A year to be more open and connected

by Peggy on December 30, 2018

Two years ago, after writing a news story about a few of our clever readers and what they learned achieving their New Year’s resolutions, I did mine differently. A year into my own experiment, I had learned so much that I shared it in a column.

That first goal to not buy anything (with reasonable exceptions for food and fixing things) reinforced a simpler, more sustainable life. My next resolution, “Yes, please,” was meant to be this year’s yang to last year’s yin of “no, thank you.”

The idea wasn’t that “yes, please” was permission to give into impulses or rationalized needs, but to push through whatever had been stopping me from trying something new. How else to see the world unless you push through to the other side? I made a list of about a dozen challenges that have been nagging for years; for example, learning to better maintain my bike, sew upholstery, broaden my computer skills, speak conversationally in another language, and make cheese. But if something new crossed my doorstep, like when my friend and brilliant textile artist Carla offered a day of indigo dyeing, I said “yes.” I said yes whenever I could.

Not only is life simpler and more sustainable, but it’s also richer and more fun.

That brought the social media expression of my life into sharp relief. For the coming year, I will co-opt Facebook’s stated mission, to be more open and connected, by quitting Facebook.

The main reason to shut down my account is one that has nagged me for a long time. Facebook’s real mission is nothing like its stated mission. For example, I’ve noticed there are people you cannot reach any other way than through Facebook. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In Texas, we might share a lemonade on the porch and we’re cordial, but we just don’t invite everyone inside. So I would argue that when you can’t reach someone except through Facebook, then you aren’t really connected at all. Facebook is managing your relationships for you through the veneer of being “open” and “connected.”

I set up the Family Room blog as a place to explore ideas related to living with autism. It’s interesting that most readers come here via a Facebook link and will return to Facebook to comment on the topic, rather than connecting below and creating our own community–which, by the way, is not open to exploitation by a third party because I filter and delete all that garbage.

That’s Facebook’s real mission. And, they “move fast and break things.” After I watched Frontline’s two-part special, The Facebook Dilemma, I couldn’t be a part of it anymore. American newspapers are struggling because Facebook (and similar businesses) got the rules changed: they can publish with impunity while newspapers must continue to publish responsibly. It’s expensive to be a responsible company. But it’s worth it because, for one, the truth is an absolute defense. And people don’t die in Myanmar because you got so big moving fast and breaking things that you can’t clean up after yourself anymore.

It took Sam a while to accept my decision. He was worried that my exit would affect his experience. I respect that very much. People with disabilities need help living lives that are more open and connected. He finds community activities through Facebook. Because he can scroll at his own pace, he can absorb and react to more news that people share. He’s not impervious to the third-party nonsense, but he’s not going to show up at a fake rally meant to destabilize the community.

I’ll still be on Twitter because I use the platform for my job and I can’t escape it. And I know my departure from Facebook may affect my coworkers, so I will work to ameliorate that. I hope that readers who want to continue to be part of Family Room will use the green button below to bookmark the blog and come back once a month or so. This blog isn’t going away even though the Facebook teasers will.

My first objective will be to use my words to be more open and connected. Family Room will be one place to make that happen, along with all of the other ways we’ve always had to connect with each other (insert mail-telephone-plus-ruby-slippers icons here!)

My second objective will be that when I have something to share, I will share it with the person I believe would appreciate it most.

My third objective will be actively listening to others in the coming days and weeks. Because the best way to connect is to respond.

Sam taught me that.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy Breeding December 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Intrigued. Facebook almost always makes me feel worse than before I opened it. I tell myself that I can’t do my job without Facebook, but I did it before FB even existed.

Intrigued.

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Peggy December 30, 2018 at 9:32 pm

People assume you are seeing their stuff on Facebook, which is a bad assumption to begin with. Facebook decides what you see. But I know your angst, Cindy. I hope I don’t become THAT person in the newsroom.

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Shelly Tucker December 30, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Bold move! I’m commenting right here, so you will have my contact information. On Facebook, my feed rarely shows any of the people I really want to know. You are one of them.
Now you have me thinking. I used to blog a long time ago, and it was satisfying. I built a little community (many of them are Facebook friends now). If it weren’t for having that ghost tour business, and the “need” to be able to promote it on Facebook, I think I could join you.
Perhaps I shall, but MY new year is in March. That gives me some time to prepare … if I am brave enough. I will be watching to see how it goes. Good luck!

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Peggy December 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm

Shelly, I’m not judging anyone who feels they need to stay on Facebook, especially to keep a business going. Our newspaper is still going to be there. You are a good writer and if you start blogging again, I’m sure I’ll be reading it.

I could add a new tool to the side here, referrals to other blogs. I’ve done that before. Stay in touch, Shelly.

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Shelly December 30, 2018 at 9:54 pm

I will. And, I will be blogging. I already pay for the domain I once used, and I left here and started trying to design the blog already. I’m going to go crazy … like I’m not already … and I’m going to link back to YOU, because it will all be your fault!
I *think* I’m excited to try it, though.

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Peggy December 30, 2018 at 10:25 pm

Happy feet!

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Jane Piper-Lunt December 30, 2018 at 9:04 pm

I can’t bookmark on my phone and know jack about the internet so tell me how I can keep up with your blog please. Thanks

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Peggy December 30, 2018 at 9:26 pm

Jane, maybe just pick a day, like the fourth Monday of the month, and check back. I probably won’t ever blog during the week and Saturdays are too busy with chores, so Sundays are most likely to have something new.

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Abra December 30, 2018 at 9:46 pm

I too watched the PBS Frontline on Facebook– it’s stuck with me. About few days ago, I was texting with my husband on a very specific and unique topic. Went to Facebook about 10 minutes later and there was an ad for said topic. Although I am keenly aware of tracking pixels and all of Facebook’s invasions of privacy, I had not, until that moment, reached my breaking point. I was so disturbed.

I have to use social media, all platforms, extensively for my job so I hadn’t been able to reconcile my wish to keep my privacy and the need to use Facebook. I am purchasing a second (cheap) smartphone to use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter on. No browsing, no phone calls, no texts, no emails, etc on that device. I am so freaked out and disgusted, and it seems like the only solution of compromise I can figure out.

As for connecting, I think there is a happy medium somewhere. I would gladly pay a pretty penny for zero ads and extreme privacy on a social media platform as would many others. Subscriptions are becoming more and more prevalent, and people pay for things that uphold values (whatever they may be). Hopefully the market will break through with a new Facebook alternative soon and refuse to sell to them on principle. Instagram was strong for so long but caved.

I hope you will tweet a link to your blog every once in a while to remind me. But I don’t know if it’s a fully personal account and you will want to do that. I’ll see you on the twittersphere @ideationplan .

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Peggy December 30, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Abra, wouldn’t a DIY social network tool be the bomb? It could be like the mid-1990s again when we had listservs and built communities emailing and responding to each other. Of course, you weren’t a grown-up then and don’t know what I’m talking about.

I wish I could say your FB creeping experience was unique, but it isn’t. Your plan reminds me a bit about “air locked” computers that journalists sometimes set up to do their work. It should get you pretty far, at least until someone links your accounts. But at least you’ll know when it happens.

Good suggestion to put blog posts on Twitter from time to time. I’ll do it!

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Rhonda Love December 30, 2018 at 11:08 pm

I’ll miss you on FB. But, will read the blog, of course.

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Peggy January 1, 2019 at 2:08 am

Rhonda, I suspect we’ll see each other at Carla’s from time to time!

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Katie K. December 30, 2018 at 11:57 pm

I didn’t know about your blog until now, but I love your writing and very much respect your decision and mission. My husband has opted out of all social media after working at a start up whose main content was connected to social media, and he couldn’t stand it after having been so deeply involved with it all. I maintain my accounts largely because I represent both of us now, and it’s the main way for me to share our family updates now that Sage is here, but at the same time, now that Sage is here, it makes me want to say bye bye to it all just like you are, so I can maintain a sense of privacy for our family. It’s hard being of the generation that built and started Facebook, and it’s been interesting to be a part of and witness its evolution, but a big part of it disgusts me now more than anything, so perhaps I’ll soon follow your lead and go back to blogging as my way to share and connect. I look forward to following you here instead, and reading up on your previous posts!

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Peggy December 31, 2018 at 12:14 am

Katie,
I learned about Facebook’s story first from your mom relaying what it meant when you got on. But Sam’s experience from the inside may be just as telling. We’ll just have to be more deliberate about keeping up with Sage. Happy parenting. It’s so exhausting but it’s great.

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Annette Fuller December 31, 2018 at 1:34 am

Oh Peggy. I hear you. I have become so disturbed by some things of FB that I don’t touch it past 8 pm. I want to talk to you about this in person. We will have that chance soon. Love you.

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Peggy January 1, 2019 at 2:09 am

See you soon, whiskey buddy.

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Nancy LeMay December 31, 2018 at 2:16 am

I knew you were contemplating this decision because of Facebook’s shortcomings (and selling us short), but it’s still sad. I respect your choice 100% and have added a monthly appointment to my calendar to check this site.

My siblings eschew Facebook and have for years. Yet they had DNA testing done, which also seems like ceding some of your privacy to companies just in it for the money. I wonder if others think so, too.

We will stay connected through other means, dear friend. Happy 2019!

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Peggy December 31, 2018 at 10:22 pm

Agreed! (But surprised that the siblings would do the DNA thing.)

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Ann December 31, 2018 at 5:31 am

A thoughtful way to look at the world without the tug-of-war that FB brings. If we really care and are interested in our friends, we will find other ways to connect — and probably more meaningful. Good luck on yet another adventure.

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Peggy December 31, 2018 at 10:23 pm

Hope to see you on a bus or train soon, fellow DCTA traveler.

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Lowell Brown January 1, 2019 at 8:52 pm

I am SO close to doing the same thing for the reasons you describe. Only work accounts are keeping me on Facebook. Looking forward to hearing what life is like on the other side!

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Peggy January 1, 2019 at 11:05 pm

Hey, Lowell, isn’t it funny (and disturbing) that work requirements keep us tied to Facebook? This change isn’t as big for me as you might think. Since last spring, I haven’t linked Facebook to either my work or home computer. Since then, I’ve limited myself to checking via my phone’s browser at work for a few minutes each day and late in the evening at home. I stopped responding to FB messenger several months ago. Also, except for teasers to the blog, I posted so little this past year that the “year end” video of my page was a hoot–almost all photos of old sewing machines I was trying to re-home! That told me that this final step isn’t going to be too difficult. I’m going to wait a few more days to wind down to get an email newsletter in place for the blog and then I’ll be gone. Next time I’m in Austin I’ll stop by. Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family!

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Mark Bishop January 2, 2019 at 9:43 pm

Not a bad idea ma’am. 🙂

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Peggy January 5, 2019 at 2:14 am

See you guys at the barn tomorrow, Mark. Horse show!

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Nancy LeMay January 5, 2019 at 12:52 am

I heard this Typewriter Rodeo on NPR today and thought of you:

http://www.texasstandard.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IMG_3524.jpg

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Peggy January 5, 2019 at 2:17 am

😀

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