Saturday, September 17, 2016

I quit Facebook

After nine years, I finally gave up on the Facebook. It wasn't a rash decision. I didn't have a fight and run. I'm not hiding from some personal drama. What I know is this, Facebook became a cesspool for me. Perhaps because I work at an agricultural biotech company and also love politics, my newsfeed was overloaded with piss and vinegar. I would be hard pressed to come up with two other areas where the discourse rarely rises out of petty name-calling and sewer-like "dialog." With each passing day, I would refresh my newsfeed and feel more and more overwhelmed. More and more I found myself looking at Facebook and asking myself, what the hell is the point?

A little over two weeks ago, I deactivated my account. "Do you really want to deactivate your account? Perhaps you should just logoff instead." No, I really want to do this. I clicked yes, and just like that my existence on Facebook became more nebulous. I consciously did not delete my account. Much of my life over the last several years is documented there and I don't want to let that all go - too many photos, my kids growing up, the break up of my marriage if you pay close enough attention, and the blossoming and maturing of my life and outlook over the last couple of years. I decided to leave all of that in its digital box, tightly sealed up until a time where I can open it up without the burden of feeling overwhelmed by the ugliness of the world. I also removed further temptation by deleting its app from my phone.

I suppose my post-Facebook experience was not unlike withdrawals from any other kind of addiction. Let's face it, Facebook was my digital crack. I know the chemistry in my brain was reacting to every "like" or notification or comment just like any other reward system. The first day I found myself picking up my phone and scrolling only to come up empty. I wondered what my friends were saying. I clicked on the bookmark only to get a logon screen, which, if activated would reactivate my account and plunge me right back in. Perhaps the hardest was that weekend. We went to visit my daughter who has just moved away for college.  When I travel, I take many photos of my trip and post them all on Facebook in their own little neat album. This trip was no different, except I had nowhere to share the photos. No place where the rest of my family could see my daughter in her new city. So I left them on my phone.

But coming back home, I did not feel I was missing out on anything by not seeing the world through the lens of Facebook. I followed news via Twitter, which I find less depressing than Facebook. I found that I had more time to live in the world that surrounds me, not the digital world. I read more, books for pleasure, and technical literature in my field. I took up painting and have finished my first two small works, both scenes from my trip to Paris last fall with SK. Last weekend I went to visit SK in NYC. As usual, I took photos around the city, capturing the off the path scenes of life that are new to a Texas boy. I did catch myself thinking a few times that it would be cool to share them, but I did not fret about it. In fact, I have found that this week I have not fretted about social media at all. I have felt a calm about things and have discovered a clearer head with which to think about the world around me, the life I lead and the life I desire.

I do miss things about Facebook. I live apart from all of my family. Facebook was a place that allowed us to connect and to keep up with our lives apart. Given that I overshared, they probably miss more than I. I miss the happenings of a few of my closest friends. I know I am missing some cool links to interesting things in the corners of the internet that I no longer frequent. But I am also finding better ways to connect with those closest to me, ways that seem more intimate and healthier than wading through the noise of social media. I am sure that at some point I will reactivate my account and probably filter everything to a more manageable level. But for now, this is good. This is right.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Entropy Monday - transitions edition

Yesterday my boy played in his 3rd all-star game in 4 years. This year he won the skills competition for the fastest runner. This was his finest season to date in his young baseball career.  Last year was probably his greatest improvement as a baseball player, he actually became a baseball player - focused, a student of how to play the game. This year he really worked on becoming a better player. We bought him a hitting net and he hit at least 100 pitches off a tee almost every day during the season. It paid off with a .815 batting average over the season - likely a 400 point improvement over last season (he didn't keep his stats last season, another change this year). His immediate goal is to make the high school team next spring. Longer term, he wants to play in college and perhaps the MLB. Lofty goals, but he knows hard work will pay off now.

My daughter leaves for college in a couple of weeks. She joins the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University. She has become such a talented performer the last 5 years. Getting into the CoPA is as hard as getting an NIH grant these days. She has dreams of making it to NYC and Broadway and PPU has an excellent reputation in getting their students there. I know she's going to be great. I don't know exactly how I am going to feel about her being gone. The past year because of all of her school and work activities, I have not seen much of her. And yet, her presence is still felt even when we only see her for a few minutes in a day. I guess I haven't thought much about it until now. The times goes by so damned fast.

I have fallen in love with NYC. Five years ago I would find uttering those words unfathomable.  My first visit to see SK, she took me to many of the tourist sites - Empire State, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park - and they were cool. But most visits since, I have gone to see her and not "visit the city." Of course we have seen the city, but the side of the city that's out of the way. I see the NYC that a resident sees - the neighborhoods, the events, the crowded subway. Granted, I am there "on vacation" but still I feel like I am getting an authentic experience and frankly, I love it. I could see myself living there at some point. As SK points out, it's great if you're rich and you can throw money back at all the problems the city sends your way. I highly doubt that will ever be my circumstance. But NYC, you're on my radar.

That's probably enough randomness for one day. I'm off to read a paper on the van der Waals interactions that determine the unique properties of water.