Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Solitary Confinement (or Why I Deleted the Facebook App)

My teacher, Michelle, once told me that being a yogi can be lonely work. She said this within the context of satsang, so it seemed a little farfetched at the time. Who could be lonely in the company of a bunch of other happy hippies?

The thing is that for every evening I spend in ecstatic kirtan, I spend twelve more days alone listening to Lama Marut podcasts or obsessively designing asana sequences. Teaching a lot of yoga classes requires a lot of personal work, and most of it is solitary business: meditating, practicing, studying.

I recently quit my day job (teaching school) to teach yoga and do massage full-time. My formerly super structured days are now more akin to controlled chaos. Some days I teach five classes, some days two, some days I travel the length and breadth of New Orleans twice, some days I scarcely leave Mid-City.

I schedule massages in between my classes and my personal practice in between massages. I end up with weird blocks of free time in the middle of the day when no one else is available. When I’m not engaged in super enlightened pursuits, I’m usually reading Game of Thrones or obsessively checking Facebook on my phone. Sometimes I’m doing both at the same time.

If I’m being honest, I should admit that I’ve spent more time on Facebook this summer than I have meditating. Far more time. Like I can’t even imagine how much more time.

So, finally after months of checking Facebook before classes, checking Facebook after classes, checking Facebook in lines to the restroom and sometimes even in the restroom, I had to ask myself, “What am I getting out of this?” I’m not sure how to answer that question, but I’m pretty sure I’m not getting what I want out of it.

I’m lonely. I spend a lot of time alone. I’m an introvert, so I like to spend a lot of time alone, but I never realized how many of my social needs were met by simply doing my work in the presence of others. Since that is no longer the case, I am trying to fill this social vacancy with Facebook.

But it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work partially because, actually, Facebook is no place for introverts like me. I have upwards of 1,900 "friends," which makes my Facebook experience super crowded. I hate crowds. I especially hate crowds in which some people think it’s okay to push, and Facebook is one of those crowds.

It also doesn’t work because I am in some weird awkward stage of personal/spiritual growth. I used to be pithy and witty and now I have a low tolerance for small talk. So I vascillate between posting quippy, tongue-in-cheek-statuses and posting kind of mindful statuses, neither of which garner responses that I find engaging.

If I say something smart alecky, there is always someone who takes me seriously or feels hurt or doesn’t get my sense of humor. I can negotiate this kind of situation in person by apologizing or explaining, but mostly it doesn’t actually happen that often because I am socially adept enough to figure out what I can get away saying to whom most of the time.

If I say something mindful, there is always someone ready to step up and say, “UR soooo stooopid ROFLLMAO,” and then my feelings are hurt. I make myself feel better by recognizing that probably people would be more emotionally sensitive and in tune if we were face-to-face, just like I would be.

But we aren’t face-to-face, because we are both in line waiting for our stevia sweetened almond milk chickory brews checking Facebook. Maybe right next to each other.

In my effort to reach out socially, I am actually more effectively alienating myself. Instead of engaging in incidental conversations with the people I am coming into actual physical contact with I am looking down at my phone.


Good question. I think because it’s seemingly harder to control what people think of you if you are actually with them IRL. You can’t curate what they will know about you. There are no privacy settings. They know if you have bad breath or a booger. They know that actually you don’t look anything like your profile pic because it was taken in really good light on a skinny good hair day.

Real life doesn’t have a filter that makes your skin look perfect and erases your flaws. And in real life, we are terrified that people will not like us if they see our flaws. We are scared that they will not want to be our “friends.”

But in real life, the people we call friends are the people who see our flaws and still love us. They are the people we love despite their not perfect skin in bad light and not quite photogenic homes.

In other words, I use Facebook because I want to make friends, but what I really make are “friends,” and they aren’t the same.

I deleted the Facebook App from my phone so I can have totally uncontrollable social interactions and learn to risk not being liked.

I haven’t done anything dramatic like delete my account, though. I’m not a teetotaler. It’s fine for me to be at home checking email and also checking Facebook. I’m just not using it instead of interacting with the people around me.

So, maybe I’ll see you around. And actually see you.