I recently spent a week at Hollyhock attending the first of four sessions in the Orphan Wisdom School with teacher, spiritual activist and ceremonialist (among other things), Stephen Jenkinson. Before I set off, I deleted Facebook from my phone, preparing for a much needed Internet fast.
Not only did I not miss it, but I noticed that I felt much clearer and present all week than I had been for a while. I found I was able to take in the vast amount of learning that Stephen was giving us, engage in hours of deep conversation, and still not get the overheated, frazzled brain-feeling I'd been experiencing before leaving—like a laptop that is running too many programs and hasn't been restarted in a while.
I also had plenty of time to reflect on the whole social media thing and started to wake up to just how damaging and corrosive it really is, not only in my own life, but in society at large.
Stephen uses the word "hunger" a lot to describe the constant need for approval and the insatiable desire for information and entertainment present in the dominant culture in North America, and I started to see that my Facebook profile had very much become a hungry ghost—something that was living in-between worlds, an entity that demanded my constant attention, relying solely on me to animate it through the photos and words that I upload, feeding on the approval of others, subsisting on "likes" and "shares".
In the film about Stephen, called "Griefwalker", he says that for most of the 900 or so people he watched die during his time in palliative care, the fear of death really comes down to this: the fear that we will be forgotten, that life will go on without us.
I came to realize that the reason why I had put off executing my virtual twin for so long was that deep down, I was worried that no one would miss me—that the virtual house party would continue long after I picked up my coat and walked out the door.
After a week of exploring themes of death, dying and our forgotten ancestors, I started to see that keeping my virtual twin alive was taking a little piece of me every time I logged on, and that the energy and attention I was giving it was needed here, in the real world, the actual present time, and not in some bizarro universe where everyone is acting as their own screenwriter, presenting a Hollywood version of their life to the world, all perfect smiles and "it's all good" attitude.
So, yesterday I killed off my Facebook doppelgänger once and for all.
Today, I feel just a little bit more alive.
And only just a wee little bit of me is wondering if anyone noticed.