What I Learned About Real Social Life During My 13th Fakebook “Social” Ban

I learned that I had somehow forgotten that there’s a real and genuine social life you can access and that it’s a sad thing that once I did, I felt a certain nostalgia for it—having been so digitally oriented for so long. It’s like waking up from a slumber, a stupor.

It has been an ongoing process of far-from-perfection—not immediate—but it gradually took on a whole different tone than have my previous 12 Facebook bans. In those, I really hated being “cut off” and chomped at the bit to get back on. In this case, I became gradually more comfortable, even going days without checking in much (I can see everything on FB, I just can’t “do” anything) and fewer and fewer days doing stream-of-consciousness stuff via another account. And finally, I began to feel some trepidation about the ban being lifted and going right back into the same cycle. First rule of holes: stop digging.

…One person I thought a lot of over that month is Adam “AB” Dada. He’s quite a character but has also been influential over the years I’ve known him (he dropped 57 comments here about 5-6 years back), to adopt a more dopamine stable, low-reward lifestyle. No, I don’t hang on his every word. I don’t advise that sort of thing for anyone and the best “gurus” are actually attempting to get you to think for yourselves in order to save them time. I see his posts when they pop up (and he just came back to Facebook after 6 months away) and I try to have a logic-nugget stick in my head now and then. For instance—and I can’t quote it because I’m not going to bother trying to find it—in one short post he eschewed all of these affirmations and resolutions people do rather than simply saying “no” to yourself and meaning it.

It’s about the struggle I’ve been dabbling at for a couple of months or so, now about three weeks increasing in earnestness, to simply say NO and really mean it. No resolutions, no affirmations. Just no to immediate high reward things. There are so many, now. Then, being bored when you do actually say no and mean it is, evidence that you’re hooked.

So, there are cycles to break.

Here’s a couple of observations I’ve had in terms of saying no to immediate high-reward things.

  1. There’s always like four things at the ready I could do to avoid something productive. If I can succeed in saying no to each desire in succession, it’s more likely I’m going to do the dishes from last night, make the kitchen spotless and then make a pot of soup, maybe even record it and put it up on my new Kitchen Patreon, write a blog post, go on a hike, or even go on a drive to no place in particular and get one really good photo. And even when productive attempts fail as they often do, that’s information and I’m marginally ahead.
  2. Have you ever had an inkling to maybe take in a movie, so you run through the selections on Netflix and Prime, and before you know it, you’ve just watched 30 minutes or more of trailers without actually watching anything, so you just shut it off and go to sleep an hour earlier?

Number 1 requires the power of NO and sticking to it until you eventually do something that’s better to do. Number 2 is a natural way of easily saying no because for whatever reason, what’s supposed to be an enticing high reward, just isn’t and boredom does a 180 on you.

The mystery and struggle for me, still, is how to get to the relative perfection of number 2, when confronted with far more common number 1 situations.

…Over this last month—and in particular over the last couple of weeks—the most profound thing that happened over this 30-day ban was that I became increasingly uninterested in politics, public policy debate, philosophy on all levels, social justice, the erosion of the sacred, and et cetera, et cetera.

I think I may have spent too much of my life’s capital on all of that, already. I can’t get any of it back. It’s a sunk cost. More accurately, is that it’s a sunk squandering. Cost often implies a loss of investment, which implies that you had some logical reason to gain in the longer run, and loss can be chalked up to tuition in the school of life and business. And yet, there is something in common. In losses related to investment in a goal, you learn and move on, do better next time. In squandering time and money that could be better employed, you just stop doing that. First rule of holes.

…The world, in spite of digital shrinkage, is still a pretty big place and I’m increasingly coming to the realization that all the political banter I’ve promoted and engaged in over decades is a sort of high-reward game of immediate feedback given internet and the hyper-drive of social media and I really just want to sit across from other people and see, hear, and viscerally feel them, face to face.

AB Dada (edited):

You “cure” your community of disreputable opinions and behaviors by becoming ignorant of them.

If someone presses you to pay attention, change the topic to something light and funny that is more important to you. Do not give shitty behaviors any attention other than to ostracize people when they commit to those actions around you — after changing the topic often.

I don’t pay attention to any of the modern political bogeymen at all, and if someone in my life brings it up, I bring up something much more important to me like the green of my lawn or the lint on my linen shorts. If they continue to bring it up I tell them they’re boring and annoying and if they’re going to talk about useless topics, they won’t be invited back until they behave.

Let’s go throw a frisbee disc instead.

Leaders don’t let followers drive conversations and activities. Leaders who do become followers.

When I read that I was just scrolling through my feed going “ignore, ignore, ignore” and thinking “I hope I can hold out, at least to 90% level” and then this comes along to quicken my motivation to do something better.

I do want to influence people in meaningful and material ways that actually makes a good-shit difference in their lives.

I’m not asking friends and follower to not talk about or post political stuff…it’s your life and I’m not “unfriending” (it’s a word, now) over it, but I’m going to be doing my damn level best to write stuff that can actually make short and long term differences in peoples’ lives.

I’m tired of being angry about stuff I can’t control, pretending to influence where even when influenced, there are no measurable results, and being frustrated over so much wasted energy and potential surrounding my activities when there is so much good to do and help to put forth.

So, here’s an example of how my evolving approach might tend to be different going forward. This would be a better meme, below, if you just cut off the bottom half with the weirdos and the top with the caption. Re-caption it something like this:

Ignore feminism. Instead, go out and tell charming ladies they’re pretty and that you appreciate their beautification efforts in the world.

Focus on where the true power and influence lies. Point out well dressed pretty ladies to your children.

Recycling back, the Facebook ban was really just the impetus to get me mostly moving in a better direction.

What’s the worst two things I did over the last six months?

The first thing was to get myself wrapped up in a substantial texting banter with a woman because she’s smart on an esoteric intellectual level and shares much in common because of crossing philosophical paths.

I flew out to meet her, in spite of her being with another, but considering a switch. I should have known better than to wrap myself up like that. I’m not 20-something, anymore, where it’s just straight-up predatory pursuit at high energy and misses never matter because you’re always moving forward.

The second was to download about five different “dating” apps on my phone and start swiping right and left.

Both were high-reward obsessions. In the former case, I can recall night after night of just texting banter. In terms of the apps, I’d get these “hi daddy” hits from the younger set and even after due diligence would be head down texting for far too long. It’s time and life squandering.

None of that, anymore.

Instead, I try my best to engage with the real life out there for some period every day. Typically, that’s to get out early and hit the coffee shop, the market, or both. Just a week ago I had accomplished 2-minute-plus conversations with 7 people before 9am (my personal best). Only two were people I had already spoken to at other times. I know the names of every person who works at Cafe Bistro, to which I can walk in 10 minutes. I gather little life tidbits about them, follow-up later, which builds affinity and trust. It builds a human social intimacy that just doesn’t analog to digital.

The other thing I do every day is to not pick up my phone for notifications or texts, but to instead, do pick up my phone to call a friend or family member and chat for a while.

This is all still a struggle and I fail every damn day on one level or the other. But I recognize those failures and rather than give up, I just keep saying NO to myself on doing time of my life squandering things, trusting that someday it’s going to stick and keep sticking, up to the point where I begin to wonder what was so enticing about any of it it in the first place.

Ultimately, saying no to yourself essentially means: I have better things to do. Well, then do them. You only have so many hours in a day.



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15 Comments

  1. Hugh on July 17, 2018 at 14:41

    This has to be my favorite post you’ve ever written.

    The irony is that I was picking up my phone to distract myself, which led me to think of AB Dada’s low dopamine diet and how I’ve avoided applying it in any structured way to my life, before seeing this post in my feed. (Sidenote: I had taken note of AB Dada on this blog years ago and later started paying attention to his comments on Reddit before realizing it was the same guy.)

    I’ve long wanted to tell you that some of your ranting seemed to be ineffective and needlessly self-frustrating, but for it to make a difference, to get it at the core, you kind of have to discover that on your own. Which it sounds like you have.

    In terms of community and face-to-face involvement, as I’ve mentioned here once or twice before, I’ve found grounding in the local Landmark community here in St. Louis. Similar to what AB Dada seems to foster, the community & context given by Landmark’s training does not give any platform or credence to complaining about petty bullshit, gossip is borderline non-existent, and the focus is entirely on making not just a difference but *the* difference in whatever it is people are dealing with. (If it sounds like I’m shilling, then I am.)

    And I take that context, the possibility of interacting with people in a way that makes a real difference, out into the world and can have nourishing interactions wherever I physically go. Not so much digitally. My coffee shop tends to be where I have my first interaction of the day, where I come into being, and fostering relationships with the employees is something I cherish. I stopped in the other day and there was a line almost out the door – one of the staff saw me, made my regular drink, ran it over to me and told me to pay later in the week. That little acknowledgment is worth more than a thousand Facebook likes.

  2. Sophie on July 17, 2018 at 15:41

    Truth! Amazing post !

  3. Geoff on July 17, 2018 at 18:19

    You are “freeing the animal” from his digital cage. Well done!

  4. Linda Starr on July 17, 2018 at 19:25

    I found this to be very funny…AND sad.

    I’ve been forced to “text” about five times in my entire life (mostly for doctors’ appointments). I have NO family and few friends (two of my oldest and closest died before “texting” became the rage) and the rest have moved and are from my musician days in L.A. many years ago AND my husband and I have no children. We are at home on our desktops most of the time, so a $60 – $80 commitment to some big company for a monthly cell phone deal seems like such a waste.

    I LOVED the feminism graphic (or, as it is called in modern times, your feminist ‘meme’).

    My first awareness of political activism was when I wrote in my diary in 1957 that I wanted to grow up, become a lawyer, and fight communism!

    Before graduating from University of Hawaii (where I had joined the Musicians Union and started playing professionally which included entertaining the troops from Vietnam) I married and we joined a “political” group along with Dr. Jack Wheeler (TO THE POINT NEWS) and Leeds–my first husband–and I went off on a secret mission with two other men to the South Pacific: http://lgstarr.blogspot.com/2006/11/free-state-project.html

    So I had plenty of real world stuff going on before one of my FB friends (my former gynecologist!!) invited me to join a political “debate” which, because I rarely went to FB, I missed (which I actually regret to this very day since I was on the High School debate team when I lived in Las Vegas and we traveled to Ogden, Utah for a three-day debate championship where none of us slept, including our debate teacher–we all just sprayed the rooms with shaving cream and got crazy.)

    So, at almost 73, it feels weird to me to have to “justify” the fact that I DO go to FB everyday and I DO participate in whatever political discussions come my way (used to be much more BEFORE the 2016 presidential election).

    In fact, given that I live in the confluence of multiple Dell Webb communities (out here in the Phoenix Sahara) the social “pickins” would be pretty thin if I was alone and my husband had passed.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole “online” thing (although I’ve BEEN online since 1994 and became an SEO professional).

    IF I had any grandchildren, at least I could see a bunch of pictures on FB!

    I don’t know if simply just getting offline can ever replace the lifestyle we lived before. But if it could, I guess it would be much better.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 17, 2018 at 19:43

      OMG. That may be the best comment ever, whirlwind.

      Harkening back to your first sentence, I think we’re both a couple of sad and funny creatures.

    • Kevin on July 20, 2018 at 08:47

      I like Richards comment. It’s something that everyone thinks or feels when seeing/hearing interesting content, but people rarely React online except for a cheap “Thumbs up” or “like.”

  5. Doug on July 17, 2018 at 20:56

    My favorite post of all time.

  6. Linda Starr on July 17, 2018 at 20:58

    Right on!

  7. Gianna on July 18, 2018 at 03:00

    To quote an old movie line – you had the power all along.

    I think the digital world is great for data transactions, but sucks balls
    for the human ones.

    When it comes to midlife issues, thankfully I found the writings of Jung. They pulled me through in time. I abhor the notion of millennials giggling behind my back… I’ll be anything but pathetic, if I am able.

  8. LEAH on July 18, 2018 at 08:46

    Very moving Richard! And by “moving” I mean moving me to think about how I should have more face-to-face interactions as well. I think it is especially brave to share with us how quickly the deep hole of texting on dating apps pulled you into squandering time. This post is very timely for me as I have been listening to the book, Sapiens, and the sections on how we have been affected by the lack of the accountability and support from small communities have given me quite a lot of food for thought. My favorite post of yours ever.

  9. Tom Murin on July 18, 2018 at 18:10

    I also enjoyed this post. Through all the sturm and drang we value your opinion.

  10. Bret on July 19, 2018 at 19:37

    Great stuff.

    I go through rare periods of isolation, mainly due to my job, and I come to similar conclusions. A digital life is in almost every way a slave’s life. Face-to-face relationships with live humans create pressures in our lives. Pressures limit our free time. Limitations on free time force us to prioritize our activities. Priorities necessitate and reinforce routines. Routines keep us focused and productive, because our time with every activity comes to an end. This is mostly what keeps us the balanced animals we instinctively desire to be. Otherwise, there is no end to the rabbit holes we can dig in any topic, hobby, or interest. It’s like watching YouTube videos in pursuit of enlightenment: With no limitations on time, I can add 25 videos per day to my Watch Later, but I’ll never go through them all. I’ll spend more time watching each day, but the list only gets bigger and bigger. It becomes an addiction instead of a useful pursuit.

    As far as politics go, I would not look at any of your experience as wasted time. It was a process and journey. To retire from armchair politics requires a personal transformation that can only occur as a result of obsessing deeply before coming full circle. There is simply no way around this. We are too heavily indoctrinated into being mental slaves of the government from day 1 out of the womb to expect otherwise, and most of us never escape. AB Dada seems to have gone through the same transformation himself along a similar journey. I stumbled across an old YouTube video the other day of AB Dada campaigning hard for Ron Paul for president. Now he is the most pragmatic, enlightened, and resolute apolitical personality to be found.

    And brilliant he is (agreed, not Jesus, not perfect…just brilliant). Love watching his brain work. His biting critiques of grassroots political naivete, done by impersonating the politically dominant corporatist caste tongue in cheek, are some of the most unique and inspiring written words I have ever read. Not because they fill my echo chamber, but because they remind people, including me, to focus on our own lives and relationships and wealth, rather than on things we cannot control. Jordan Peterson’s Rule 6 comes to mind: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. ABD operates on a completely different intellectual level than most. In that regard, you two are peas in a pod.

  11. Ben on July 22, 2018 at 03:09

    This post interested me because i’m taking an extended break off facebook, well I still use messenger and use it to find events and sometimes groups. But I stopped bothering to read the newsfeed, it’s full of so much bs.

    Now that you mention it, i’ve found i’ve lost some interest in political type arguments. Basically seeing that, or sjw stuff on facebook would make me want to argue with them.. which is achieving exactly nothing. And I don’t miss it at all. At the same time i’ve realized that reading that stuff unneccessarily makes me angry and hate the world, it’s a negative influence.. and i’d rather read something that is positive for me.

    The problem is somehow facebook keeps you wanting to come back again and again, just checking if you have one more ‘like’ for your post or comment, and it’s stupid, and even being aware of it I see it happening to me in the past. I’ve noticed a few times i’ve gone on there to look at events and kind of felt my mood go down, and all of a sudden my head starts to feel weird and I feel unfocused. It seems to do that by design, but I wasn’t aware of it when I looked at it all the time, many times a day.

    The feminism stuff gets me especially angry, because it’s full on nuts and insane at this point. Things I read 5 years ago would have been parody. But I wont go on about that, as i’ve just realized thinking about it triggered my to want to get angry at it.

    It’s defiantely been more beneficial for me to ignore that, not have to come across it, as on facebook I don’t have much choice sometimes.. but to instead focus on my own development and strength as a man.

  12. thhq on August 19, 2018 at 06:39

    Late here, but while reading Ulysses I ran into a word that describes your bans.

    Downface.

    It has left our language. It is simple-minded bullying to shut someone up that you disagree with.

    A facebook ban is a perfect example of a downface.

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