I had some alone time with my son this morning, while his sister played by herself. I started our conversation by asking, “Do I spend too much time on the computer?”
“Yes,” he said. No hesitation. Not even a breath. Then he changed the subject.
I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately (and reading up on it, etc), paying more attention than ever to my state of being and how I feel at any given moment. I’ve been down in the dumps for quite a while, clinically depressed for even longer. I take a low dose of antidepressant, which helps, but it doesn’t fix everything–it can’t. Nothing can. The world is not that simple.
What a depressing thought. Or, if you choose to see it that way: what a liberating thought.
After reading several books dedicated to the subject of happiness (and skimming several more), this was my major takeaway. Just as nothing will ever please anyone–from politicians to ice cream flavors to the right temperature for drinking water–nothing will ever please every part of you.
Total happiness doesn’t exist. Even the happiest people get down sometimes. Everybody stubs their toes.
Knowing this, I spent the last week feeling uncharacteristically happy.
You might say I was practicing mindfulness (which, since I got my books from the library and they’re at least a few years old, was not a subject that came up in my research, at least not by name): I spent a lot of time assessing how I was feeling and repeating a definition of happiness in my head:
“A feeling of well-being and contentment.”
I sat on the couch with my dog. I felt well. I was content.
I played a memory game with my kids. My daughter doesn’t yet understand rules and my son refuses to follow them which can be frustrating, but I had fun. I felt well. I was content.
I worked on my novel in a coffee shop. I put away laundry. I organized my kids’ toys and sent a good chunk of them to charity. I cleaned the bathroom. Most of the time I felt well and content.
I also spent most of last week away from the computer. Only when I opened up iMovie to edit my last video did I go back to feeling irritable, defeated, angry, sad–and not just because the program can sometimes slow my computer to a crawl or crash unexpectedly. I felt that way because when I’m trying to work on the computer, my kids invariably want to use the computer, too. They will not be dissuaded. The get up on my lap, they try to put on YouTube videos (which cannot happen at the same time as movie editing), they throw fits or just generally try to get my attention away from the screen.
And it’s not just my kids. And it’s not just videos. Yesterday, my husband tried to tell me something about his new job while I was looking at an article about the Waffle House shooting and boy did he get snapped at. And a lecture about how awful the world is. And then I crossed my arms and tried to remember well-being and contentment but how could I be well or content when innocent people were being shot?
Well, that’s a tough one. It can feel, sometimes, like there’s a finite amount of happiness in the world and by being happy when others are miserable, I’m taking more than my fair share. But happiness isn’t money. (And money isn’t happiness–except in the case where you really need it and then you get some: that makes people happy.) Perhaps, as a privileged person, I should be donating more of my money and time to charity, but I can’t really do that with happiness.
Or can I?
Part of the reason I started this blog was to make myself happier by focusing on the good. I never wanted to be one of those blogs that makes life look like a Calvin Klein ad, and not just because I look nothing like Kate Moss. I have spent too much of my life under the influence of aspiration/advertising and I don’t want to influence people in that direction.
But when I look around the internet at what’s “successful,” it’s all basically ads. Or it’s hackneyed. Or it’s a hackneyed ad.
This is especially true of Facebook, which is probably my largest source of unhappiness. I look at it a lot. I fill the time with it. I remember thinking, when I got my smart phone, that I never looked at it. I almost made an effort to look at it more, because that’s what people seemed to do. I installed the Facebook app and started sliding down the slope.
Most of the followers you see on the sidebar of my blog come from Facebook, and mostly I had to pay for ads to attain them. This is because Facebook’s algorithms or whatever you want to call them have made it increasingly hard for pages to get their stuff seen without ads, and because there are so many pages out there these days, it’s all basically white noise.
I don’t want to be white noise anymore. I don’t want to post stupid memes and check how many people liked it. I don’t want to be on the computer all the time and grouchy with my family because I’m spending too much time mulling over current events (and people’s incendiary comments on every freaking article).
I do want to share lovely things with you. I want to write blog posts and create videos and draw comics because they fulfill me personally and if I can make you laugh or brighten your day, then I have contributed something to the world.
So, to boil it down: I’m going to cut ties with Facebook. You can find me on Twitter but I never post anything. Instagram is a pretty mellow place, as far as I’ve experienced it, so I’ll stay there. But if you are one of the 800 people who follow me on Facebook and you don’t also follow the blog and/or subscribe to the newsletter, you’ll no longer see my blog posts. If you’d like to, please click on the WordPress follow button or follow by email. (I’d say follow me on Instagram but you can’t click through to articles, so that seems less efficient.)
(I’ll probably stay on Facebook till the weekend. Must get the word out to family, friends and acquaintances, so we can all stay in touch and no one thinks I’ve died or anything.)