On forging a healthier relationship with screen-based diversions
It was not love at first sight.
No, when I first met Facebook, I was unimpressed by such things. Friendster and My Space had done little to contribute to my daily experience of the world and while I had a token page on each, I rather neglected them. I was in college and living on campus, so going and finding the face I wanted to see in person made a heckuva lot more sense than hearing what a photo had had for lunch. I called the lot of them “Face Spacesters,” shrugged, and went out to play Ultimate.
I transferred schools and warmed toward Facebook only marginally. Oh, it was a nice way to maintain a database of acquaintances, since people cycled through email addresses more often in those days, but email and phone were far superior; I’ve always been a novel-over-sentence-fragment kind of a gal.
All in all, Facebook and I had a genial casual relationship… until about four and a half years ago when I became pregnant shortly after Thor and I launched ourselves across the country from the Bay State to the Bay Area without so much as a job between us and only a handful of friends and family in the area, none of whom were procreating. I needed a mama tribe, and I needed one fast. Enter Facebook.
The pregnancy and parenting pages I found led me from the OB’s office to the birth center, from vague leanings like, “I’d like to cloth diaper,” or “I want to breastfeed,” to the arsenal of information needed to achieve such things in this culture. Always an avid reader, while pregnant I devoured book after article after blog, almost too much, and following real discussions on Facebook provided the ballast I needed to begin to organize my scattered thoughts into a fledgling parental philosophy. And at the birth center I hit jackpot: a real live mama tribe. They were on Facebook, too, not just as individuals but also as a group.
For awhile it was a blessing. My Owlet arrived and I was pinned to the chair for huge stretches of time nursing, followed by the lethargy of a second pregnancy and then more of the same while nursing Platypup. Facebook was happy to keep me sane and sated, taking the edge off my thirst for community.
Gradually nursing sessions became briefer and less frequent, yet my usage did not. And while I endeavored to update from pregnancy and birth pages to toddler and bigger kid pages, overall I was emerging from Facebook’s clutches dazed and drained rather than connected and refreshed.
But this is not science fiction. I control the iPad, not the other way around. Changes were needed, and changes I eventually made.
I began by whittling down the multitudes I was following to the ones that made me happy, challenged my thinking, educated me in various ways, or were simply people close to my heart. I added a few new ones and unfriended, unliked, or simply hid a whole bunch. I made sure to have notifications set up tracking my nearest and dearest and then challenged myself not to bother getting “caught up” every day.
It was better, but still not enough. I no longer felt like my life was being vacuumed up by the Facebook monster but I needed something to fill those many awkwardly empty minutes in a parent’s life, the times when you should be doing laundry but the kids are peacefully entertaining themselves for a moment and you’re looking for a way to properly enjoy it. Blogging would fit the bill except it generally requires sustained attention and therefore must vie for time with the other leisure activities relegated to evenings or spouse-sanctioned time outs.
Then, in a stroke of genius, I put Duolingo, an amazing free language-learning app, in the same folder as Facebook, WordPress, Kindle, and the various apps I use for work. Suddenly my automatic Facebook checking had an extra step, and one in which I was consistently confronted with healthier pursuits.
I began to cast around for other life-enriching apps to fill my folder and box Facebook back into a more respectable portion of my electronic life. One of my favorites is Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice by Cheri Huber, an app which presents you with a nugget for contemplation each day.
Another I am fond of is Ninja Fitness, an amusing way to make sure you are balancing different kinds of exercise. Sometimes I do the workouts outlined in each section (strength, agility, endurance, and zen) but sometimes I use it as a logbook for my own workouts in each category. For example, they specify intervals to walk vs. run, and I am more inclined to just go run unless I’ve got both kids, in which case I have successfully done the walk-run thing in our backyard with a giggling entourage in tow. The zen section is kind of goofy so mostly I just do yoga on my own. Call me crazy but I kind of like that “logging it in” really means just starting the workout and letting it run its course, during which time I cannot use the iPad to do anything else.
I enjoy the thought process a good tarot reading gives, and The Tarot Sampler is a great way to try a bunch of decks out for free to find the one you like best. It works just fine as a deck in and of itself, but I think I will eventually get sick of seeing the one I don’t like very well pop up.
I’m on the lookout for a yoga app and a meditation app, so if you have one to recommend, I’d love to hear about it! I’ve tried a few free ones but am not crazy about any so far, though one guided meditation app, Breathe, is one I would highly recommend for beginners or kids.
It is difficult to overstate the value in taking a step back from Facebook. If any of this resonates with you, the blogger Hands Free Mama (who ironically can be followed via FB) is a great place to begin.