Today. while hanging outdoors on a patio, the conversation drifted to Facebook. Apparently, I heard, September 5th was to be the day when Facebook starts to use our photos for advertising. This is how I understood it: for example, if I went to Miami and stayed at The Hilton, Facebook, in theory, can sell my holiday photos and comments as part of a targeted advertisement.
So – this prompted our thinking about staging a symbolic, Let’s Quit Facebook Day on Sept 5, even if it eventually involved recreating new profiles.
While this is a nice fantasy, the fact is that pursuing my storytelling career and related promotion makes using Facebook and other social media essential. Social media is important to me. After all, it helped me create an online magazine with zero marketing budget at the time but that, with a lot blood, sweat, and tears took off like a rocket. This is amazing for a niche publication like PositiveLite.com. (Eventually I handed the site over to others to run and it was made an independent entity. I’m thrilled that others feel the work is important enough to keep the magazine alive and very well indeed.)
During this process, though, I must admit I began to burn out on social media. Scheduling tweets, adding friends and followers - it was all about networking and promotion then. At one point I had over 3,000 people. The illusion that I bought into was that the more people were my social media friends, then the message would be that I was successful and popular.
To back up a bit, I’ve had many lives, including being a make-up artist, doing advocacy work on social justice issues to where I am now. This makes for a lot of people that I either don’t know very well now or no longer continue to have common interests with. And it has become difficult to let my hair down with the people I do know, or even know how we are connected, for instance as a storyteller or as a comic I’ve yet to meet.
On Facebook the good, the bad, and the ugly have all happened to me. I’ve often created some of the bad and the ugly.
How I’d love to live without social media! It is too addictive and the impulse to hit “share” happens all the time. It used to be I had an idea or thought and I discussed it in conversation. Instead I run to status update and hit "share".
Instead of quitting Facebook, though, I’ve decided to create a new profile. I want my friends, my family, my Jewish community and performers to be part of my network. It feels like too much work to go through each individual to see if we still are a good online “match.” Nonetheless I don’t want this to be about negativity, but rather renewal. There is a lot going on right now that fit’s that theme. It’s time to shed old skin and begin to grow a new one.
Ironically this coincides with Rosh Hashanah and the Jewishl holidays. The themes of renewal, reflections, and making amends are important. The date for Facebook changes takes place on the second day of the new year, 5774.
Part of my renewal process has been to take a good hard look at the pharmaceuticals I’ve been taking. They have slowly added up so that now I’m faced with a cocktail of drugs that I need to review and then go through the challenging process of getting off antidepressants. This is not an easy path. Last time I tried getting off of one in just four days; it was hell and I felt very sick.
The theme that has come up during all of this process is of self-care. It means getting to bed early. It has meant pulling back from stand-up gigs that keep me up late. During this time of change I’m finding emotions are amplified. Happy is really happy, and irritability can be triggered by the most benign things. It’s like someone else is driving at times.
I’ve eliminated smoking pot. Moderation is not a word in my vocabulary. Out all the drugs I’ve done and stopped, oddly enough pot has been the most difficult to stop. I feel myself coming back to life again as it exits my system. I remember last Rosh Hashanah and the dialogue in my head about quitting; that’s how long it has taken me. This year I didn’t want to return from the holidays with the same issues as a year ago.
After a few regrettable Facebook moments, I knew I needed less social media not more.
This is why I’m creating a new account and starting afresh - not because I hate people, but I crave a new beginning. Having so many unknown people connected to me meant that unexpected negativity came up then hit the trigger and viola, the switch is flipped and I was angry.
I don’t think people understand how challenging it is to taper off a class of medication that creates an abnormal environment for the brain. It can take months for this to stabilize.
Why do this? Because the research shows that the use of antidepressants can actually cause chronic depression, resulting in the need for upping the dosage. The domino effect begins as side effects ramp up and more medications are prescribed to deal with those. So the moment arrived when I realized I'd become a G-rated version of Judy Garland.
When I read the list of long term effects, a light went off. Over the long-term my memory has been shot. The description of “learning deficiencies” and “difficulty with problem solving” to name a few has made a light go off. No wonder my ability to spell has diminished. No wonder I felt like my brain was hurting trying to wrap my head around Talmudic and a unique logic model.
This is the long answer to why I have a love/hate relationship with social media, even after ignoring the fact that a recent study concluded that heavy users were less happy.
I’m not one to make resolutions, but this year mine is to do my best to have a positive online presence.
On Thursday when I cast my bread into the river for Tashlich to cast away negativity of the past and look towards renewal, this will be part of it, and a new profile will be created.