Having returned to Toronto, it’d be all too easy to post a diary style update of my first day back. Hell, it worked for most of the trip. Instead I want to spend some time thinking about one of the biggest (currently) lasting changes of my holiday. I made a decision early on that if I was gonna be back home in New Zealand I wanted to really be there. Presence and all that. I wanted to ensure that spending time meant getting the most out of my journey. To leave most of Toronto where it was and focus while I could on those in my proximity. A side effect of this was dropping Facebook.
It started as less of a decision and more as a matter of pragmatism.. I’d always been a heavy user. At work my phone sat in front of me, so any flashing notifications would cause me to reflexively pick it up and log on. Checking one notification could mean losing anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Often multiple times per hour without thinking about it. This was fine while I had Wi-Fi or unlimited data, neither being constantly within reach on vacation. When I visited London back in November, I switched off all Facebook notifications, opting for direct Messenger notes only. I was on holiday anyway, it’s not like I wanted to be constantly logged in while a new city stood around me. It worked, and I had a great time looking in the spirit of the late Kim Jong-Il. When I returned to Toronto, I kept notifications off. It helped more than I thought. I was still an active Facebooknik, but it was less intrusive, more on my terms.
A few days after arriving back home, I opted in for logging out. I spent more time with people or out and about. Most of my (reduced) online time was spent pouring over new Magic the Gathering spoilers. It was noteworthy how little I missed it. As I noted recently, it started having a real effect on me. I was more present, yes, but I also felt better in general. No small part of that could be attributed to being on holiday. I mean, geez, spending time with my closest friends, seeing the country and gorging on all the rich food NZ had to offer. It’s not like I was in any danger of feeling shit anyway. More than that, though, avoiding Facebook lifted a burden I was unaware to be shouldering. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my News Feed a lot. I love absorbing the general wittiness of my friends and clicking dumb links. People share a shit ton of interesting or thought provoking articles.
People also share a lot of themselves, which isn’t inherently a big deal. If I didn’t like these people and want to know more about them, why would I have them as friends? The other side of this is that a lot of people I know have a lot of feelings. Yet again, I want to know when my friends are doing well. I also want to know when they’re having a hard time so I can either help or understand better how to be considerate of them. There are a lot of people in my feed and a lot of these people have a lot of feelings. It’s great that people feel safe enough to share. That’s something special.
The other side of this is a form of mass emotional shift similar to hysteria (which I hope I can say without belittling or minimising the relevance of these feelings). It may be a cognitive bias of sorts, but it feels like bad news is shared a ton more than its positive counterpart. The more that people share these stories and air their grievances (once again, better to be talking about these things than not), the more opaque things seem. If negativity is everywhere, it feeds into itself. The dying few months of 2016 held an unprecedented pervasive despair online that didn’t quite match up to its offline counterpart. As “Fuck 2016” gained meme status, people gave it more and more credence until everything was 2016’s fault à la The Fat Boy. It’s a lot for anyone to take in. Seeing these sentiments amplified and magnified, day in day out, hour after hour was tough to bear.
While on holiday, I knew that Trump was gonna cause a lot of anxiety for many people. With good reason, too. A lot of very valid fears, instability in the air. Self-care being one of 2016’s big buzz words, I thought it best to keep my distance from repeated sharing of awful news, hurt feelings and inner pain. I’m sure the time offline helped more than it hindered my experiences.
Returning home to Toronto, I’m conflicted. I feel better having moved away from the deluge of emotions Facebook pushes my way. At the same time, I’m loathe to admit that it’s the core of my social existence. It’s how I communicate with the multitudes of friends I’m often too busy to meet in person. It’s how I get the invitations to spend time with those who I am lucky enough to see. It’s how I’m kept abreast of what’s going on not only in Toronto, but in the wider world. Hell, it’s where I created a group to organise Magic games on the fly. It’s even where I promote the Pawdcast (aside from here. That was pretty sneaky, right?). If I don’t go back to Facebook, will I lose touch with a ton of people? I love these friends and having constant contact and online engagement is a big part of my life. That’s a big cost to pay for emotional stability.
As it stands, there are pros and cons in each camp. One day in, I haven’t checked in. I might see if I can last the week and chart how I feel on the other side. I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck, but damn if I don’t have enough unpacking, shopping and washing to do for the moment. Maybe I should get my life in order before prying into anyone else’s.