January is right around the corner and with that comes resolutions. Typically, I am not one to make or publicize resolutions. I don’t ever really think too much about them. But this year feels differently to me. I’m feeling the need to shake things up, my friends, because what has worked in the past doesn’t seem to be working quite as well anymore.
With the Internet and social media, the space where I have spent a lot of time in the past five years (a lot of time), things are also different. The tone is meaner, harsher, less friendly. Politics and cancer dominate my feeds, as well as my friends’ anxieties about said politics and cancer.
Sometimes I stop and think about the need to separate my own fears and anxieties from those of folks in my orbit. Then I question if that in itself is a harsh act, to not be as open and responsive to those around me in their fears and worries as I possibly can.
What I have learned about myself is that that openness comes at a cost. I absorb the fears and anxieties of others, only adding to my own. A sense of responsibility grows deep within me, then guilt for not being able to help, to solve, to soothe. Those things are in my nature and I made a career out of them as a social worker.
Not being able to help, to solve, to soothe the aches and worries of my friends has contributed to a growing sense of helplessness in me. When I think about that, I just want to wrap myself in a big hug, as I realize that I have been consciously and unconsciously working to solve politics and cancer, feeling personally responsible for those things. That need to fix things that are clearly out of my purview is as real as it is ridiculous.
And this is not on my friends in the least. Certainly they don’t expect these things from me. That would be preposterous. My sense of guilt and responsibility is my own twisted need. As a social worker, I knew and understood my limitations. I had a sense of what was possible and what was not and didn’t blame myself when not all things worked out as hoped for. I also clocked out at the end of the day. I took vacations and had days off throughout the year.
But on Facebook, with the constant stream of new diagnoses, new relapses, deaths of so many children, growing fear, growing concerns about our environment, our rights, our bodies, our safety, I cry uncle. It feels too much for me on many days, contributing to a sense of doom and dread and feeling paralyzed in a hundred different ways. I have always believed that to know one’s limitations is a strength, not a weakness. I think I have stumbled across a big one for me that I have been trying to ignore for too long.
The thing is, I have loved Facebook. Truly loved it. The connection, the joy, the humor, the news, the information, the exchange of ideas, the dialogue. I have benefited from it in too many ways to count. The sharing of my daughter’s cancer story on Facebook changed my life, introducing me to a staggering amount of kindness and good will from people across the world. The good things that have come my way because of Facebook will never be duplicated and I will never be able to fully repay them.
That in itself, feeling the need to repay all that has been given to me via Facebook, is another reason I haven’t changed my habits. As if there is some magical abacus in the sky that tallies the good I generate versus the good which I have received. Uncle again — it’s too much for me. Hence, the resolution.
Moving forward, I resolve to engage in less Facebook and more book, more face. It’s a clever little experiment I have crafted for my resolution, but a wee little voice in my head is telling me it’s what I need. More books, more reading, more quiet time with myself and my thoughts. And more face, more personal connection, more actual time with actual people. I am hoping to substitute a thumb swiping with a page turning. I am hoping to look into people’s eyes instead of their photos.
I am scared that I will fail. That my diminishing attention span and need for instant connection and validation will outweigh my ability to look in instead of out. I still want to try.
I am addicted, of course, so I know better than to think I can quit completely. Nor would I want to. There is still so much good to absorb. For every nasty exchange and mean meme and fake news story, there are so many opportunities to send out a virtual thumbs up, watch the growth of kids and sweet nature of puppies, type out the signature ‘xox’ that I am wont to do.
For now, at least, I am going to try and slow the constant need to scroll my screens. I am going to try and rediscover fiction and the truth in words someone else has written. Maybe even write some of those words myself. I am going to try and care for my health, mental and physical, in more tangible ways than logging into my social media accounts.
Wish me luck.