journaling in the pandemic

“I hope you’ll write about it,” I say to my 16 and my 10 year old, “we’re living through what will become Big History.” Will I write about it, too? I haven’t been. Not really. Then I remembered I have this blog and I almost never use it. I’ve turned off “share this all over the Internet” and think I’m going to keep some journal-type thoughts here.

At the moment, we are in my parents’ summer place up in the mountains of Maine. We’re here just for a few days. We brought all the food we’ll need; we won’t visit any stores while we are here. (We’re a good 10 miles from any stores anyway.) If any of us start showing symptoms, we’ll go back to Portland (not take up space in the rural hospital). Everything is covered with snow, though it reach 50 degrees today. It’s strange being here off-season; I’m usually here to plant, tend, or harvest the garden.

In a minute I’m going to back-date some posts of photos I took since we began sheltering in place. I’ve been sheltering in place since the beginning of March when I was sick (with a fever, chest cold, and sinus infection) and didn’t want to be out and about spreading my germs.

This won’t be written carefully (draft, edit, review, re-work, etc. high-quality writing). It’ll be mostly stream-of-consciousness. Whatever’s on my mind at the moment. Written for me, but written here in public because my old process of posting on my blog feels comforting.

driving and walking

sometimes we just get into the car and drive around, listening to the “quarantine playlist” we’ve been curating. each of us picks songs we want on the playlist and we expect we’ll have memories associated with the songs in the future. little tiny mini road trips.

on one walk around Jewell Falls, we were very careful about stepping aside to let people pass with more than six feet of distance. at one point, a couple cyclists were going to pass us but there was no way for us to get out of the way. I sort of jokingly gestured at putting my hand over my mouth and nose (honestly, I thought they might get out of the way since they had the option?). they passed by us and the guy turned back, nearly stopping his bike, and angrily said, “why did you do that? why are you doing that?!?” and I said, “the virus?” I realized then that being “the bad guy” when it comes to physical distancing isn’t as simple as it seems.

looking over Jewell Falls on March 23, 2020

I’m grateful my daughters like each other (and me!) most of the time, and that they are kind to each other more often than they are jerky. I don’t take it for granted.

With no claims of moral purity, I’m quitting Facebook

Perhaps quitting Facebook will begin a cascade of new choices that leads me in the direction of living my intended values. Perhaps. That is to say, quitting Facebook feels like the ethically and morally right choice for me but I’m not on any high horse. I use Amazon Prime way too much, for example, and am not ready to look at quitting that (yet).

Why am I quitting Facebook? Here are some of my reasons:

Greed. I believe greed is at the root of all evil. The desire to have more more more more more, is what drives Facebook. What started out as a simple (disgusting) little application was then fed by the poison of selfish capitalist greed. Facebook will never be a part of the way of life I aspire to: “just enough, and not too much.”

Addiction. I don’t even *enjoy* using Facebook for the most part, but I keep doing it. I don’t consider myself an active user, despite checking it many (many!) times each day because I know others who use it even more. But I do use it a lot, so many “just checking” visits. Ugh! This compulsive behavior leads me off a spiritually-centered path.

Control. It drives me bananas that the site determines whose posts I will or won’t see. As its algorithms try to “customize my experience” (vomit!) I suddenly get lots of posts by one person or another, typically folks I don’t know all that well. It’s super-frustrating. Yes, I could create lists or whatever, to see just the people I’d like to see, but I’d rather see *everyone’s* stuff as they post it without having to spend time manually customizing.

Ads. Ugh, again. Sponsored posts and other ads. Even with ad-blockers, that garbage comes through. Sometimes I have more sponsored posts than posts from friends.

Fear. It makes me angry that when I considered quitting Facebook, I felt afraid. I felt like my business might suffer, that I’d miss out on important socio-cultural events, that “these days we ‘have to’ have a presence on Facebook.” Because my business survived and thrived before Facebook, I know it’s a lie that I need it now. The truth is, I get new clients via word of mouth, not from Facebook.

Surveillance Capitalism. This is where I know that quitting Facebook won’t solve the problem, but it is part of why I’m quitting. I heard an interview with Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” and her argument that our personal information is a new commodity. As she says, rivers and meadows were turned into “real estate” and our personal information is now a commodity being bought, sold, and traded. I’m currently in too deep (see my mention above of using Amazon Prime), so I’m not free of this. It simply feels like deleting Facebook will be a step in the right direction.

I will miss the people. I will miss the former high school classmates who I got to know through Facebook better than I knew them back then. I will miss seeing people’s children on the first day of school, and sharing photos of my own. There’s quite a bit of good in the people who are using Facebook, for sure. I’ve been gathering snail-mail addresses from as many people as I can so after I delete I will at least be able to exchange annual updates with folks.

I certainly understand there are many compelling and understandable reasons to keep Facebook. I’m not shaming people who keep using it. I’m just letting you know why I’m quitting, how I already feel lighter just imagining being done with it, and that the costs don’t outweigh the benefits for me.