This is the 9th evening of this month of digital disconnect (limited) from my personal Facebook page.
In getting to our parish Facebook pages to get necessary stuff done, I sometimes see a bit of the top of my own page. I have not been tempted to look further, nor to linger. What I have experienced is the desire to do what I usually do in my use of FB. When I have taken a photo that I want to share, or when I see a quote or an article or a video that I think has a positive message, there is a moment when I think: I want to share this with folks on FB now. But I have been able each time to let go of that. It is interesting to note and track the impulse though. It remains, and it doesn’t feel to me like a negative thing.
Perhaps more important are experiences and feelings in me that are not directly connected with whether I am putting stuff on FB or reading what other people put there right now. I am talking now about the ways in which life feels different since (though I am not ready to say there is a direct connection between this felt change and not using FB).
How can I describe it?
For some time, since about 3 months into the pandemic, I have been aware of a constant and abiding anxiety in me. It is there all the time. When I am content, when I am not; when I am alone, when I am with others; when I am actively engaged in activity; when I am at rest. That awareness has deepened here in June. So it well may be (after all) that social media can provide a kind of ‘distraction’ away from things inward which one (this one!) would be better off attending to, rather than avoiding.
A linked realization is this. When I was first ordained (38 years ago this Friday OMG) I was living in a rectory with 3 and 4 other priests at a time. Of course you got along better with some than with others. Sometimes they would drive you crazy. Sometimes they would delight you. But even when they drove you crazy, if I can put it this way – they drove you. There was a connection. There was a social reality. There was a human presence that moved you and shaped you and challenged you.
Now there are almost no rectories anywhere that have that number of priests living together in the Roman Catholic Church, unless it is a residence for a number involved in a variety of ministries and living in one place for community’s sake.
For community’s sake is an important phrase there. I have always known myself to be an introvert, that is still true. But the experience of isolation through the pandemic has been damaging. Even for an introvert. Living alone historically in my life never bothered me. Now and of late, however, to use the vernacular, living alone sucks. I hate it. People need to share life with people.
So this time off FB begins to open up firmer and deeper realization of important realities, of things that are challenging and difficult and place important questions along the path. To not be able to evade those questions is ultimately a positive thing. In fact, it’s a positive thing right now, even if not easy to bear.
So it well may be (after all) that social media can provide a kind of ‘distraction’ away from things inward which one (this one!) would be better off attending to, rather than avoiding.