Tell me what else I should have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me what it is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
These words of Mary Oliver’s have been swimming around in my mind and on my tongue of late. So much so that they’ve become a bit of a prayer — which is ironic because a few lines earlier in the poem she says
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is
She follows that with
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields.
In addition to this diet of prayer, I’ve been crunching some numbers….
They say the average user spends about 30 minutes each day on FaceBook and closer to an hour each day when you add up all of the apps and platforms of the vast FaceBook ecosystem.
I don’t remember when I joined FaceBook, but I know I was an active user while still living in Taos — so let’s go with 2008.
That’s 12 years — over a decade. Twenty-percent of my life I’ve been a FaceBook user.
Let’s say I’ve used FaceBook only half as much as the average user. So rather than being on there every day, let’s say I’m on there half of the days of the week: 3 – 4 days, or 3.5 days per week.
So that means every-other day or so I check in on FaceBook. I tell myself it’s to see how my friends and family are doing. But that’s really kind of a half-truth, since what most of us broadcast on FB is cursory to the real depth of our lives.
If I’m really going to be honest with myself, I’m logging in in hopes of approval pings.
And then, because FaceBook is brilliantly engineered to be an addictive slot-machine of ego-stroking and distraction, those “few minutes” I was going to spend have turned into 20 or more.
Give into the addiction two or three times per day, and I’ve just pissed away an hour of my day.
Do that 3 – 4 days per week, and that adds up to about 14 hours per month.
168 hours per year.
2,016 hours in 12 years.
String those hours together and that’s 84 solid continuous days of my life — almost 3 months.
Let’s add in a little sleep there — say 8 hours per day — and string together those days of continuous use, as though I were on FaceBook just during the 16 non-sleeping hours per day.
That’s over four months of my attention directed continually on FaceBook.
Four months of my wild and precious life.
And remember, for the “average” user that number is closer to EIGHT MONTHS
To what end?
What might I have done with those months of my life?
What paintings might I have created?
What adventures might I have had?
What trails might I have explored?
What books might I have read?
What letters, what poems, what essays might I have written?
What lengthy, thoughtful conversations might I have had? What listening might I have done?
What deep reflection might I have pondered?
What chords might I have learned?
What language might I now be speaking?
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
~ Annie Dillard
More important, what will I do with the next four months of life?
And the next four months?
And the next?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that I don’t want to give over anymore of my wild and precious life to FaceBook.
This hasn’t been an easy decision. If it had been, I would have made it ages ago with my first sense of FaceBook malaise.
What makes it hard is that I have occasionally derived some pleasure from FaceBook. I’ve made a few friendships; I’ve enjoyed some quips and laughs, some amusing and interesting exchanges; I’ve been exposed to some real beauty in the way of art and photography, writing and music.
I’ve expanded the audience for my art and have even sold some paintings as a direct result of being on FaceBook.
But even with all of that, I can no longer ignore the sense of malaise, the undercurrent of regret every time I log out that I could have directed my attention more richly, more substantively.
It’s a little scary deciding to walk away from FaceBook. There’s the worry of losing friendships. But really, the true friendships will endure no matter what, and the dross will fall away. In fact, I think leaving FaceBook will help me deepen my truest friendships. For, as artist Jenny Odell has aptly observed, “The convenience of limitless connectivity has neatly paved over the nuances of in-person conversation, cutting away so much information and context in the process.” I want to get back to the nuances of conversations with friends.
No, what’s especially scary is wondering whether or not I can continue to support myself as a self-employed artist without being on FaceBook. Like so many others, the culture has brainwashed me into believing that in order to survive as a business owner and a creative, I need to be on FaceBook; that it’s the only effective way of getting my work out there, expanding my audience, and finding new patrons.
Well, I guess I’ll find out whether there’s any truth to that.
I want to be clear here: I’m by no means a Luddite. I may be giving up FaceBook, but I’m very definitely not giving up technology or the internet. Quite the contrary. Apart from the many “unplugged” interests I want to pursue, online I intend to put more thoughtfulness, creativity and attention into my blog, my website, my Etsy shop and TuesdayDawnings not to mention there’s a whole bunch of online courses I’d love to take.
Also, for the time-being, I’m still on Instagram — though we’ll see for how much longer. My cowardice to cut the cord entirely with social media and pull out of Instagram and FaceBook in one fell swoop points to my nervousness as to whether there’s truth to the argument that you can’t survive as a visual artist in the 21st-century without being on any social media platforms.
So for now I’ll cut out the platform which disturbs me the most, and see if I might be able to work with the other in a minimalist and valuable way. We’ll see if that’s possible.
If it doesn’t’ work out, well then, good riddance. [ UPDATE: I’ve deleted BOTH my FaceBook & Instagram accounts as of 6/20/20. BLESSED FREEDOM!! ]
Meanwhile, to those of you who use FaceBook and find it enriches and brings worthwhile meaning to your life, more power to you. I hope that you may always feel that way about your engagement with it.
But if you, too, have experienced — to quote Jenny Odell again — “a certain nervous feeling of being over-stimulated then unable to sustain a train of thought linger — though it can be hard to grasp before it disappears behind a screen of distraction;” if, like me, you have felt that undercurrent of malaise whenever you log off of FaceBook and consider the minutes and hours of your one wild and precious life, then I’ve a book recommendation for you: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in A Noisy World, by Cal Newport. Put it at the top of your “Must Read” list; listen to it on your next roadtrip — it’s that worthwhile.
All this to say…..
I’ll be deleting my FaceBook account on June 20th — the Summer Solstice.
Not just turning it off for a while. Deleting it. [UPDATE: AND INSTAGRAM, TOO!]
Going forward, if anyone would like to stay in touch and keep tabs on my art and life, here are a few ways to do that:
— Via TuesdayDawnings, my weekly “deep breath of beauty and uplift.”
These are missives of some of the thoughts and words, sights and sounds, inspiration and reflections, creativity and beauty that I notice, gather and create around me.
As writer Cinny Green has put it “TuesdayDawnings is a kaleidoscope of thoughtful and gently provoking offerings that enrich my day.” Though I put hours into creating each issue, I offer TuesdayDawnings for free — my humble effort to try to make the world a better place. Find out more and consider subscribing here.
— Via my blog, Musings from the Studio and Beyond — Dawn Chandler’s Reflections on Art and Life.
This is where I share more long-form reflections, ruminations and stories. For the past few years I’ve been averaging a blog post about once per month, but with newly found time and focus available after dropping FB, I’m looking forward to writing and sharing more here.
— Via my website, www.taosdawn.com
Home to all things Dawn Chandler — my art, my bio, links to my videos, blog, subscriptions and my online shop, [plus the best page on the site, Wilson]. Dive deep here.
In parting, I’d just like to say to those of you on FaceBook who appreciated my posts and made positive or humorous comments or were thoughtful, friendly and kind in any way — Thank you.
And to those of you who have used your own FaceBook account to build bridges rather than walls, who share good humor and thoughtfulness, who have sought to salve rather than a scour, to motivate and inspire rather than incite — Thank you.
Blessings to you all.
May you and yours be safe and secure and healthy.
And may you find deep sources of nourishment and meaning in this, your one precious life.
Thank you for being here and reading my musings.
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.
Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity.
Thank you again.
~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico