When someone asks me what I gave up for Lent, I tell them I gave up Facebook. I am over the withdrawal of walking away from the most popular social networking site ever. I no longer automatically type Fac....after checking my email waiting for my computer to automatically fill in the ....ebook for me. I don’t miss the random, meaningless updates from people that are not part of my immediate life. How is knowing that Sally is going grocery shopping going to impact my life? I most certainly do not miss the controversy that seems to just ooze from certain topics and certain people. I think that the topics which we grew up learning that are not good for social debate: religion, politics, and I would add homeschooling, should likewise not be debated on Facebook. We spend so much time teaching our children not to type what they would not say in person, but do we follow our own guidelines? Do we use Facebook to bully others into agreeing with our viewpoints? I have been caught up in those types of debates. I have been left with a pit in my stomach knowing that I have strayed from how I want to live my life. The last time this happened, the idea popped into my head to just walk away and I did.
However, there are things about Facebook that I miss. I miss the thought provoking articles that get posted by my friends. I have found valuable information on nutrition, education, and other topics that I am interested in. Videos that help me shape my viewpoints, like some from the TED talks, would not have been viewed had I not been tagged or included through my “friends”. I miss the apps site that clued me in to the best educational apps for my daughters to use on their itouch or the ipad. The thing that I miss the most is the networking that I did to enhance my daughter’s education.
All the museums, nature centers, and businesses that we enjoy, such as hiking at the Audubon, Lilah’s cooking classes, Creative Arts Workshop, Neighborhood Music School, Hands on Pottery, and more, all have Facebook sites. It is through those sites that I learned about the amazing winter survival hike we took this winter. It is how I found about about free Friday concerts at Grace’s music school in New Haven. The effort to do this on my own is substantial. Facebook condenses all the places in which we find pleasure, enrichment, and education.
Blogging is not really a solitary activity. I blog for many reasons but mostly because I find enjoyment in discussing our life and the way we have chose to live it with others who are making similar choices. Through reading blogs of families who have been homeschooling for years, or making healthy living choices like we are, or raising children with strong passions like I am, I have learned many things. I have found incredible curriculum, like the online quizzes my girls take for history and the online class they took last week. We have discovered new authors and read fascinating books. I have been inspired to help others more often. All my favorite bloggers have Facebook sites that alert me to new blog posts and other things that I may or may not want to explore at a later date. I had a Facebook site as well. It was not hugely popular by any means. Yet, when I cancelled my account my daily readership decreased by half. I am not blogging to sell advertising and my numbers don’t drive how I blog, but I wonder how many missed opportunities I had to connect with other homeschooling families thus further enhancing our family’s experience.
As Easter approaches and the Lenten season ends, I am contemplating a return to Facebook. Like before, I will not seek to have 400 friends, or post any mundane details of my ordinary life.... If I return I pledge to myself never to become sucked into the negative side of Facebook. I know that I can walk away and return when the conversation has either died down or switched to something positive. Because I did not suspend my account, but deleted it entirely, I will have to rebuild, inviting those who I wish to converse with and share part of my life with. I am not convinced that a return to Facebook is in my future, but I have learned over the past month that we are living in a Facebook age. There is no denying the impact that it has in our daily lives. I don’t think it is going anywhere, unless a newer, cooler, site comes along and bumps it aside. But even then, we will, like lemmings, move aside with it, continuing to adapt to the ever growing technological age in which we live and in which our children are immersed.
Don’t be surprised it you find a friend request from me. I do not consider this Facebook-free trial a failure. Anyone can be Facebook-free. One click is all it takes. But then there are hundreds more clicks that must be done to do the work that Facebook does for you. This has been an interesting time of reflection and personal growth. If/when I choose to return I will do it in a different way, carefully choosing what I share and what I keep private, carefully choosing which posts I will reply to and which I will stay silent on.
My children have learned a valuable lesson as well. They have watched me walk away from something that tempts them. Their friends have accounts. They have asked and have been denied accounts. Their childhood is so different from mine. We can try to keep life simple but there is no denying that they are growing up in a world that is more connected, faster, and in some ways safer, but in others, more dangerous. Cool is not having the latest phone (they have watched me wait for well over a year for an iphone), or the most apps, or the newest ipad, or the most updated laptop, or the most friends on Facebook. When they are 13, they will ask again and we will have to make the parental decision to allow it or not.
I will continue to reflect on this and eventually come to a decision on whether or not to create a new account. I know which way I am leaning........