It has been roughly two months since I deactivated my beloved Facebook account. I’d been wanting to do so for some time and had told myself I was going to do it once the presidential elections were over (I couldn’t resist the hilarious memes my 6 Republican friends post). Before I knew it, the POTUS had been elected for a second term and it was time to make a decision. I battled with the idea for at least a couple weeks, wondering if I had the strength to go through with it. Someone suggested I just limit my usage, as if it was that easy! I knew it had to be all or nothing. Finally, I decided honor what my inner voice was telling me, which was: Do you really want to be one of those annoying types whose face is always in a phone or sitting in front of a monitor? Come on Castro, you’re better than this!
Now, the question I keep getting asked is, why? Allow me to explain.
First of all, I spent entirely too much time on it. Please don’t think for a second it wasn’t because I had nothing else to do, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. On one hand, I appreciated the constant stream of news and information, but I started to realize most of the latter was more than I cared to ingest. I don’t know if it’s just me, but your classic personality types playing out on social media can be a real pain in the ass. The “woe is me whiners”, the “self-absorbed narcissists” with their daily self-portraits, the “post everything your doing/eating/thinking/drinking all day longers”, the “butcherers of the English language”, the “24/7 partiers and their booze in hand”, greasy faced photos; as if that’s something to be proud of. And now you have to worry about getting catfished! Good grief!
Of course social media can be a great, efficient way to keep up with family and friends, especially those far away, but let me ask you this: How many of your Facebook friends are really your friends? People you would call or hang out with in real time? Yep, that’s what I thought. Trust me, I like those swollen numbers as much as you do; it really strokes my ego. But let’s get real. Out of 700 plus friends I had on Facebook, I could count the true homies on my fingers and toes. I had to stop and ask myself how much information about people that are my friends, in the loosest sense of the word, did I really need?
It was as if both my mind and my time were cluttered with meaningless muck.
So I did it. I deactivated my account one Saturday morning in December after getting the final sign I needed from the universe. I’d been sitting at home on my ample asset, a Friday night, face in my laptop, reading about what people were/weren’t doing (yes, people, this is what my life has become). Literally within minutes of each other, two former snags popped up in my chat box to say “hi” and see how I was doing. Leading me to another startling insight: You’re always more attractive when you’re not available! They were never that interested in how I was when I was single. Buh!
The first week was the hardest. I kept feeling bored and fidgety, as if I had too much time was on my hands. I felt like I was missing something important; like I had to do something but forgot what it was. I lamented over the fact I could no longer post something cool/funny/witty and obsessively check in to see how many people liked or replied to my self-stroking commentary. I was jonesing, plain and simple. But, with each day it got easier and soon I felt less anxious, less bored, as I occupied myself with other activities I once enjoyed, like reading and writing; or simply focusing more on the present moment and my fun, emotionally giving husband who was hungry for some reciprocity.
Now, I can honestly tell you I don’t miss it at all (ok, maybe those snarky memes a bit). My life feels rich and full again. I manage to get my news and information from other sources such as Indian Country Today Media Network and TMZ (har har). Yet I know, right now, at this very moment, there’s an awesome grassroots social movement gaining momentum across Indian Country, Idle No More, that couldn’t be what it is without social media. As an activist, it’s hard to not be in the loop, but as of right now I’m enjoying this self-imposed exile.
Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a girlfriend that took me back to where I was not so long ago. Currently experiencing her own form of Facebook addiction, she is not alone. According to the recently updated, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, due out in May, sixty-one percent of Americans admit to being addicted to the internet, while fifty percent of Americans now say they prefer to communicate digitally rather than in person. I’m not sure whom they are interviewing but those are some intriguing statistics.
Like me, there are certain things she wants from social media. As a politically active artist, she wants to be in the know but is concerned about it “working her” vs. her “working it.” I clearly recognized her plight and realized at that very moment that Facebook addiction has characteristics similar to other addictions; and I don’t think I have to tell you about us Natives and our addictive tendencies. Certainly this may not apply to you moderate social media users, or those who use it to promote yourself, your “business” or your “cause.” But for many of us, this is a very real issue. Sure, I’ve used Facebook many a time to promote events I’ve organized, but certainly not as much as I’ve used it to just zone out.
You could even say I’m doing my own social experiment here—alternative activism, if you will. My own attempt at decolonizing. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time online, I’m trying to strengthen existing relationships, starting with my husband, whose patience with my “hobby” was wearing thin. I am trying to live in the moment and be focused on the things around me; things I actually have control over, like honing my literary ambitions and being a doting wife. I figure the people who really care about me will find a way to stay in touch and vice versa. So far it’s working out ok. Turns out, it was scarier to think about than actually doing.
Right around the time I was wavering on deactiving my Facebook account, some random person told me something so simple, yet so profound it stopped me cold in my UGG boot tracks: You are good at what you spend most of your time doing. Could I put “Social Networking Expert” on my resume? Not in my line of work. I knew then it was time to say sayonara.
Question: What do you spend most of your time doing? Are those activities conducive to your long-term goals? Are you experiencing any symptoms of social media or internet addiction and if so, will you do anything about it? The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of your life and make changes, if necessary. I think the Mayans were on to something when they predicted the dawning of a new era was upon us. How can we contribute to being the positive change we want to see in the world? Maybe we can start with more old-fashioned human interaction. I imagine our ancestors would surely approve.
Christina M. Castro (Jemez/Taos Pueblo) provides some much-needed female energy to the Thing About Skins fold. She is a writer, educator and community organizer. With degrees in English, Creative Writing and Education, she has worked with predominantly Native American students at schools throughout the Southwest. In 2008, she had the opportunity to work for Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change as a Field Organizer in the eight northern Pueblos of New Mexico. The invaluable experience and training she gained has only strengthened her resolve to continue her work for social change. She currently teaches English at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.