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.

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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.