Pretty much done with Facebook

Adios… kind of… And thanks for everything.

Over the past few months, I’ve really scaled back my FB activity, the latest adjustment being removing it from my smartphone.

Since my smartphone is work-issued, and I’ll be giving it back in a few more weeks anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do, all across the board.

The only things that really appeal to me on FB are the factual things, or postings from Humans of New York. All the “opinionating” gets on my nerves, the contentious spirit of many posts bothers me, and contrary to some of my friends’ beliefs, I actually don’t need to know how many cats or dogs a local shelter has for adoption.

So, I’m doing without.

One other issue I’ve noticed with FB, is that it seems specially designed to get me worked up over things that have no consequence. People post provocative comments or images, and then I fall for the bait and get hooked into a cycle of outrage over things I have no control over, and which don’t even affect me personally.

What’s the point in that?

There is none, really.

What it costs me, however, is something I really don’t want to lose — and can’t afford to lose — Time. And Peace of Mind. Both of those things are in short supply. So, why would I actively participate in a forum that takes both of them away from me?

Makes no sense.

Goodbye Facebook.

One of the things that is making this easier for me to do, is improvements in my working memory, thanks to the dual n-back training and juggling I’ve been doing. I’m better able to attend for longer periods of time — I kept a ball in the air for 155 tosses today — up from my best of 135, a week ago. And I’m better able to remember things, so I can read more, digest more, appreciate more.

It’s kind of hard to enjoy reading, if you can’t remember what you read on the last page. It’s a real drag, actually.

But that problem has been clearing up, slowly but surely, as I’ve trained myself.

Facebook actually helped me with that, giving me small and mid-sized pieces of information to digest in a quick way that was entertaining for me — WAS entertaining for me, that is. Nowadays, I don’t appreciate a lot of what I see. I dislike it, actually.

Now I have other options — reading. Finding books at the library and reading them. This is fun for me — at last. For years, it was really distressing and discouraging, so I stopped. That was a huge personal loss to me, because I have always loved to read. Now that I can read again, it’s a whole new world. And I’m incredibly grateful for this new development in my life.

So, thanks for the help Facebook, but you won’t be seeing much of me in the future — except, of course, for the flurry of commotion when I announce that I’ve given notice at work.

Less Facebook, more za-zen

Keeping it simple

So, I’ve had a crazy busy week, and I’ve taken a few steps to make my life simpler and less hectic.

The first thing I did, was unfriend a person who has become a tremendous pain in my ass. I work with them, and our relationship has really altered over the past months, with them climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, and me holding back and not diving into all the politics and drama for a number of reasons. First, I’m not at all impressed with the opportunities available to me at work. Second, I’ve already done the ladder-climbing thing, and while it was exciting for a while, back about 15 years ago, I saw the dark side of it and opted out. Third, I’m not big on games. Fourth, in their heady rise to the top, they compete intensely and step on people to get there, and I’m not interested in being someone they compete against. That sh*t just depresses me.

So, while this onetime friend of mine has been maneuvering and operating all over the place (and trying to pull me into their activities), I’ve really cooled to them. And I unfriended them on FB. Which kind of freaked them out and made them feel rejected (which they were, if you think about it). But it simplifies my life, because now I don’t have to worry about getting miffed over something they post — or some comment they make to one of my posts.

FB has gotten way too intrusive for me.

The other thing I did was remove FB from my mobile phone. It was just getting too enticing for me, and I was spending way too much time on pretty much nothing. I mean — like so many others — I would start looking at posts, pictures, movies… and before I knew it, an hour had passed me by.

Which is never good. Especially when I have so little time for the things I truly want to be doing.

So, I made it harder for myself to go on FB, and I removed it from my phone for a few days. And it did simplify my life. (Turns out, I had to reinstall it last night, because my internet connection died, and my smartphone was the only way I could reschedule a meet-up I arranged for today) Just not having access to FB for a few days gave me additional time to focus on projects that are late-late-late, and just calm the heck down.

The calming down is the important part. Because even when the things I see on FB are good, they are still energizing and invigorating, and they get my blood pumping. There are jokes, there are observations, there are rants. And they always get me thinking and reacting. They jump-start my system as few other things can.

Now, that’s fine, if I actually do need a boost to wake me up. But all that uproar, all the time? It’s not necessary. And even if I am dragging a little bit, the neurocognitive / biochemical jolt of Facebook is usually a lot more than I really need, to get going. Going on FB for me, when I am a little “off” is like drinking a couple cans of Red Bull when I’m feeling a little distracted. It’s way too much for me, and no matter how good it feels to get that Facebook “rush”, it’s still putting a strain on my system that ultimately wears me out.

So, now I’m repairing the damage I’ve done, and I’m doing several things:

  1. I’m rationing my Facebook time and staying OFF it, first thing in the morning, as well as last thing at night.
  2. I’m back to doing za-zen, or sitting silently and focusing on my breath and my posture for set periods of time.

This is accomplishing several things:

  1. It is keeping my system from becoming drugged by biochemical / neurocognitive overload.
  2. It is re-training my system to develop its own ability to wake — or rest — at will.

Za-zen — my own version, which is simpler than thinking about koans, but more focused than Shikantaza (which is just sitting) — is for me about simply sitting, being wakeful and mindful about what is going on in my body and mind, but not “taking the hooks” of thoughts that “want” me to follow them, like monkeys running off into the woods with my car keys.

Some say that meditation is for relaxation, to relieve stress, but I have long believed — and I recently came across a study that echoes my belief. That study, “Awakening is not a metaphor: the effects of Buddhist meditation practices on basic wakefulness” talks about how sitting meditation can actually heighten wakefulness in long-term practitioners. It’s not necessarily about relaxation — it’s actually about waking up.

I have noticed, over the past years of sitting za-zen (which I have done for over 20 years, since I first learned about it), that I have actually learned how to wake myself up, even when I am incredibly tired. Sitting — just sitting — focusing on my breath and keeping myself alert to my posture, the sensations in my body, and whatever thoughts might be rattling ’round in my head, doesn’t relax me. In fact, it does the opposite. So much so, that I cannot sit za-zen right before I go to bed, because it wakes me up too much.

I sit in the mornings, instead. And I’m considering starting to sit in the afternoons when I start to get cravings for sweets. When I’m feeling low and groggy, I tend to reach for the trail mix, which is a far better option than a Snickers bar or some other kind of sugar. But I often end up eating too much sugar in the course of a busy afternoon, so I need another option.

The more I think about it, the more za-zen seems like a good option for me. Sitting with silent focus, even for just a few minutes, does wonders for me. And if I can incorporate it into my daily life — not only stepping away to sit in silence, but also having that attitude of za-zen when I am in meetings at work, or I’m trying to better focus on what’s in front of me… well, so much the better.

I used to actually do that, years ago before my last TBI. And it helped me so much. It “leveled out” the upheavals that had long been with me, because of all my previous TBIs. But when I fell in 2004, that completely threw me, and I became just a shadow of myself. I stopped sitting. I stopped meditating. I stopped thinking about anything except the daily business of just getting from Point A to Point B, and not falling victim to the demons that seemed to rage in me.

Now much has evened out with me, and I’m in a place where I can actually put my focus back on za-zen. I’ve done this before, so it’s not new to me. And the Awakening study confirms that people with past meditation experience can have greater increases in “tonic alertness” which is where you can become more alert in unexpected situations.

That’s what I’m striving for, these days — more alertness, more engagement in my daily life, less reactivity, and more skill at handling sudden and unexpected situations. And it turns out that I have the past experience and the present tools to help make that happen.

When I just sit and breathe and count and focus on my posture, even for just a few minutes, everything gets better. And that’s what I want. Better.

I’ve got another full day ahead of me, so it’s time to get going. On it goes.

Onward.

Cutting loose

I’m cleaning house. I just sent an email to an acquaintance who came into my house on Sunday as a friend, then proceeded to lie, conceal, accuse, and generally play mind games over some truly hurtful things they have done… and who left on Monday as a former friend.

I didn’t even realize the extent to which they had wasted my time and trashed our relationship, till last night. And I realized that I had parted with 36 very precious hours and a lot of precious money preparing for their visit, getting things ready for them, and then dealing with mind games that were way more elaborate than anything I’ve had to deal with in months, if not years.

Whatever life has thrown their way, they have acquired a formidable skill at mind-f*cking, and in a twisted way I have to admire their proficiency. But I don’t need that in my life.

So, I emailed them and told them I was unfriending them on Facebook, and they had wasted a ton of valuable time with their games over the weekend, and I wasn’t going to be putting up with their sh*t anymore.

Then, when I went on FB to unfriend them, I happened upon a message from an old “friend” who had a bad habit of laughing at me and treating me poorly. They wanted to have breakfast and pick my brain about financial planners. So, I told them that I’d like to have breakfast, on the condition that they be nice to me, because the last time I dealt with them, they were unkind. I told them, if they are amenable to being aware of how they treat me, I’d like to catch up again. But only if they’re amenable.

So, there it is. It feels pretty good. I have so much going on in my life, I just do not have time to fritter away on people who treat me poorly and are just plain ignorant to me. I’ve got to pick and choose, so I am.

It’s nice to have friends – but not friends like them.

Anyway, I am feeling a LOT better these days, now that that old boss from hell is gone, and things are moving a bit more at work. I still can’t stand the workplace, the commute, the cost of meals in the cafeteria, and management’s open disregard for anything and everything sub-executive… but it’s not forever. Something new and different is coming. I can feel it.

And my tax refund is on its way, so life is good.

Of Facebook and Football

These two things are a lot like each other

Some time ago, I decided to quit spending so much time on Facebook. I uninstalled the FB app from my smartphone and I took a break from the daily checking of statuses, which was eating up anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours of my waking time each day. It was costing me sleep, which I could not afford to lose, and it was getting me riled, which I can also not afford.

Seriously, it was getting me riled.

And tired.

And I wasn’t getting much else out of it. I felt “connected” in a certain way – but connected to what? All the resentments and frustrations and biases and prejudices and outrage… it’s like everyone I knew with an ax to grind invited me to their personal bitch-fest, apparently assuming that I shared their outrage and disbelief, and I’d happily chime in to add my two cents (which is about as much as those kinds of opinions are worth).

Truly, it seems to me that Facebook is a haven for people with a chip on their shoulder, who would rather complain about things than actually get up and do something about it all. Now, there are those who use it to connect in order to organize activities, and in the case where people need to coordinate their efforts with one another, it is proving helpful. I’m thinking about the Arab Spring and other popular movements where people are standing up for their rights.

But how many of the people I was interacting with on Facebook actually wanted to do something about the state of things? Not many. I mean, there were those who were doing interesting things with their lives and sharing pictures. But not much of it had anything to do with me, and in the end, it just left me feeling cold. Because it wasn’t actually real. I wasn’t actually there. And whatever I imagined about how it was and what it was like, that was still all inside my head… not real at all.

And you know what? When I wasn’t on Facebook, I didn’t actually feel less connected than I was, when I was on it, each and every day. If anything, I felt more calm, more relaxed, more focused on what was going on in my life, that I could actually do something about, versus sitting on the sidelines of life, commenting as a spectator.

I wasn’t in that brawl anymore — at least, I wasn’t an active spectator in all the brawls.

And it occurs to me, after last weekend’s NFL playoff game, when Stevan Ridley got hammered by Bernard Pollard and ended up not only knocked out, but demonstrating the classic “fencing response” (which is a clear indicator of a traumatic brain injury – follow this link to learn more about it) … and everyone has been putting in their two cents about how “that’s football at its finest” …. “Ridley brought it on himself by A) playing football, and B) lowering his head as he ran” …. “Harbaugh is a jerk for celebrating that injury” … “Pollard is a jerk for carrying on like that after the hit” … and so on… that so many of these folks are sitting on the sidelines, commenting away, without having any sort of skin in the game, without having any sort of knowledge of what’s really going on out there… all safe and sound and protected on their side of the television or computer screen. Precious few of the people talking are actually football players — pro or otherwise — they just watch and cheer and boo and comment. They’re onlookers who feel emboldened by the exploits of “their” teams and somehow feel that entitles them to make comments on the health and well-being and cognitive destiny of the ones who are actually on the field.

It’s all a bunch of posturing, brawling, sniping, snarking… people getting riled for the sake of getting riled, getting all worked up, perhaps because that makes them feel more alive and it gives them something to focus their energy on.

But it’s not real. It’s not really part of their lives. It has nothing to do with their day-to-day, the quality of which very possibly pales in comparison to the feelings they get when they watch football or get on Facebook.  It’s not real life for them in any way — it’s a feeling. It’s not genuine. It’s something that’s invented to entertain and distract people from what’s really happening in life. And the net result, unfortunately, is not something constructive, like added rest and relaxation. If anything, it is the exact opposite — more pain and suffering, masquerading as entertainment and distraction. And then the feeling fades… till everyone gets their next fix.

And that’s exactly the kind of stuff I want to get away from in my life — everyone else can have it. I’m more interested in doing something real with my time and energy. I’d rather be working on my skills and planning my life and be taking constructive steps to making things better for myself and my family and the people I care about, than sitting around sniping at others online, feeling gratified that all my “friends” agree with me.

Anybody can post a comment in a forum. Anybody can share something on Facebook. And it might be entertaining for people. It might be distracting from the pains and confusions of the day-to-day. But it’s not real. And in my experience, it does more to upset and disrupt and annoy and add to the overall discomfort of life, than to relieve any of that. Heck, even the “good” stuff is fluff that flies away on the next strong breeze.

Do I remember the details of any of the stuff I’ve read on Facebook over the past years? Not a heck of a lot. Very, very little, in fact.

But do I remember the feeling I usually get when I go on FB and find people just running their mouths about the crap of the day? Oh, yeah – you betcha. And it’s usually not good.

Life is about choices. And I choose not to bother with Facebook anymore. I also choose to not watch a lot of football, because when TBI actually happens to you — for real — and screws up your life, the sight of people launching themselves at each others’ heads with the intent to do harm, just isn’t much fun.

Well, enough talk. Time to get on with my (real) life. Onward.

So glad I’m off Facebook

Just a quick note before I crash… I took a few minutes to look at Facebook, a little while back, and I realized it had absolutely nothing to offer me. Just arguing. Just inane little comments. Just pictures.

And I logged out within a few minutes of logging in.

So glad I’m off Facebook.

Good-bye Facebook app, hello sanity

What a relief

Well, I’m halfway into my second week without having Facebook on my smartphone, and I realize I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been having some real issues with irritability and anger and aggression over the past months, and I think that my Facebook activity was really fueling those issues and making things worse.

And when I say “worse”, I’m talking about road rage that has been flaring up more and more over the past few months… blow-ups at home over little things that escalate very quickly… things getting tougher at work between myself and others… and more. These are just a few of the things that have been getting worse over the past months. They are not things that I can afford to just let run rampant. I’ve lost jobs over less, and it’s not worth it. Especially for someone with my irritability and impulse control issues.

But how could Facebook have made things worse for me?

Well, first, there’s the sleep thing. When I don’t sleep properly or have enough rest, it feeds my irritability and aggression. With Facebook, I was spending an awful lot of time staying up longer than I should have, and waking up earlier than I should have – and instead of going back to sleep, checking FB and reading everything that was going on with people. I was literally losing sleep to Facebook, which is not something I should lose to anything – especially not a social network where people are either posting inane crap or fighting.

The other big (maybe bigger) thing was the level of conflict and aggression that seems to have taken over FB in general. Especially during the election… geez, what a bunch of loons we all turned into. And it’s still going on, as folks continue to argue and fuss and attack each other about politics and who’s to blame for what. The thing of it was, even though at first I was really turned off by all the aggression and arguing, and I managed to stay above it, after a while, I got sucked into it, and I found myself starting to act like other people there — which was NOT what I wanted.

At all.

I found myself actually posting things and responding to things that I never would have bothered with before. It wasn’t just disrupting my peace of mind – it was totally wrecking it. And over what? A few sentences that couldn’t be properly discussed or understood more deeply?

The other thing was the constant distraction. Having online media so readily available hasn’t exactly done wonders for me. And having Facebook on my smartphone at work, just gave me the opportunity to step away and lose myself in it for 15-20 minutes. Like smoking a cigarette… without the lung cancer. But even with milder doses of pointless distraction… still not the most productive use of time. In fact, it was breaking up the flow of my day — from morning till night. Not good.

The vacuousness of it just drove me nuts after a while. All those little snipes, back and forth, either for or against, for or against… just for the sake of sniping, like a martial arts match that’s just there for the competition’s sake, not actual self-defense. Social media, as entertaining and distracting as it can be, is not a place where I can really hone my own views and discuss with others to the degree I like. That just doesn’t happen online. And as a result, there is a lot of misunderstanding — and yet more resulting conflict. It just feeds on itself, like a wildfire. And what long-term good actually comes out of it? Sure, social media can fan the flames of revolution, but then what? Does anybody have a clue?

Who can say? I can’t answer that here in this forum. All I can say is, leaving Facebook behind has done a couple of things for me:

1. I am resting better now. I don’t waste as much time lying around looking at people’s blather/jokes/rants/truisms. And not only am I going to sleep when I go to bed (instead of lying there for half an hour reading FB), but I am actually giving myself time to wake up before I jump into the day.

2. I realized that the mindset I was getting into — combative, argumentative, aggressive — which was affecting my driving and personal relationships, is NOT what I want to have in my head. When I was on FB, my mindset was like a WWE match. All the time. And I thought that was okay. Because it’s how everyone was, and it was fun. Energizing. Entertaining. But after getting off FB, I realize that my mindset was pretty corrupted — wasted, really — and I need to change.

See, the thing that hurt me the most with FB, was getting used to the bad behavior, the fighting, the insults, the accusations, the protests, as “normal”. That is NOT how things have to be. It’s how some people are, but it’s not how I want to be. I don’t want to be that person who sits with an electronic device and praises those who share my opinions and snipes at people who don’t agree with me. I don’t want to be that person who posts wildly about all my pet causes and gets into shouting matches with people who don’t agree with me, or simply have a different perspective. I don’t want to be that person who thinks that just because I have very strong opinions, that makes me right and it gives me the right to go after others who disagree with me.

For a long time, I kept Facebook at bay and didn’t get involved. Then I gave in. Now I remember why I kept it at arms’ length. And I’m getting back to that old way of being. Seriously, I have so much going on in my life right now, the last thing I need is yet another leech on my time and energy and peace of mind.

Good-bye Facebook.

Hello sanity — it’s been a while.

New Year’s Action #1 – uninstall Facebook app

Good-bye FB

I have a smartphone for work – I wouldn’t have one, otherwise. They are too expensive and they are one more thing for me to lug around. The only *real* use for it is to check my email when I am away from work, look up directions, and google businesses so I can find out their hours.

I installed the Facebook app on it, about a year ago, and I cannot begin to count the hours I have wasted “liking” what people are saying, or getting into “discussions” with people that serve only one of two purposes: to agree or to disagree. No one’s opinion has ever been changed due to Facebook comments, to my knowledge.

It’s all very entertaining, to lie in bed before I go to sleep or right after I wake up, and read what people are saying, but what has this actually added to my life? Practically nothing, aside from some laughs. There are some good jokes there, but is this what my life is supposed to be about? Lying in bed laughing at jokes?

My life is precious to me. My time is at a premium. Sleep and good rest is essential to me. So, there was only one logical course to take — to say “Good-bye Facebook smartphone app.”

And I uninstalled it last night before I went to sleep — it has stolen enough resting time from me.

Today is the first day of my Facebook-less life.