by cheri sabraw
It’s been a bad week for technology what with a driverless car running over and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Add to that the massive privacy breach allowed by the boys at Facebook, whom I understand, sold quite a bit of their FB stock before the bad news came out. And I just read a report last month about the harmful and addictive nature of smart phone and adolescents’ FOMO.
I realize that we are never returning to answering the rotary phone or writing a letter on paper, but such news should be considered a warning.
I received such a warning from an unlikely source nine years ago.
When I owned my business, I was told that in order to promote our product (education) and to keep clients engaged, I should start a Facebook page. So I did.
After a year or two, I had thousands of “friends,” usually former students; after all, by the time I left public education, I had taught about 3000 kids who wanted to get together for coffee. I could have died of a caffeine overdose had I agreed to meet them all.
It seemed as if I had a “friend” request 2-3 times a day. On my birthday, hundreds of people wished me “Happy Birthday.” Even at that time, it felt rather hollow and disconnected.
One day, while I was back in my private office at Mill Creek Academy, one of my 9th grade writing students–a shy Chinese boy who had said very little in the course of the year in which I had instructed him–knocked on my door.
“Come in!” I cheerfully suggested.
In walked Ryan, one of the last people I expected to see.
“Mrs. Sabraw, do you have a moment? ” he asked.
“Sure, Ryan, what’s up?
“I see you have a Facebook page, Mrs. Sabraw. I just wanna tell you that I think you should probably delete your account.”
“My god! Is there something gross or inappropriate on that page that would send you here to tell me this?” I asked, somewhat concerned.
“No, it’s just that after being in your class for a year, and listening to you teach and hearing your point of view about stuff, well, how do I say this? I think Facebook for a person like you could get addicting. Do you know what I mean?”
I knew exactly what he meant and viewed his entrance into my tent that day as prophetic.
“Thank you, Ryan. This conversation has been more meaningful than you will ever know.”
He nodded and walked out the door, shutting it behind him very quietly.
That night, nine years ago, on my status report I wrote...Mrs. Sabraw is signing off. Good-bye!
And with that, I was free to pursue other hobbies and culturally enriching activities.
One day, I had a relapse and signed up for Instagram because I was under the false impression it has something to do with photography, which I love.
In addition to some excellent photography from those I had allowed into my feed, there were also some low moments.
One person who had taken her son to college posted a picture of his room with a sign on the wall that said Fuck Trump. How her son felt about Trump wasn’t my problem. I just didn’t need to see the F-word.
After the recent March to change gun laws, one Instagram friend posted a sign from a marcher in L.A. (shock) with Fuck this and Fuck that on it. (paraphrased). This was a kids’ march, I understand.
It was at that moment, I wondered why I was on Instagram. Was there anything socially redeeming about it? Did it enhance my life? Could I have spent my valuable time doing something else other than checking my feed?
And though Instagram doesn’t have a place to say Good-bye, that night I quietly deleted my account without fanfare.
And I thought of Ryan’s words almost a decade ago.