Breaking Point

I hope it’s fair to say that I’ve never used this blog as an outright rant before. I’ve posted food reviews, my adventures in publishing and writing, popular culture analysis, critiques of American culture, trans and queer civil rights, general progressive stuff, funny family stories, and promotion for my own work. And while I try to look at things with a critical eye, I actively try to write, even when from direct experience, with an eye toward connecting with other people. I know I’m not an island, and my experiences are not unique (although some of them are certainly uncommon). When I’m feeling particularly pressured or overwhelmed I try to do my processing offline, whatever privacy is afforded me who spends so much time either online or in a small town where everybody knows everybody else.

But I am going to break from whatever form I’ve cobbled here and register a few complaints. If you’re not interested in reading that, I understand completely. I still believe that other folks out there in my universe will have felt similarly and so for whatever that’s worth, you all have my unending empathy.

I am really exhausted. Seriously. I know I preach that I have a great work-home balance, and I do, but I feel like every minute of my day is scheduled, except the hours from Emile’s bedtime until my bedtime. And most of that is spent staring at the television in a zombie trance. The pressure to keep grant money flowing at work, to stay on top of my household’s entropy manufacturer, keep my connections to friends and acquaintances, be there as a mentor whenever it’s requested of me, take care of myself, support Susanne and Emile, and oh, yes, find time for writing, is all a heavy set of objects to juggle. I said this was a complaint, and it is, but I’m genuinely okay with my schedule and responsibilities, even if it is breakneck and a ton of work.

My complaint is less about my immediate workload and lifeload, and more about what increasingly looks like extraneous stress. I’m looking at you, Facebook. I joined the social network in 2007 because a good friend had posted his birthday party pictures there, and I wanted to see them. I thought it would be like Friendster and MySpace, places where I already had accounts but that had never quite sucked me in. I was more of a LiveJournal junkie when it came to flame wars and intense conversations about transitioning and friendship and being the “best progressive possible.” Maybe it’s not even all Facebook’s fault, even as the design of the damn thing is to be as intrusive and all-encompassing as possible. I can get with the idea that I took FB head-on because I was trying to grow my “online presence” as much as possible three, four years ago. And Facebook’s tendrils have grown over time, now watching what I search for when I’m on the Internet anywhere. I made an author page, so I have to throw content that way on a regular basis. I have sweated when I see someone unfriended me, and of course it’s no accident that Facebook never notifies users who precisely did the dumping.

But the world has gotten a lot harsher, more judgmental, less reasonable, since Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. People stopped watching broadcast news and generalist magazines. There are so many choices for consumers all along major media that we have settled into a narrow focus of opinion, a virtual echo chamber that only reinforces whatever opinions we had last year. We’re not growing so much as intensifying, the latter of which is decidedly unprogressive and anti-intellectual. All of this attention on the narrative of polarization, which is an incredible lie about contemporary America, is heightened online, where the wingnuts and trolls live to write inflammatory comments and foster anger. If I’d wanted to keep in touch with old friends from high school, distant relatives, close friends, and coworkers, I am disappointed to so often find pictures of Muslim target practice figures, meme after meme of some reductive political statement, angry comments threads on my own (and friends’) walls, and disproved “facts” about everything from teen pregnancy to the Federal budget to global warming. If I want to click like on a picture of a friend’s new baby, I first have to shuffle past ALL CAPS conversations about what a shit this or that politician is. It gets tiring.

I have most certainly without a doubt posted a lot of political stuff online. I’m right in the thick of it, I know. Like everybody else who posts about political stuff, these issues are important to me and I worry a lot about why our elected representatives seem to think they can put their own reelection campaigns above the public interest. But I think I have to disengage at this point. I’m too tired of explaining to allies why they’re being crappy allies, and then being told I owe them an apology. I’m too tired of see friends fight over trivial matters, or having to ask my associates to be nicer to each other on my own wall. I’m too tired of spending emotional energy over crap I can’t control, like what Congress is doing. I am 43 and about to be a parent to two, not one, kids, and I’m a month behind on my manuscript revisions, and there are three more books to work on after this one. And a nonprofit to manage. And a darling spouse to oh I don’t know, maybe get to go on a date with once every other month.

I don’t really have time for you anymore, Facebook. You’re like that relationship I had a decade ago that turned to crap and all my friends kept telling me that the sex had better be fucking fantastic because the rest of it stunk like a dog pile. DTMFA, Facebook. I just can’t anymore. I’ll be better off if we get some space from each other.

The baby is crying for more rocking, so guess what? He comes first.

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Categories: Family, Pop Culture

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6 Comments on “Breaking Point”

  1. October 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I hear you. I joined Facebook because it was the best way to get in touch with my brother at one point. Now I just get to watch people be jerks to one another, even people who are supposedly their “friends”.

    PS. If I’ve ever contributed to the angry comment threads and the like, I do apologize.

    • evmaroon
      October 3, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      No worries, Jesse. I really get your politics. We need to focus on our writing, for real.

  2. October 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    I totally get all that. I’m about to have to a least cut a number of in-laws, or step-relatives out of my timeline (or whatever facebook calls it) in order to able to do the extended family thing with a smile and a civil tongue a few times a year for the grand-babies. There are, in my case, a number of far-flung old friends and acquaintances I share “look at this cool shit” posts with. Fort those relationships,I will continue on facebook, for now, but I certainly can see a day when that too, may have to end.

    You hang in there, Ev, and I’ll be following along on twitter and on here, when I can.

  3. October 4, 2013 at 3:52 am #

    I usually leave facebook for a few months around election time. I’ve been tempted to leave recently, but I have an event coming up and the only contact I have with the folks organizing is a facebook group so…

    There are people I thought I liked until I saw some of the political crap they were posting. I really don’t want to lose friends over this stuff so when my event is over, I may take a long needed sabbatical from FB.

  4. October 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I’ve been off more than on a lot in the past 2 months and I kind of like it. You, Everett, are one my main staples on FB. I love reading your posts, and blogs, so I won’t quit entirely. Besides, it is the only place I see some of my real-life friends, oddly enough. geographic issues. I empathize with you and invite you to rant anytime.

  5. October 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Hi there! I stumbled across your blog after doing a search for book reviewers and writers online and read this particular post with my head nodding the whole time in agreement.

    If it makes you feel any better, I run a social media/digital marketing agency, and *I* rarely find/make time to nurture my own personal Facebook presence. My cause of choice is animal rescue, and while most of my friends (I hope!) are not the type who would post a happy photo of themselves standing triumphantly over the carcass of a dead elephant, I’ve had my share of “friends” who — knowing how much blood, sweat and tears I’ve poured into rescuing and rehoming stray and/or shelter animals, still write to me sheepishly and let me know that, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t, but I really wanted to get XX breed puppy right away, so I bought one from a breeder. But I couldn’t wait and I really needed a friend for my pup Muffy/my daughter Tiffany!” I merely set my teeth on edge and refrain from responding.

    I see friends who post endless graphics emblazoned with messages letting me know that Jesus hates non-Christians or Muslims; that abortion is murder; that kids deserve only two-hetero-parent families; and that women should stay at home instead of daring to pursue work outside the work. I wonder sometimes how I became friends with these people, and I struggle over the question of whether or not to “unfriend” them.

    But when all is said and done, the only person I’ve ever unfriended on FB was someone — a fellow rescue volunteer — who openly criticized and derided me for having the audacity to take a stray animal I’d found to the shelter. (I’d spent hundreds of dollars having him examined and vaccinated by a vet and then boarding him, then hours networking with local rescue groups trying to get him placed in a foster home, but to no avail. With no room at my own home for him, the best I could do was to take him to a shelter whose volunteers are fanatic about networking all the animals on Facebook to get them adopted, rescued or reunited with their owners. It took a couple of months, but he was eventually rescued.)

    I have friends who disagree (some vehemently) with my liberal positions on Facebook, and some of them post graphics and messages that might shock even jaded old me. But unless they post something truly hateful, I’ve learned to simply ignore their posts. Some of them I’ve known for decades and are otherwise kind and gentle people with whom I happen to disagree on certain political or social issues. I’ve learned to post few of my own political opinions and to keep my Timeline mostly about family and the humorous events that happen in my day-to-day work or home life. Facebook is the perfect place in which to lose countless hours on arguments that won’t be won, discussions that go nowhere, and debates that settle nothing, so I’ve learned to stay away from them. It’s the only way to keep my sanity and to remind myself that I actually love some of these people. 😉

    Having said that, I can sympathize with your desire to jump ship. If I weren’t knee deep in the thick of social media as a result of my work, I’d avoid it altogether. If anything, I’ve found that Twitter is a much better place for writers and readers to congregate and find common ground. But Facebook is where the majority of social media users are, so we have to have a presence, for good or ill.

    Looking forward to reading more of your work!

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