On February 14, 2020, I quit.
I posted a message to my Facebook page that read: “Hi, Friends. I’m taking a hiatus from Facebook, for a variety of reasons … weariness chief among them. Sorry to miss your updates and messages. Ciao.”
Reactions to this announcement were both supportive and gratifying. We’ll miss you but we get it. We are weary, too.
I admit it, I was done.
Then the emergence and ultimate explosion of the coronavirus changed everything. It’s suddenly more important to keep track of head-spinning developments around the world, to understand what’s happening in the U.S., and to keep up to date on local stay-at-home or safer-at-home orders.
It’s pretty easy to feel isolated and out of touch amid such coronavirus chaos, and leaving Facebook meant I lost the people connection that social media – when at its best – facilitates.
Birthdays, anniversaries, reunions. Kids and karaoke and cat videos. Keeping up with extended family members. Recipes for dinner, for indulgent desserts, for virtual happy hours. Remembering, reminiscing, recalling the past with hometown friends and looking to the future with anyone who cares to join in.
Online book clubs and classes. Inspiring quotes, laugh-till-you-cry jokes and cartoons. Virtual performances from Shakespeare to slam poetry, from coffee-house jazz in a home studio to symphonies in sync to high school chorales joyfully merging individual voices. Invitations to events that had never before existed … that had never even needed to exist before.
And I was missing it all.
I’ve never been a social media power user. I don’t do Twitter or Instagram or that new one that sounds like a clock. I don’t follow celebrities or sports figures (although I was heartbroken when the Avalanche traded Tyson Barrie). I forget to check my news feed unless I get a notification on my phone or in my email, although these notifications are more welcome than ever now.
I have come to recognize Facebook for what it is … and has always been: the epitome of socializing from a distance. Whether that distance is reaching back through the years to a grade-school classmate, or it’s extending halfway around the world (almost exactly) to comment on a post from a friend in Nepal. Checking in on a grandparent across the country before chatting with a next-door neighbor. Cheerful updates with a sister who lives just a few miles away.
Yes, social distancing may be burdensome right now, but socializing from a distance has never been more vital.
Andrea Doray is an author, poet and essayist who advocates for free speech, freedom of the press and funny stories. She lives in Englewood.