Why I Deactivated Facebook

I did a radical thing this morning. I deactivated my Facebook account.

facebook.jpgI joined Facebook several years ago (in 2008 or 2009—who can remember?). And in that time, I have accumulated lots of Facebook friends—more than 1,300.

Facebook has been useful to me professionally for promoting my books and readings, selling books, getting invited to literary festivals and other paid gigs, and for connecting me with the global community of poets and writers.

It has also been useful for getting advice on a good dentist, or the best local breakfast joint, or for swiftly solving bizarre technical problems that arise for any of us using computers and software. I even found out the best way to de-ice my car-door lock.

Besides which, Facebook is F*U*N !!! And stimulating. And a source of laughs. And sharing. And camaraderie. And blowing off steam.

And therein lies its perniciousness for a writer who needs prolonged solitude and isolation from the world in order to think DEEPLY, to conjure the thought that has never been thought, to craft the unique image, to create elaborate worlds that exist only within the mind until output on the page.

The ShallowsEarlier this year I read a fascinating book by Nicholas Carr called THE SHALLOWS: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr makes a persuasive (and for me, life-altering) case for the way in which our reliance on the Internet (not the computer itself, but rather its powers of connectivity) has gutted our capacity to read, think, or write DEEPLY, leaving us stranded in the shallows both collectively and individually. The Internet has also gutted our memory by essentially externalizing our memory to cyberspace.

Carr describes at length how the computer and its connective capability have become an extension of our brain, a phenomenon that bestows some obvious advantages in terms of mental reach and processing speed—but at what cost?

From Carr’s book:

“The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways. Even as our technologies become extension of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies. When the carpenter takes his hammer into his hands, he can use that hand to only do what a hammer can do…” (p. 209)

“When we’re behind the wheel of our car, we can go a far greater distance than we could cover on foot, but we lose the walker’s intimate connection to the land…” (p. 210)

“The price we pay to assume technology’s power is alienation…” (p. 211)

“When people came to rely on maps rather than their own bearings, they would have experienced a diminishment of the area of the hippocampus devoted to spatial representations. The numbing would have occurred deep in their neurons…” (p. 211)

“The networked computer serves as a particularly powerful neural amplifier. Its numbing effects are equally strong…” (p. 213)

“When a ditch-digger trades his shovel for a backhoe, his arm muscles weaken even as his efficiency increases. A similar trade-off may well take place as we automate the work of the mind.” (p. 217)

Being in BeingThis morning, I was reading Robert Bringhurst’s introduction to Being in Being: The Collected Works of a Master Haida Mythteller by Skaay of the Qquuna Qiighawaay. I picked up a copy of this fantastic book after hearing Bringhurst read from it last month at the Galiano Literary Festival.

In Bringhurst’s introduction to Skaay’s epic cycle of myths contained in this book (myths first recorded in writing in 1900 by a young linguist named John Swanton), Bringhurst writes:

“But immobility and age—together with his status as an honored commoner—had given Skaay the privilege of thinking at great length about the stories that still tied him to a disappearing world. While other men were occupied with hunting, fishing, carpentry or the cares of a hereditary office in a time of devastating change, Skaay was thinking through the myths.”  (p.18)

And later Bringhurst writes:

“Poets of the kind Skaay was have an attention span measured in decades, not in minutes. After reading him for years, I know that while his poems can be spoken, heard or read in the space of a few hours, years are what it takes to perceive what they contain.” (p. 23)

And so I deactivated Facebook in the hope that I too may be able to regain an attention span measured in decades, not minutes.

Yes, I will probably re-activate my Facebook account when I have a new book to announce. And yes, I can still be reached and read and interacted with here on my blog or on twitter @KimPigSquash.

But that’s okay. It’s about doing what you need to do, when you need to do it.

Kim Goldberg

About Kim Goldberg

Kim Goldberg is a poet, journalist and the author of 8 books of poetry and nonfiction. Latest titles: DEVOLUTION (poems of ecopocalypse), UNDETECTABLE (her Hep C journey in haibun), RED ZONE (poems of homelessness) and RIDE BACKWARDS ON DRAGON: a poet's journey through Liuhebafa. She lives in Nanaimo, BC. Contact: goldberg@ncf.ca
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31 Responses to Why I Deactivated Facebook

  1. Word Wabbit says:

    Reblogged this on Word Wabbit and commented:
    Interesting post on Facebook and an interesting book recommendation. There is a Ted Talk about an adolescent period that people go through with social media. I am ambivalent about Facebook. I don’t think it is evil or harmless. For me it was addictive for a while. I dismantled and canceled my account to kick the addiction. I’m not sure this was the right thing to do, but I have moved on to focusing on other things. Sadly the Facebook friends I left behind where just that—Facebook friends. Good bye adolescence.

  2. pam says:

    Great post, Kim
    Thanks for sharing it with your TWUC pals.
    I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing from a slightly different angle for the past couple of weeks. I believe I am totally addicted to my computer and my new tablet thing. To the point of CONSIDERING getting a program / app for journaling. I do have a few software programs for writing but I still write every morning by hand on what I call my “scribble book”. I find myself tempted to “go digital” sometimes, but I keep resisting.

    This post makes me feel that I’m on the right track!

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      Thanks, Pam! 🙂 I have been trying to move myself back into writing by hand for at least some portion of my creative work. But alas the keyboard-to-brain connection seems to be hardwired. Good for you for holding on to that vestige of our non-electronic writerly selves.

  3. Hi Kim! Following your TWUC request, I’ve posted the link to your blog on my Facebook page. Great discussion topic for any creative!! Something to think about.

  4. Eldon says:

    It is not always so. When you gain a decades long focus, things like this are seen through that focus. I am a writer, and my books are very deep,. maybe too much for most. Facebook makes me surface for awhile.. But I won’t tell my friends that. LOL.

  5. Hooray! Now that takes balls. I have thought so much of this same drastic action. Alas, my finger hovers and hesitates above delete. Will be keen to know how your work opens up in the next few months. Luckily, I can still follow you on twitter. Well-done.

  6. Kim Goldberg says:

    Reblogged this on Ride Backwards on Dragon and commented:

    For those of you who have been connected to me on Facebook, this posting (from my other blog, Pig Squash Press) explains why I am no longer there. I deactivated my Facebook account this morning. I have several books I am working on and hope to release later this year, including another book on Liuhebafa. Facebook, while fun, is mainly Wild Horse Chasing Wind – and as such, it is not conducive to sustained creative thought and writing. You can always reach me here on my blog or on Twitter @KimPigSquash.

    May you be Parting Clouds to See Sun,
    Kim Goldberg 🙂

  7. adamcramb says:

    yes…this is true…..but we can not dismiss all influence on our expression…i believe we are much deeper than any external….everything in moderation……nature before anything.

  8. gpayerle says:

    Whoopee, Goldberg! The red zone is not an FB place.


  9. D.S. Martin says:

    Hi Kim:

    Here’s a delightful poem by Wendell Berry’

    (to remind mysdelf)

    Make a place to sit down.
    Sitr down. Be quiet.
    You must depend upon
    affection, reading, knowledge,
    skill – more of each
    than you have – inspiration,
    work, growing older, patience,
    for patience joins time
    to eternity. Any readers
    who like your work,
    doubt their judgement.

    Breathe with unconditional breath
    the unconditioned air.
    Shun electric wire.
    Communicate slowly. Live
    a three-dimensional life;
    stay away from screens.
    Stay away from anything
    that obscures the place it is in.
    There are no unsacred placeds
    there are only sacred places
    and desecrated places.

    Accept what comes from silence.
    Make the best you can of it.
    Of the little words that come
    out of the silence, like prayers
    prayed back to the one who prays,
    make a poem that does not disturb
    the silence from which it came.

  10. Liz Kaarremaa says:

    Interesting post. I deactivated last year for these reasons and time. I worry about depth of reading and thinking. Yet I seem to still spend too much time surfing the ‘net. When one’s life becomes electronic, what memories will we have? Thanks for posting fodder for the brain.
    Write on.

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      Thanks, Liz. 🙂 I have read quite a few studies about how were are literally losing our memory because we no longer (need to) use it. Anything we want to know is just a mouse click away in cyberspace via Google, Wikipedia, etc. Scary.

  11. Pingback: » Moving at Thought Speed Humanyms

  12. Barry Grills says:

    Powerful piece, Kim. Haven’t done Facebook yet, but I find even Twitter problematic by times in the way you report in your blog. It’s making me think. And I’m about to purchase a humble site to write in, in the country. And there’s no internet.

  13. Lee-Anne Dore says:

    dearest goddess Kim I shall miss your thinking out loud on fb though I understand your muse to return to a quieter train of thought. cybermaterialism is now a peer induced omm of capitalism. I like you piece on “being” though from my training in “BEING” and “being effective” one has only to return to the cognitive thought of the moment and when not there-on the off chances in “catching yourself” only to return and return again…. I send you the best of vibrations on your writing, I wish I had an old typewriter to give you, it makes me think of Burroughs and Naked Lunch. may the goddess go with you and may your dreams come true. Nom Mayo Ho Renge Key Ho

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      Thank you Lee-Anne! Yes, we are Human Beings, not Human Doings. I went for a long walk up-river through Bowen Park today. Easy to focus on ‘being’ while in the forest.

  14. Bill Stuart says:

    gad Kim I always wondered how you ever got anything else done, although one day I spotted you sprinting accross the parking lot at THrifty’s. Much faster than your usual vigorous walking on the seawall.
    The Auld Scot

  15. Once again right on the money. The Shallows. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Thank the gods for the legacy of great writing that still exists so we have a healthy escape from digital culture. Thanks Kim for another great article. You might also like my tribute to the late great Alvin Lee of Ten Years After and Woodstock fame. http://chameleonfire1.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/the-golden-age-of-rock-n-roll-2-the-day-rock-n-roll-died/

  16. Richard McCullough says:

    Hiedigger’s Being and Time helped me understand that tools (techne) are extensions of our bodies, thinking, and our world. I deactivated FB some years ago, when I realized I could not cope with the amount of information, nor could I manage my privacy. And poets do need time to think, think, think, and look up, look down, look inside. I love reading about how Socrates would spend days in a trance, not eating, sleeping, or talking to anyone, as he considered what he thought were important questions posed to him by his friends. His “replies” were always thoughtful and delightful conversations, done only in person, and without even a pen or piece of paper for tools. Hope to see you all at the anthology launch, Railway Club, April 13th!

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      I look forward to seeing you April 13, Richard! The launch itself for the Force Field anthology is at the library, 3 pm. Railway Club is for the after-party beginning at 5 pm. But do come to both if you can. 🙂

  17. Harry Owen says:

    I can understand all of this and it makes great sense. During the past year or so, while I have been putting together the rhino anthology ‘For Rhino in a Shrinking World’, I could not have done without Facebook – it has been a huge boon, without which the book could not have come about, would not exist. But I too am feeling the disconnection from my own writing, my own creative impetus. Maybe a vacation from FB is near for me too!

  18. Kim, thanks for turning us all on to Carr’s fascinating and important book. I just deactivated my Facebook account today for similar but slightly different reasons. I found myself getting embroiled in what I call ‘Facebook wrangles’ with people. These start out as discussions but often deteriorate into mutual insult matches. Without the cues we’ve had—facial, auditory, gesture, body language—communicating is like being wrapped in a black sheet in a dark room. The potential for misunderstanding, triggering peoples’ neuroses, etc. is HUGE. We need to rethink this so-called ‘social’ media. See my full explanation at my blog here: http://chameleonfire1.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/how-facebook-made-a-fool-of-me-and-all-of-us/

  19. Great blog post, and I have experienced something very similar.

  20. Eldon says:

    Hasn’t hurt my ability to think deeply. But I am solitary and need the interaction, even if just to go, holy crap, really!!!

  21. justanotherbookwright says:

    Hi Kim,
    What a coincidence to read this! I’m also planning on deactivating my Facebook account, for similar reasons – too much information that in the grand scheme of things is insignificant, and not enough time spent on the stories I’ve been trying to craft for so long. I also have felt lately that my contact with people in real life has been poor as of late, so I’ve been making an effort to change that.

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