fix her face to insist I give up my daily mug of motivation? I was at a loss for the words that would make her see the importance of my needing to stay up past sundown and read to my son or grade 50 student essays. I left her office more prepared to get a new doctor than a new drug. But, by the time I got to the market, I thought of all the events of the previous week – a week filled with an extreme crankiness that forced students and co-workers alike to tiptoe on conversational eggshells in my presence. So, in total capitulation, standing in a coffee aisle that fairly buzzed with the delicious fragrance of ground and un-ground coffee beans, I reached for my Kryptonite – Postum.

By the time that summer rolled around I was experimenting with all manner of (legal) herbal energizers. Finally, I settled on liquid ginseng. I remember that first morning I poured it into my coffee substitute. I was not disappointed. My body began to hum and my pulse-rate increased along with my energy. I was going to be fine and that summer was going to be my most productive one yet. And to a degree it was until the day I awoke feeling the unexplainable urge to meet a self-imposed deadline.  So, covering all possible areas of distraction, I checked on my eight year old son and some neighborhood friends who were playing in the side yard before bringing in our ailing and aging dog and getting her settled in the kitchen. I poured another cup of my juiced-up Postum. I was free and alive and awake to enjoy it! Freedom lasted 45 minutes before one neighbor child began screaming for help. Startled, I jumped up from the computer and, in pushing my chair back, pulled the cords from the wall outlet. The loss of all that I had just written should have been a warning to me. I dashed down the stairs with the frantic screaming of all the children now ringing in my ears. Tearing through the hallway, I cursed the dining room chair that had fallen over in front of me. In retrospect, I’m glad it was there to slow my progress. I opened the kitchen door to find that my dog had become sick all over the floor. Shutting the door, I fell to my knees retching and gagging. I stopped when the screams from outside, again, became loud and insistent. I jumped to my feet but by the time I got to the side yard ‘joyful’ laughter was all that I could hear. “Hi mom, we’re on a desert island and taking turns screaming for help. Is lunch ready?” They were hungry. I was ticked. I stood at the back door suddenly remembering what lay on the other side. By my watch I had 50 minutes to clean the kitchen floor, fix peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for three dirty kids then drive them 12 miles to soccer camp. If I didn’t take time to retch or pass out I could do it. I had the energy. Everything went well with the clean up until I heard a faint knock at the cellar door off the dinning room. I should say here that my cellar is a dark and dank affair, sometimes home to frogs and other unmentionable vermin at certain times of the year. Why anyone would want to walk into this cellar from the outside entry for anything was a mystery to me. “Who is it? What do you want,” I shouted from the kitchen. It was the furnace cleaner stammering his wish to clean the furnace. “Just a minute,” I yelled.  I slammed lunch down on the patio table before marching back into the kitchen totally lost in consideration of how I was going to maneuver my old pet out of the house. Her forelegs were in fair condition leaving me with the business end of what was a very large dog with very little control over her sick bowels. I got her upright while ignoring more faint knocking from the cellar. And just as I was about to shove the last of my dog outside, another, more insistent knock came from the man behind the cellar door. As if the pounding on the cellar door was her cue, my dog released her own pent-up ‘frustration’ before pulling her hindquarters fully through the doggie door. Angry and soiled, I was too far gone to even cry and the hammering inside my head was the only thing that kept me from screaming. I left the kitchen to answer what was now definite pounding. I snatched at the doorknob opening the door to see the beleaguered furnace cleaner looking at his watch. “What do you want?” I shouted. “M’am, I’m on a schedule here. Could you please turn your thermostat on so I can check…” “Listen you,” I interrupted. “You got a schedule? I got a dog here who thinks my kitchen is her private toilet, three kids to clean, feed and get to soccer camp and a kitchen that stinks to high heaven. So let me tell you what you can do with your schedule…” I slammed the cellar door, looked at my watch, before cleaning the kitchen floor. I jumped in then out of the shower, collected the soccer gear, pushed the kids into the van before throwing a carton of wet towelettes at them. “Here, clean yourselves.” I stepped on the gas and made it to practice with thirty seconds to spare. The children, faces streaked with peanut butter and fear, jumped out of the van and dashed into the gym without looking back.

I took a deep and shameful breath. I looked at my hands draped over my steering wheel. They were shaking – hard. I was wired. I stopped at the little café at the end of Main Street and ordered a small cup of coffee hoping for some mathematical – caffeine plus ginseng – canceling out process. I waited for calm to overtake me before beginning my trek home. Once inside, I flopped down on the sofa. For the first time that morning I could exhale and close my eyes. And then, a soft knocking from the cellar caused me to scramble from my couch slapping my forehead in disbelief. The furnace cleaner was still in my basement! I opened the door and there he was, the man with “a schedule…” sitting and lightly rapping his knuckles on the bottom step. I was ready to give my biggest apology ever but, instead, I said nothing. I went into my kitchen and pulled the coffee maker out of hiding in preparation for one of society’s most humble of peace offerings – real coffee.

Updated, reposted: 9/7/12