Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This year: more quiet, less Facebook

On this third day of 2012, I am pondering the concept of peace and quiet. Peace, being the calm, reflective, tranquil state that has not been a part of my life as of late. Quiet, being the absence of chatter and the soft, undisturbed, inaudible silence that has not been a part of my life since I became a parent.

I am hoping, praying, seeking… more peace and quiet this year. And that will mean resistance against what has become second nature—what I became really good at in 2011: connecting, networking, living plugged in and “on the grid.

This means less time on the computer, which means less time posting and reading posts on Facebook, less time streaming movies on Netflix, less time watching mindless videos on YouTube, and less time constantly checking emails.

My wake-up call came on New Year’s Eve. We had just returned from the ER, where the doc popped our daughter’s dislocated elbow back into place. It wasn’t how I imagined spending our New Year’s (my version included homemade chili bubbling on the stove, the last run of Christmas music, and a nice, quiet countdown just before midnight), yet I was thankful it was the four of us, together, in the hospital.

In a reflective state of mind when we got home, I did the first thing I always do when I’m in that kind of mood: posted on Facebook. “How the Salaffs spent New Year’s Eve,” I wrote. “In the ER, getting Izzy’s dislocated elbow popped back into place.” I wanted to chronicle our adventures, which is largely what I use Facebook for. It’s a kind of virtual Salaff family “scrapbook” of exciting events, missteps, musings, and announcements. It’s my way of communicating with the world.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t see it that way.
Husband: You posted about that on Facebook?
Me: Yeah. Are you upset that I did that?
Husband: No, I’m not upset. It’s that now it won’t be just our family’s special memory.
Me: (Pause)
“Dammit,” I thought to myself. “He’s right.”

One thing I love about my husband (and there are a million things) is his proclivity for non-disclosure. As an intensely private person, he enjoys freedom from the attention of others. He’s not the kind of person who craves the spotlight. He doesn’t feel the need to monopolize the verbal landscape. He’s not someone who says, “HERE I AM! NOTICE ME! LOVE ME! LISTEN TO ME! FEED ME!” For him, rhetoric is not the measure of wisdom. For him, true wisdom comes from quieting your soul.

In this day and age of over-sharing and over-stimulation, his perspective is quite refreshing. It’s what makes him a great listener, a great observer, and a great joke teller. It’s also why it was like pulling teeth to get him to create his own Facebook page. “Why do people need to know what I’m doing at every minute of the day?” he once asked when I bugged him to sign up.

One of my favorite comments: “I don’t have time to farm a Facebook page.” It’s true. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep it up. Between updating daily posts, keeping your profile pic fresh, uploading Christmas/vacation/kids/pets/landscape/food photos and letting everyone know what restaurant/cafĂ©/movie theater/airport/hotel you’re at, it’s no wonder time slips through your fingers.

So, back to the New Year’s Eve post. My husband’s comment had larger implications. I started asking myself the bigger questions: Why do I post? What purpose does it serve? Has my existence been whittled down to, “I post, therefore I am?”

Although I don’t regret letting the world know about Izzy’s elbow (there were a lot of well wishers offering their thoughts and prayers; for this I am thankful), I am re-evaluating my relationship with the Internet, social networks, email, text messages, and even my iPhone.

Finding time to sit and think means a conscious effort to unplug. That doesn’t mean cutting myself off from the world, but being more intentional about finding quiet time for my mind and my soul. Half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan warned, “When things come at you really fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.”

2012 is the year to unplug. It’s the year to get back in touch with myself.