What I’m (not) reading on Facebook these days

reading with birdsA while back, I hooked up the Facebook drip and it sent venom and anger into my veins.  This Governor of ours was working on his Presidential Campaign speeches and testing the first drafts, those with drafting errors, on us. Where’s my bright red editing pen? In other online news: shrinking ice, mayhem and bad parenting. Poverty, bike thieves, and the vaccine-phobic. That day, it felt inescapable. This kind of brain food had me taking to my bed, not wanting to leave. But the sun rose the next morning. So did my son, smiling. Unaware of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that I could easily find online. “So I’m logging off,” I wrote.  “Focusing on the sun.  The warmth of my son.”

Or so I thought.  Logging off can’t be that hard, right? Less than 10 minutes passed before I was itching to get a glance at my Adieu’s performance – how many likes did it get? I tried restraint, to no avail. It doesn’t count if I just log in to look, without posting, right? I deleted the Facebook app off my phone, only to be laying in bed later that night trying to remember my iTunes password to get my fix. For the next day or so, I was an addict justifying my infractions and feeling guilty. By the next day, I gave up. On the guilt, not the logging in. I went back the open arms of Facebook with enthusiasm.

Quitting social media is hard, but not surprising, given that the debate about whether Facebook can be an actual addiction is pretty much over. Do I need to quit? I love the thought-provoking articles my friends share, photos of the loved ones I don’t get to see in-person enough, and the heart-warming stories from the Good News Network and Humans of New York. But then, scrolling through headlines and images, in a matter of milliseconds my heart goes from swelling with love to hardening with despair.

Oh, look:  sweet baby photos. Then, another innocent black teenager murdered by police. Then, a lovely sunset backdrop to an an uplifting quote. Surprise! Unprecedented destruction of our natural world.  Aww, how sweet – grandfatherly wisdom from 86-year-old friend. Oh, shit. More violence fueled by xenophobia. Oh, look (thank god): puppies!!!!

I think we’re all walking around with a mild case of whiplash and, if left untreated, it’s going to cause permanent damage.

While reading Facebook gives me whiplash, reading books is one of the purest pleasures of my life. One of my most recent reads, The Happiness of Pursuit, got me thinking about quests, a perfect parallel to my 2015 Discovery Year. From the author Chris Guilleabeau,

Questing refers to the pursuit of a long-term challenge or adventure with a series of intermediate steps. The ‘questers’… are focused on a specific goal, often to the exclusion of all others… inevitably finding themselves changed along the way.

I’ve decided to quantify the Discovery Year by creating a quest: read 100 books and post short reviews of them before the end of 2015. This feels as indulgent as it does aspirational: my dream life involves as much reading as I can fit in, and so this seems like a way to to fuel my goal-driven ambition and my pleasure-seeking hedonism.

As you can see, I’m off to a solid, but slow, start. If you do the math, I’ve got to double my output before the month’s end to stay on pace. But I have hope- and an upcoming long plane ride. Plus, I’m not above posting the books I read that are way below my reading level.

One thing I’m hoping will come of this is more conversations with friends about books – a favorite topic of mine. Another is that by prioritizing books, my reading will stay productive and positive and avoid the roller coaster, attention-span shortener that Facebook has become.

What books should I read this year?  Let me know via email or in the comments- I’d love to hear your recommendations.

If you like what you’ve read, join the email group for more on The Discovery Year.  I send out updates about twice a month.



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