I wake up blurry eyed and foggy and fumble to turn the alarm off my phone. Before I even sit up, let the silence sink in, or turn on a light, I login to Facebook. What am I missing that happened in the five hours since I last logged in?
One of the kids asks me a question, but I don’t hear them as I scroll through the newsfeed – blue and white glow discoloring my face. She asks me three times more, “Mom, mom! Can you hear me? You need a time limit for your phone, just like you give us.” I hear her this time and put it down.
It’s October 1 and I’m reading the latest rant over the government shutdown and Obamacare as my federal government employed sister sits at home wondering her fate. Suddenly, a wave of anger envelopes me. Livid that I’m wasting time reading garbage from arm chair “politicians” insisting on an opinion they know nothing about.
I leave a couple of posts on groups and my wall that I’m logging off – for the whole month of October. I sign off cooling my heels over ice water.
Oh, I’ve logged out before for a whole month – did it just last June, but it didn’t lose its hold on me. I logged in ravenous consuming Crackbook oblivious to the dissatisfaction and frustration that continued. I trudged on for more than a year, unchanged and unrelenting. I meant to write about it back then – to share with the world the revelations uncovered from a month “disconnected”. The truth was the epiphany never came.
This time was different. The first couple of days, I pondered my struggles with the blue and white frames. I remember signing on for the first time over four and half years ago under the guise from family and friends to stay “connected”. It was fun finding old college friends and grade school pals that I had not spoken to in over 30 years.
Months go by and our third child is born. While I wish I could remember vividly the times I snuggled close and gazed into her perfect sweet face, I barely can. The memories I recall are thumbnail pictures scrolling by, blue letters, red notifications delighting me. I’m ashamed at these cheap excuses for memories.
When I stopped working to be home with our kids, I craved any type of adult interaction. My phone stayed logged in, I stood at my laptop in the kitchen until my legs ached, relentlessly scrolling, devouring “social interactions”. In reality I was feeding my addiction, barking at the kids when they interrupted me, recoiling at my shallow existence. I was terrified to admit it – I envisioned the audience at a 12-step meeting. I stand trembling before them. “Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a Facebook addict.”
The vision fades and I step away for short bursts…a week here, a week there, holidays, birthdays, many Sundays. But I always wake up the next day and I log back in – as if I had never left - returning to where I left off.
After the first few days of this fast, I get an email from my “dealer” – I am missing notifications. Sorry Crackbook, I can’t do that. I delete the message. Again, an email – two days later. I ignore it. After day five, I get an email every.single.day. On day eight, I unsubscribe.
By day 15, I don’t think about Facebook anymore. I have a big announcement I want to share, so I login quickly to post it. I do not look at notifications. I do not look at the newsfeed. I realize in despair that I don’t ever want to login again and that soon I will have to decide how to manage this.
The world seems brighter and calm and there are no distractions to keep me from reading a book or playing a game with my children…some of them old enough that they have stopped asking me to do those things. Is it because I hardly reciprocated? Because I wasn’t listening? I shudder at the thought.
My eight year old asks me to sit with her and talk. I’m floored and honored and my phone is not on my person and I do not hear it and I am fully here with her in this place. I hug her and count her freckles while I tell her that I will always listen and for once I really am and please tell me God that I have not missed too much!
October 31 rolls around and I wait. I do not login until nearly 11pm on November 1. Most of the notifications are not worth reading and I can’t get past the second item in the newsfeed. I start hiding things like mad in a desperate attempt to focus on those people that drew me to this “connecting” tool in the first place. I don’t login again for a couple of days and I don’t think about it and I’m not drawn in and is this what normal life is like?
I close up my laptop having spent just a few minutes – but a few minutes more than I wanted. I walk out into the living room where my sweet four year old is singing and dancing and I take her hand and join in.