I scrolled through my Facebook news feed this evening for the first time in over a week. I wasn’t away due to a purposeful boycott, nor a New Year’s resolution, we have simply had rainy yucky weather, and out here in the country that means bad internet service. I have not the patience for sitting and waiting on a page to load… either it happens or it doesn’t and I find something else to do with myself.

So tonight, after a long day earning my dollar, making sure my animals and husband had good food to eat, after tending the chores and stoking the fire, I decided to see if the satellite gods would allow me a few minutes to just sit and look and scroll and peace out. And voila! I got in, and there was the familiar blue and white of my old friend Facebook.

I don’t know what other people’s feeds look like, but mine includes a pretty equal balance of close friends, family, not-so-close friends and reputable news platforms, non-profit groups, and conservation-based pages… of course there’s also some farmy/homesteady stuff as well as some literary, music and art thrown in for seasoning. I’m sure yours is tailored in a similar fashion to suit your interests.

After being “away” for a week I realized that I am certainly out of the loop. I’m behind on current events, weather reports, cute kid photos and political propaganda. I’ve also inadvertently kept other folks out of my loop – no one knows what I’ve had for dinner, what my awesome new boy boots look like or where my husband and I went for our traditional “3rd Tuesday Date Day”. I’ve slipped right off the Facebook radar. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not knocking the Facebook. After all, when I have access to it I love hearing updates from my friends, reading articles about the things I’m interested in and sharing things that have caught my attention as well. But it was interesting to me to realize the things I do when I don’t spend time every day scrolling and reading and seeing what the world is up to.

Because I’m a freelancer, I’m on my “confuser” a lot when I’m working on a project. So Facebook is usually open in a separate window in case I want a breather from researching an article or designing an infographic. I very rarely just sit down to give Facebook my exclusive time, I’m most often checking it out in between the other things I’m doing – but I’m checking it out nonetheless.

And I ain’t gonna lie, I have certainly felt the disconnect with it being off limits this week. This past year we were off the internet grid, so I essentially went 6 months without that connection, and I missed it then too. However, I will say, that although I missed being involved in that community, it was an eye-opener being away this past year, and again this past week.

If there is no internet connection, I do things differently. I spend more time in my chicken coop or my garden spot, I give more attention to my dogs and cats… and maybe even my husband too! I seem to have a cleaner house, more interesting recipes are happening in my kitchen, I’m reading more books, working on art projects or hand crafts, and I am enjoying the sunrise or the sunset from my porch, instead of through a pane of glass.

I have also noticed that when I’m able to step away my mind isn’t as cluttered. I feel more peaceful and less in a hurry when I’m not reading 6 articles in 15 minutes while simultaneously processing where my friends are, what they’re doing, what politician I need to vote out of office, what corporations need to get out of my politics, what smoothie will make me live 50 years longer, what I need to be cooking, reading, wearing, driving or buying… Yeah, way more peace and quiet in a mind when all of that info isn’t being thrown at it to digest in the span of a few scrolling minutes.

I have a similar relationship with television. My husband and I haven’t had television in our house for over ten years. We have a TV set so we can watch movies (once or twice a week) but there have never been any HBOs or Cinemaxes or ESPNs invited into it this past decade.

People always ask us how we live without a television. My answer is that “we LIVE”. We do things. I always wonder how people “live” if there is a television in their house! When do they do projects, or play games, or take walks or drives through the country? When do they read or write or draw or paint? When do they listen to music, sing out loud or slow dance in the living room? When do they catch the full moon rising or listen to the owls and coyotes calling? When do they have time to kick ass in a heated game of chess?

Now again, I’m not persecuting the television or the watchers thereof. And to be completely honest, when my husband and I find ourselves in a hotel or at a relative’s house, we both get a big kick out of flipping through channels and seeing what the world is about these days. But I still don’t want to own any TV channels. They would simply steal time away from the other things I love doing.

And I have learned this week that I don’t want to find myself giving too much time to scrolling my newsfeed… which is kinda funny since I’m a freelance writer and the co-founder of a non-profit organization! I certainly need the social media platform to help grow the non-profit, to help my articles get the viewership I’d like them to have, and to keep me posted on how my friends and family are doing when we all live so far apart. I mean, I’ve also provided social media administration on a professional level as part of my freelance portfolio… I am definitely not here to rave against public internet platforms.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to be sure that I keep it in check. And I guess that’s why I’ve found myself sitting here tonight writing down this thought process… to encourage everyone to take a look at their screen time. If it’s taking away from things you love doing, things you ‘used to do’, then by all means, audit your usage and dial it down a notch if you think you should.

Or at the very least, how ‘bout we try to be sure we’re using our screen time in a constructive way. Let’s learn things while we’re floating around in the World Wide Web. We’re smack-dab in the middle of this amazing age of information and it’s sitting right there under our fingertips. If we’re spending two hours a day online (which, by the way, would equal 14 hours a week, 56 hours a month and 672 hours a year!) I really hate to think that all we’re learning in that timeframe is what the bathrooms of our not-so-close friends look like as they show us their “sexy” faces in the mirror with their iPhones.

I have also noticed, as I’m sure you have, that there are a great many people living their life for their Facebook page. Too many selfies and not enough idea or information sharing. Too many people sharing private information as well. I mean, if we haven’t enjoyed a meal together in the last 15 years, I really don’t need to know the details of your messy divorce or what pharmaceuticals you’re on for your anxiety issues.

If you wouldn’t provide that information to strangers at the Wal-Mart, then let’s please not share on the public online forum that we all enjoy. In my opinion, the public is a place to share joyful things, inspiring things, thought-provoking things, and even controversial things… but definitely not private things.

The internet, and especially Facebook, is an extraordinary tool. A meeting place, a learning place, a sharing place… kind of like the city park. It’s a great place to hang out, chill, play a little and visit a little. But it’s not an appropriate place to move into lock-stock-and-barrel and definitely not the place to hang out our dirty laundry. And as much as we all love the park, and Facebook too, we probably shouldn’t visit every single day of our lives, for hours and hours at a time, to the complete disregard of other way-cool things we could be doing.

It’s no different than eating cookies. I love cookies. Especially cream-cheese-cake-mix-chocolate-chip-peanut-butter cookies. And I COULD eat them every single day because I’m a grownup and I own a very comfy kitchen, I do the grocery shopping and I know the ingredients. But it wouldn’t be very healthy for my body if I did that. I have to be responsible enough to make sure that those delicious cookies are only an occasional treat, not a whole meal or, God forbid, a whole way of life. I can’t be just munching the cookies every time my tummy growls. Sometimes I have to eat broccoli or shrimp or potatoes. Not just the cookies.

So, does this little rant mean you won’t be seeing me on Facebook? Naw, I’m sure after this is published I’ll pop right in and post it. And I’m also sure I’ll scroll down for a few minutes to see what you all are up to while I’m there! I’m just going to be monitoring my less productive time online a little better. I’m going to step away and read more, art more, play more… and yes, probably make more cookies too! And I really do hope all of y’all will consider doing the same. Life is only once, it’s for living and learning and growing… and man, none of us can afford to miss a minute of that good stuff!