Seven Days to Sanity: Regaining my life after killing my Facebook page

Just like that, whatever that is, I’m walking away from Facebook. Although I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge—probably a comment from my proper 85-year-old New England mother who told me I looked like a “floozy” in some of my photos—I’ve made the decision to delete my personal page.

Facebook was made for people like me, people who can’t walk away from a controversy without adding their nickel’s worth, who eat the entire bag of chocolate chips without making a single cookie, who like people to like them. People who can’t not click on the latest adorable kitten video or clip of a five-year-old belting out the National Anthem like nobody’s business.

I’m no longer comfortable being one of those people.

My youngest son was the first person I knew to walk away from Facebook. I didn’t even know it was legal. “Too stressful,” he said, simply, and now I understand.

I love my friends and family and I’ve become accustomed to knowing their every thought every day. I’m accustomed to hitting the “Like” button—like a caged rat anticipating a treat—every time I read a status or see a new profile photo. It has become too much.

I’ve stopped buying bags of chocolate chips. I will stop my addiction to wanting everyone to know what I think and what my dog is doing every day.

I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg will call asking what he can do to bring me back. I hear he’s friends with everyone in his brilliant world. Whatever will he do without me and my 611 friends visiting hourly? How will he survive without the possibility that I might click on one of the endless ads for Zappos shoes or Games I May Like, without my taking a quiz to determine which GOT character I’m most like (Khaleesi, I would hope), without letting the world know I’ve just spilled red wine on my white cotton shirt (frowny-face emoticon)?

Here goes. My seven-day cleanse.

Day 1. The freedom I felt last night after making the delete decision was tainted by withdrawal pangs today. After requesting the download of my account, something my son suggested I should do, I told Facebook I would like to delete my page. It wanted to know why, so instead of being honest and checking the “I spend too much time on Facebook” circle, I checked the “I have another Facebook page” option. It’s true. I kept my Leadville Laurel page dedicated to writing pursuits, so I suppose I’m not really going cold-turkey on this venture, but I still feel anxious. It will let me know when my download is complete. Until then, I have a personal presence out there.

Day 2. It is done. Had to catch myself several times today after receiving the zip file of my Facebook download from the machine. Once I saved it to my computer, I was tempted to unzip and look at the contents, but I stopped myself. I don’t want to go backward. Even came pretty close to deleting my page before getting the download. I’ll blame (credit?) my older son’s recent purge of our garage with my desire to set it all free. Like the stacks of photo albums hidden in a closet under our stairs, this zip file now lurks for some future disposition. As I have for the albums, I will ignore this electronic validation of my past. I’ll also credit my son with pulling out a cookbook and saying, “Let’s try this tonight.” I do believe today was the first day I shopped with a list. Dinner was spectacular.

Day 3. Actually focused on my writing. Took a walk with the pooch and picked up two bags of trash and heaps of inspiration along the way. After picking up a book, I had to overcome a twinge of guilt when I realized it was still light outside. Until today, reading was a luxury to be enjoyed 15 minutes before the book crashed onto my sleeping face. I feel giddy! Oh so giddy! I have no idea whose birthday it is (happy new year, everyone!), what recipe someone has tried, or the latest president-bashing meme circulating the ionosphere. I feel unburdened. This is good.

Day 4. Watched an entire documentary (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) without checking my iPhone once. That used to be a habit, too. “What are you doing?” my husband would ask, catching me in the dirty act of seeing if anyone “liked” or commented on my latest personal status. So much ego! Earlier I completed a letter to the editor about our local rogue dog issue. Now that I will be posting more blogs on my Leadville Laurel page, I mustn’t fall into the same pattern of compulsive checking. I’ll allow myself 15 minutes first thing in the morning after walking the pooch and then log off until the next morning. Nothing I post requires immediate action or response. I’ve just fooled myself into thinking it has in the past.

Day 5. My posture has improved now that I’m not stooping surreptitiously each time I pass my computer screen hoping to see a little red bubble indicating contact with the outside world. I only keep my email open now and rarely notice messages in bold black. Perhaps I’ll apply the same rule to email. Check it right after my 15 minutes of indulgence on my professional page. There! Just shut it down. As a writer I have the luxury of making myself unavailable, something most people do not. Et voilà! I’m a writer again! I had convinced myself my personal status update posts were “writing.” They were not.

Day 6. A friend warned me about pink cloud syndrome and wished me luck against relapse. Facebook probably knows about it as well. It gives you 14 days to change your mind once you hit the “Delete Page” button—two weeks to decide if you can truly make the break. I’m not counting the days. With newfound time and energy, I attacked the attic. After several hours of sorting and some occasional dawdling down memory lane (sometimes you have to go backward to move forward), I have a new pile for the dump. Don’t think I’ll need those 32-year-old electrical engineering notes anymore. Pretty sure I’ll sleep better tonight knowing the burden above me has lightened.

Day 7. Beautiful sleep last night followed by another day of accomplishment. The time I have regained in the absence of neurotic personal status updates makes me feel liberated. Freed. Like I’ve lost 5 pounds without even trying. Zuckerberg never did call and I finally stopped checking my phone for missed messages. I have no expectation he’ll call on Day 14. He probably never really was my friend anyway.

Suicide.

I didn’t write anything immediately when I heard of Robin Williams’ suicide, probably because my initial emotion was anger, not sorrow. Living with the memory of finding a friend’s dead body and the devastating aftermath for his family and friends has forever altered my brain, and I find myself confused by the idea of demonstrating an appropriate response to the premature ending of a life.

I could say I understand how someone might find suicide the only solution to their misery, but I would be exaggerating. Yes, I have been places I never want to go again. I never again want to experience the selfish, angst-ridden teen years when I believed that if I died, then they’d be sorry, but after crying myself to sleep I’d get over it. Or the time I was certain I had failed at everything . . . being a good wife, mother, person . . . that I seriously tried to will my heart to stop one night, but then got scared I might succeed. Or the time I went out to the lake during an impossibly windy day and curled up in a blanket for hours under a creaking tree hoping it would fall on me and end my self-pity, but then I got really hungry. Or most recently, wanting to run away every day this past winter, hating where I lived and everything I was doing, until discovering I had a thyroid imbalance, something fixed with a little pill, my unreasonable depression not my fault.

So I’ve never truly been where those who have succeeded at suicide have been. “Succeeded at suicide” is not a phrase I want in my eulogy.

Like my friend, Williams seemed to have everything going for him. But it’s not fair for us to play the But … game. But he was an actor. He was, and his performances were unforgettable. But he was a husband. He was, several times. But he was a father. He was, and I am sad for his children. But he was a role model. He was, and I fear for those who may interpret his final action as justification for their own. But he was Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, Popeye, Mork, Aladdin . . . he was countless things to countless people.

But he was successful. He was, though in whose eyes?

There were many indicators that my friend’s self-murder was premeditated, and when I return to the days preceding the event, I wonder about the signs. Those left behind always wonder what they might have missed, might have done differently. I wonder about those living with loved ones who endure chronic depression, and if at some point, even they envision an end to it. I don’t dwell on this thought.

Some call suicide a selfish act, but I know better. Selfishness keeps you alive. Perhaps, like my friend so long ago (but he was a husband, a doctor, successful, handsome), he could never really be himself, despite having “everything” available to him. He could not be selfish. He could not save himself. And for that, I can finally feel sorrow.