Disentangling Myself from the Internet

I’m lying in bed. Thoughts are running laps inside my head. Of course, I can’t sleep. I wonder if I should get up and write down what I’m thinking. Write the blog post that wants to be written.

But I don’t push back the blankets and head for my computer: It’s cold. Instead, I continue to write inside my head until, several hours before dawn, the thoughts crash into each other and fall in a tangled heap. I finally fall asleep.

And now, a few hours’ later, bleary-eyed, I’m trying to sort out those thoughts. Prod them one by one. Look them in the eye and deal with them.

The ring leader thought: How did I get so entangled in the web?

My daughter Gemma-Rose greets me with a smile and says, “What shall we do today, Mum?” Her smile fades. I hear it in her words: “Are you listening, Mum?” Not really. I’m thinking about all the things I need to do online.

We read. We watch. We discuss. We drink coffee. We write. We draw. We run. Time passes. Lunchtime arrives. Time to hop online.

But before I reach for my mouse, I look at Gemma-Rose. I really look at her. She’s beautiful. She’s thirteen. She’s growing up. My heart skips a beat. Where did the last few years go? Will the years to come disappear just as quickly? Will, one day, I look up from my computer to discover my youngest daughter has turned into an adult?

Suddenly, I want my life back. My offline life. The one the Internet is choking.

So I decide this is it. Time to delete everything. I’m going to close my computer. I’m running away. Take my family back. Live a quiet private life.

I ponder this for a while. Am I being a bit hasty? Do I need to go quite that far? What if I just loosen the Internet’s grip? Prise back a few of its fingers? Reduce its hold over me? Can I do that? Will that be enough? Perhaps I can make some changes but keep writing. Because, of course, writing is me. It’s what I do. Except I haven’t done much of it recently.

I have very little time for writing. Instead, I’m ‘keeping up’. Doing maintenance. Being social. Promoting my blog. But what if I forget about social media and just blog? For a start, I could delete my Facebook account.

Facebook. Friends. I’ve lost a few Facebook friends. When did that happen? I don’t really know. It took me a while to notice that a few people have quietly disengaged me from their lives. I suppose it was to be expected: I’m not a very good Facebook friend. I don’t post very often. I’m not much value. Why be friends with someone who always ignores the words: “Want to share an update, Sue?”?

I have come to the conclusion, there is a limit to the number of friends a person can have. Facebook tells me we can have 5,000 friends. I disagree. I’ve got less than 400 and I can’t keep up with everyone. Sad to say, most of them aren’t real friends. I’m not a real friend to them and they’re not real friends to me. Occasionally, we might bump into one another in the Facebook feed: “Hey, so lovely to connect with you!” But we don’t go looking for each other. Unless I see I’m a few friends down, and I think, “Who’s missing?” I might hop around trying to find out. Or more likely, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and not worry about it. Unfriending is normal. It’s what happens on Facebook.

Can we become obsessed by numbers? How many friends do you have? How many followers? How many likes? I’ve had quite a few new Facebook page likes recently.  Am I doing well? Do people like me? Am I successful? Perhaps I need those likes to make me feel good. No. I know I’m okay without them.

I can live without Facebook. I’m quite certain of that. But I’m still tempted to look back over my shoulder and think, “She just liked my page. I can’t suddenly disappear. That’s not very friendly. Perhaps I should keep posting.” Another thought: “My followers watch out for my notifications. They hop over from Facebook to read my blog. If I’m not there, will no one read my posts?”

“Hey, read my new post!” I jump up and down, wave my arms, and shout. I have to do this. It’s a competitive world out there. The digital noise is enormous. How will I break through it and capture people’s attention? How will I get them to read my blog?

Eventually, my shouts die away. I drop my arms. I sink onto the sofa and close my eyes. I’m too tired to worry about no one reading my blog. All I want is a simple life. Spend time with my family. Give them my full attention. Write in the leftover moments. And help, encourage and share ideas with anyone who happens to stumble this way.

I also want to sleep.

So after debating this for months, maybe years, I’m disappearing from Facebook. No more checking my app. No more counting: How many people did I reach? How many likes have I got? How many followers? No more comments. No more conversations. (I’m going to miss chatting.)

If you like my Facebook page, I’d like to thank you for your support. I’m going to miss my page. I’m going to miss you too. When you realise I’m no longer around, I do hope you’ll come looking for me. Or perhaps we’ll keep meeting up on my daughter Imogen’s Facebook page. I might join in with her Facebook Livestream videos, edit some photos for her, keep encouraging her with her music. Social media isn’t all bad. As long as it doesn’t take over our lives.


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything that’s going on online? Have you wanted to run away from all the digital noise and spend more time in your offline world? Perhaps you’ve deleted your Facebook account? Or do you thrive in the busy online world? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Comments

    • samantha
    • August 14, 2017
    Reply

    When I first joined FB I played a game that encouraged players to post on walls. I got a forever ban from FB for posting to much. I vowed not to re-join. And I was happy. There was a campaign online to get my account reinstated. After two weeks Facebook agreed and reopened my account. I was the last person to know. When I logged on I had over 1000 friends requests. I wanted to to delete my account, but it seemed ungrateful. So I accepted the requests and thanked everyone. Then a few months later I realised I had a newsfeed I couldn’t keep up with, and many people I did not know. Since then I have deleted my account several times – eventually I have decided FB can be useful, but it is better when used in moderation. Keep the bits of value to you and discard the rest.

    1. Reply

      Samantha,

      What an interesting Facebook story! 1,000 friend requests? Oh my, that must have been some game! “I wanted to delete my account, but it seemed ungrateful.” My story is very different from yours, but I also worry about seeming ungrateful. I haven’t been very active on my personal timeline and probably none of my FB friends will even notice I’m gone. However, I’ve been very busy on my FB blog page. And I’ve appreciated all the likes and interaction. Maybe I do seem ungrateful for everyone’s support.

      It sounds like you have found a good balance. Yes, use the bits of value and discard the rest. That’s excellent advice. I guess I can always make a new account if I ever decide I can handle FB.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Nancy Saffield
    • August 14, 2017
    Reply

    I will admit I am not on FB. But I’m happy right now. My military son and daughter in law still send me pics of our first grandchild. My sweet little Laila. Even though they pepper their FB with her pics. I am glad to be able to spend more one on one time with my unschooler Nathan. I feel what your feeling Sue. God bless you sweet lady Nancy

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      A beautiful granddaughter. What a blessing! I bet you love receiving all the latest photos of Laila. It’s lovely that you haven’t had to join FB so that you can see the photos. I joined so I could keep up with my adult children who’d left home. The only problem is that they rarely post anything on their timelines! We communicate better by text messages, emails and the phone.

      It’s so good to connect with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and say hello. May God bless you too!

  1. Reply

    Sue I hear you! I left FB for a while then joined again. Also Instagram.
    So far so good this time around, but I’ve become better at ignoring things I’m not interested in.
    I think if you are more successful like you, there is more pressure.
    Does this mean all your accounts, including a Unschooling Collaborators and Stories of an Unschooling Family?
    We can still chat in the comments here and by email.
    Hope this gives you some needed space, and more sleep!
    Well done for listening to yourself!
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Reply

      Jaq,

      I thought you’d understand! I go around in circles. I get overwhelmed. I back off. Things get better. I head back out into the thick of it again. I get overwhelmed again… I guess I’m just tired of the process. I want to move on.

      I’d like to delete everything on Facebook. I feel sad about the Unschooling Collaborators. That’s still a new venture and hasn’t run its course yet. I hope you don’t mind if we continue to email each other. I do love mulling things over with you, sharing thoughts and feelings and encouragement.

      “Well done for listening to yourself!” Thank you for those words. They help. Even now, I’m tempted to reverse my decision. But I know I need to do this. Yes, I’m listening!

    • WHIT
    • August 15, 2017
    Reply

    I commend you. I’ve been toying with the idea as well. It is unfortunate that this is the way family and friends feel the need to connect these days. But i am grateful for you sharing things here and will return to read. You have helped calm our anxiety about homeschooling high school so much!

    1. Reply

      Whit,

      Yes, FB has become a way of life. If we’re not there, we’re out of the loop. Fortunately, no one in my family is a big FB user. We do connect in other ways.

      I’m so glad you’ll continue to read my posts. And I appreciate your kind feedback very much. Thank you for stopping by!

    • Lori
    • August 15, 2017
    Reply

    You’re brave and smart. I have a Gemma Rose too. She’s 11.

    1. Reply

      Lori,

      I feel scared retreating from social media, but I think you’re right: it’s the smart thing to do. I’ve got to be brave! How lovely that you have a Gemma Rose too. Thank you for stopping by to let me know!

    • Denise H
    • August 15, 2017
    Reply

    I have regarded Facebook with a wary eye from day 1. It took a long time for me to join, and then only because I became a business owner. I started out accepting only friend requests from people I have met in person, but that soon whittled down through a second requirement: has to be someone I currently talk to outside of FB, too. I do have others, whom I found on purpose: relatives, new homeschool friends, some great people from blogs I frequent. I have 78 FB friends now and I post to each one’s wall once a month or more. Still, FB isn’t life. I’d rather write letters. No Kindle, here, I’d rather read a book. Quality over quantity.

    1. Reply

      Denise,

      It sounds like you’ve thought very carefully about how you use Facebook. In contrast, I just dived in and got myself into trouble. I have friends whose names I don’t recognise when they appear in my feed. I have no idea who certain people are because I’ve accepted requests and then we never introduced and got to know each other. Quality over quantity? You sound like a very real Facebook friend!

    • Luana
    • August 16, 2017
    Reply

    I must confess, I was afraid you would stopp blogging.. and I am very glad you are not! I am not on FB it seems so overwhelming to me, although there are so many good things there also.
    But I know the feeling you are describing from chats, where I was involved. It took away so much mental energy from me that I wasn`t even sad when I have stopped, I was just relived and I am still thankful that I didn`t look back. Yes, our children need us and yes, the time is so precious and we cannot keep it back.
    Enjoy your sweet Gemma Rose and your well earned good-night sleep! I love reading how you enjoy and cherish the time with your teenage children! Mine are younger and I get afraid of parenting teenagers sometimes. There seems to be so much negativity about it. So I appreciate your perspective very very much!

    Thank you for every word and take good good care of yourself.

    1. Reply

      Luana,

      “… time is so precious and we cannot keep it back.” That is so true! I was overwhelmed by that realisation the other day. Yes, chatting on Facebook and in other groups can be good, but nothing beats spending time with our children.

      Teenagers are delightful people! Please don’t feel afraid of parenting teenagers. Yes, there is a lot of negativity. It annoys me immensely. But it doesn’t have to be us against our teens. I’m so glad you find my stories helpful. I’m sure you’ll have similar stories to tell when your children reach the same age!

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I hope you and your family are happy and well!

    • Carolyn (Olyn Bee)
    • August 16, 2017
    Reply

    Sue, my main way of connecting with you and hearing from you is your blog and podcast. I’ve been trying to limit my time on FB, so didn’t follow you (or anyone) much on there. I notice that mostly what I get out of FB is stress. People’s posts about the Trump administration, racism, violence, hate… fake news or real news, it’s all stressful… I want to be in control of my exposure to news, especially such depressing news, and form my own opinions, not be berated by it all.

    I’m looking forward to more podcasts and blogs! 🙂

    1. Reply

      Carolyn,

      I’m so glad you follow my blog and podcast and won’t miss my notifications on FB. We can also connect via email. I’m hoping you’ll write another guest post!

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