Wastebook for Mothers -- by Laura Houston
My favorite cartoon shows a woman playing with her two children alone on a New York playground. The caption says: “The last Facebook holdout.” It makes me chuckle and it makes me a little ashamed all at once. I have a love/hate relationship with the site. I love having my news and interests streamed to me in one place, so I don’t have to surf my favorite sites to see if there is anything interesting on them. I also love the discounts I receive for activities around the city.
Then there are the things I hate about Face book – all of which I have done myself: the inane posts, the baby spam, relentlessly posting all of the quotidian things we do over the course of 24 hours. I abhor reading those things. I don’t care what people are eating for breakfast, that they have a bad head cold (Is there ever a good one?), or that they are standing inline to watch the Backstreet Boys reunion show. But the main reason I hate Facebook is because of the time I spend on it. It sucks me in. I watch one John Stewart clip and then another and then another. I watch videos from the 80s when I was in high school. I read reviews of shows and concerts I will never go see.
I originally joined Facebook because as a writer I thought it would be fun to read the witty comments of my comrades. I originally set about to have no more than 20 friends, and all of them were writers, readers, artists, good friends, and some family sprinkled in there, too. Now I have 250 friends, and I don’t really know or remember most of them from various jobs or schools. And here it is two years later and most of my original 20 friends are no longer on Facebook. If they are, they rarely post.
It’s a bummer. I miss their wit. When I asked a few of them why they no longer come to the site, they said: “Because Wastebook is a time suck, and the novelty is over.” They are tired of the insidious posts and the self-promotion of friends and family. They hate the check-ins and the challenges to re-post certain posts or you suck. They hate how self-absorbed it makes people.
This is true. Facebook is a great venue for saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” I certainly use it to promote things like this blog. And I use it to share pictures of my boys with friends and family. But I figure posting on Facebook is better than clogging up people’s inboxes with big files. The site makes it easy to track down someone’s new email address, etc., and it makes organizing a night out with friends a snap. It’s also fun to try to be entertaining or to make someone laugh about something ridiculous.
According to several studies I found on the Internet, the average person spends anywhere from five to seven hours a month on the site. I’ll bet it’s even more for mothers. I know at nap time I open my laptop and start browsing everything from friends’ status updates to news updates, and checking out the links and updates of my “likes.” And I read what my “mom friends” are posting, and they post a lot during the day in order to have some sort of adult connection. Most mothers have to be averaging at least an hour on Facebook a day.
One hour a day. That’s 30 hours a month. That’s almost a workweek in time. When I added that up, I was mortified. I used to spend much more of my time reading and writing before Facebook. I picked up the phone and called people before Facebook. I emailed my friends more often rather than posting three sentences about how I am doing.
Recently I noticed the people I most want to stay in touch with don’t post anymore. Let’s face it: they’re too cool for Facebook. They’re busy living their lives instead of posting status updates for all to see. They’re in a coffee shop reading a book instead of sitting in their Lazyboy scanning a newsfeed. They write emails and send cards and letters instead of “poking” people to see if they are OK. And most importantly, they meet their friends face to face for conversations and company rather than connecting to them virtually.
I want to be the mom in that cartoon. I want to be out living my life with my sons and enjoying the playground rather than sitting in my living room trying to connect to people via a web site. I want my boys to see me reading books instead of laptops. So I’m going semi-dark on Facebook. I am going to try to spend the time I used to spend on it doing more creative endeavors. Pretty soon, I hope to accomplish what my other 20 writer/artist friends have accomplished: immersing myself in purely creative endeavors. Finishing that novel. Getting that children’s book out the door and to an agent. Creating something that means something.
As isolating as motherhood can be, I’ll bet we could all benefit from going out and experiencing life in the real world rather than on the World Wide Web.