I have a lifelong habit of narrating events in my head as they are actually happening to me. Sometimes this has been a great thing. I’ve gotten through a lot of boring and horrible events by simply pretending that it was all part of a story I was writing. Sometimes though, it isn’t so good. It tends to remove me from the event and means that I’m not truly experiencing whatever it is that’s happening.
I’m not sure if I do this because I’m a writer or if I’m a writer because I do this. I do know that Facebook has made the habit worse. With Facebook any moment or thought of any day can be instantly turned in to a clever status update. That status update is sure to win me “likes,” instant confirmation that I am a good and funny writer and so, a good and funny person. The confirmation spills over to my real life as people routinely tell me how much they enjoy following me on Facebook, how funny they find me.
For a social, but introverted, writer this is solid gold. I can use my best talent, a formerly solitary activity, to form real world friendships, without spending too much time with actual people, a task I sometimes find exhausting.
But, there are the downsides. “You’re so funny on Facebook” is somehow not the compliment people seem to think it is and “You post a lot” always makes me feel like I post too much. Plus, there’s the aforementioned checking out of events as they happen in order to preserve them for posterity.
One of the excuses I always give for my constant Facebook activity is that it’s part of my job, which it is. So, for our recent two-week family road trip vacation I decided to take a Facebook fast. I decided to try and fully experience events instead of just narrate them.
There were certainly times when I wanted to break my fast. You can not ride in a car with two children and a behind schedule husband for two weeks without wanting a little escape. You can’t stand in front of Laura’s cottonwood tree on the Ingalls’ homestead holding your daughter’s hand and not want the world to know a dream has come true for you. You can’t watch your son, who has been having a difficult summer, jump up to try hoop dancing at Mount Rushmore without wanting to brag. Who can resist posting pictures from the Corn Palace or Wall Drug? Apparently, me!
In rural Nebraska we had car trouble and a stranger stopped to help us out. I wanted to reach out to two old friends about a similar experience we’d had on a road trip years ago. Instead, I told the story to my kids, and they laughed and loved it.
By not constantly, obsessively writing about my life on Facebook (or here) I didn’t have to constantly try to fit everything in to some narrative. I could enjoy my son’s amazingly open and relaxed behavior without putting it into the context of his recent difficulties. I could rue my daughter’s exhausted and exhausting whining without having to discount or discredit what a great summer she’d been having previous to the trip.
In short, I could simply be on the trip, with my family.
I’ve been on Facebook since we came back, but not as often. Honestly, within a few weeks I’ll probably go back to my previous regular posting schedule. It is after all my job and let’s face it, day to day life is not a vacation. Day to day life is a little better with some narration.