I personally stopped posting on social media several months ago. Then I deleted Facebook from my phone. I also opened a new email account just for friends a while back, sending everything else to a locked box. I revived our dial-up phone, the one that takes about 30 seconds to dial nine numbers, as a reminder of what it means to value patience.
Since those changes, I’ve met several wonderful neighbors while walking our incredibly wise dog, enjoyed Nature in ways I haven’t in years, and have found time to enjoy new hobbies that have nothing to do with technology.
Since those changes, I’ve found time.
The opinions of others? Our dog is so much more enjoyable.
Yes, I know, everyone has all sorts of reasons why they post pictures of themselves, their children, their pets, a news article, or whatever. I did too – it let me stay informed, stay connected, see pretty pictures. But when I kept asking myself a few months ago why I was posting those kinds of things, I didn’t like the honest answer – please see me and all the cool things I do. Won’t you please like? Please?
The technology companies have designed social media and the phones we have in our pockets to be addictive. Worse, they have designed the interactions we have with each other to encourage contentiousness and jealousy. If it bleeds, it leads… i.e. creates more clicks, makes more money, for them.
Facebook, and other social media sites, have contributed to the polarization the world faces today. They have caused us to lose friends, to lose weird Uncle Al who used to be tolerably annoying, but is now advocating racism. They tapped into our most basic instincts (the toxic desire for validation and drama), leveraged our shadow selves, and turned the results into lots, and lots of money, for them. In the wake, leaving us more lonely.
I’m no longer interested in facilitating the destruction of boredom-bred creativity, elevating external validation, and fostering the loss of self. Detox will take a bit more time, but I’m ready and willing.
As the director of an environmental non-profit, it seems a path that puts distance between us and social media is a ridiculous decision. On the other hand, an environmental non-profit that is dedicated to helping reconnect us all to Nature and the wisdom it can offer, the decision makes perfect sense. Therefore, as of today, the California Chaparral Institute will not longer participate in social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Twitter.
After checking in this morning and reading comments to this post on our Facebook page, it is my personal hope that those who jumped immediately to judgment, to emote, to construct an argument about why what I wrote was wrong, to reflect for a moment.
Would you have said the same thing had we been sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, if you had assumed positive intent?
The tendency to immediately dismiss, judge, or ridicule is now a cultural staple that has been, in part, embedded into our minds by our interactions via social media. That was one of the basic observations that I mentioned in my post.
The good thing is that our minds are extremely flexible. We can retrain them.
While others certainly impact our lives, we have the power to decide how to react to those impacts. Instead of getting angry and allowing another to control how we feel, I’ve found it especially helpful to ask, “What emotional pattern within me is causing me to react in the way I am?”
The answer is usually uncomfortable, but necessary to consider.
Of course, my immediate reaction focuses on what a jerk the other person is, defending my opinion as the right one. The thing is, our opinions are reflections of our own sense of reality that exists no where else other than within our own minds – no where else.
After fighting for Nature the past 15 years, I have found that anger can certainly motivate. Anyone who has witnessed our commitment here in responding to detractors as civil as we can knows this. But on the cusp of a policy implementation that will destroy a quarter million acres of California native habitat per year (Cal Fire’s habitat clearance program), I have come to realize a fundamental truth – anger only leads to defeat, resignation, burn out, or worse.
The only way to cure a disease is not by only addressing the symptoms (anger, depression, environmentally destructive behaviors, the climate crisis), but by also addressing the underlying cause – failure to reconcile our fragile personas with our true, inner spirits. Until we do, we will continue to not only lose wildlands, but our souls.
I believe Nature can provide the safe space to begin this process of addressing our inner conflicts. Hence, my personal decision to neuter the forces designed to serve our personas at the cost of preventing the discovery of our true selves.
It is impossible to be callus, to ridicule, to destroy the natural environment when one truly embraces the idea that we are all struggling to achieve the same thing – embracing life as is “can” be, rather than what it “should” be.
Beautifully said and very true!
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you 🙂
Hang in there Rick. I think what you are saying is that social media has actually made people less connected, not more. I’m an OG and that is my take. Good stuff comes from people who share and care. We don’t all have the same political beliefs, but we have so much in common. Good stuff.
Thanks John. Agree. I will continue to care, and hope.
Thank you! Beautifully written and so true!
I have the same thoughts and appreciate that others do as well.
Thank you Dayle.
The fire suppression in my community has been heartbreaking this year. Surprisingly, reading your post about disconnecting cheered me up. Thank you! Your voice is essential.
Thank you, Jodie. Yes, the impacts of these fires has been devastating in so many ways. Yet, there remains hope.
Using their term (“fire suppression”) lends credibility to it, making it seem a reasonable option. I don’t mean to criticize Jodie – she did what we all do from time to time. But I’m curious if there is a more accurate term we can use. Preferably one that is not politically loaded. “Misguided land clearance”, would be a loaded term, for example. But “land clearance” doesn’t seem to convey the damage that is done. I suppose Rick probably already has a term that he uses. And I’ll get all embarrassed and everything when he says what it is. 🙂
Hi Brian. Yes, any kind of manipulation of Nature under the guise of fire protection, needs to be called what it is, habitat clearance.
I couldn’t agree more Rick! The boys and I spent a week off the grid and we actually had long, interesting and fun conversations for days. It really made me realize how technology has robbed us of connecting with the people right in front of us. Much love and appreciation and respect for all that you do for us and the environment💓Zip
Thanks, Zippy. It is no mystery that you have raised a wonderful family 🙂
I agree wholeheartedly. Having sold my last (and only TV, a 13″ B&W one) in 1977 I’ve never quite understood the draw of having pixels and sound telling you how to think. Throughout my life I’ve heard phrases popup with extremely specific and nuanced pronunciations and have traced them to this or that current TV program. But that was really lightweight mind control compared to what you get online. I don’t mean that some cabal sits in the background plotting how to control our minds. That might actually be preferable to what we’ve got: a total, deep down organic form of group mind control.
If you could find my Facebook page you’d see that I have only a few “friends” and they are people I had to “friend” in order to go look at some private family photos or some such. And you’d see a very old disclaimer suggesting that people not leave messages on my page because I don’t ever look at it.
Recently I started a Facebook page for my organization thinking it might help to recruit people who would help save the lives of water birds. But it turns out that these things don’t grow and thrive without an immense amount of personal work (posting.) And I’m just not that blabby kind of guy. So I’ll probably have to close it to avoid the embarrassment of having a dead page.
I’ll miss the California Chaparral Institute info that I received via Facebook. On principle, I don’t particularly care what happens to Facebook; but how can I get news from the organization? It’s unlikely I’ll actively visit the website.
Hi Brent. Yes, we have gotten so used to social media, it is difficult to figure our new alternatives. We are looking for other options and will let you know if we find a good one. In the mean time, you can go to our website and sign up on our email list. The sign up option is at the bottom of every page.
Social media (and, to a large extent, the internet) has been an absolute curse. It has eroded social interaction and the human psyche beyond what I could ever have imagined. I deleted my Facebook account a while back and it restored my sanity.
Then I created a “skeleton” Facebook account to follow the protests against police brutality and found myself sucked in once again by social media’s toxic grip. I have since deleted that account, and I’m happier for it. We’ve got to figure out a way to stay connected outside the cesspool of social media.
Good on you for speaking out against it!
P.S. I love the California Chaparral Institute!
Thanks so much for describing your experience… very similar to many of ours. Thank you for taking a stand and making a difference.
I left FB years ago when I realized that all it did was make me angry. The polarization of the country was on display with my “friends”. It robbed me of my time, and my peace. Being in nature is the most healing and healthy thing of all. When I get to see a new bird, or insect, or animal, my heart sings for joy. I think you have made a good decision. Thank you for fighting for our environment, it can’t fight for itself.
Thank your for your comment, Lisa. I sit back now, wondering, what was I thinking when I spent so much time on those sites? Once the dust settles and the research is done, social media use will rank right up there with one of the main factors in lowering the quality of life.
I am very there with you. Can I be added to your friend email?
You’re already there 🙂