Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Me and Facebook

A few weeks back, nearly halfway through my Lenten fast from Facebook, I read the following article:

What struck me was Greg's conclusion about Facebook: "Neat but a waste of time." Last year, I also fasted from Facebook during Lent and it was a very interesting experience. I wrote Facebook statuses during the season, although did not post them until the end. I felt compelled to describe my life. I was reflective about the compulsion and the need for feedback.

Maybe it was because it wasn't the first time, but fasting from Lent this year was different. Very very quickly I stopped being inclined to pause in the middle of the action to think of a great caption that would get response from my Facebook friends. I just stopped narrating and started living.

What I missed this year was the news of others. I heard that two people had called it quits on their marriage and I broke my fast to check their relationship status on Facebook. I did go on on Sundays, briefly, not to post or to play but to scan for babies, broken bones and book news.

My fast was not the spiritual exercise it was last year. I did not come away with a sense that it drew me particularly closer to God, but it did make me recognize that I was addicted to praise or at least feedback. But I also realized that the need to communicate is a good and healthy thing. The question was where would I spend my daily allotment of words. Like a news ticker, constantly changing, the words I write on Facebook are soon replaced by other words. The quick quip, the wry comment seem easy.

A few weeks into the fast, I decided to revive this blog. I don't spend ages on it - far less than I did on Facebook frankly - but somehow it seems a bit less ephemeral, a bit more substantial an activity. I also made a point of emailing my friends more, or calling them, or even getting together. Most of all, I did not bounce back and forth to the computer, and away from my life, looking at who had commented, or "liked" what I had written. The intriguing thing to me about this blog is that very few readers are commenting here, even though I know there are a number of people reading it. I don't feel like I'm writing into a vacuum, but neither am I expecting instant gratification from it. Some of the blog posts have even been transformed into articles or pieces of writing to be shared with a wider audience.

Re-entering the Facebook world last year after Lent felt like the hesitation I experience before jumping into a cold pool - but this year I have a different metaphor: it reminds me of salt. Apparently, if you salt your food heavily, unsalted food tastes bland and tasteless. However, if you cut back salt, over time your tastebuds adjust so that even mildly salted food tastes salty to you. And over 40 days, my tastes have adjusted.

I'm back on Facebook and I know the routine, know what to do, but it's feeling a bit like going back to an old boyfriend, or a friend from long ago who expects you to be the same person you used to be - or like eating what tastes like overly salty food. I can tell that I'm adjusting to the saltiness - a few smart remarks here and there, a few approving "likes", and I'm checking lots of times a day.

It's just that I liked the fresh taste of life.

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