Why I Spent So Much Time on Facebook
Posted by Cat
I am about to stop using Facebook. And not because it is bad. Quite the opposite, actually.
When I moved to Turkey five years ago, the smartphone was a prototype, I used a phone card to call friends and family internationally, and I would go months without Internet when I traveled.
During my tenure here in Turkey, I have seen the country change in more ways than I can count. And with those changes that have affected the world – the smart phone, Internet capabilities almost anywhere, social media – I was able to do something that was ONLY possible because of the vast reaches of this new technology. I was able to launch a business about a seemingly arbitrary place and an arbitrary topic (for those just joining, my company, Balyolu: The Honey Road is a honey tasting travel company in Eastern Turkey).
I read over and over about how Facebook users are narcissists, people trying to promote their own agendas, build their personal brands, show people how incredible their own lives are, or how boring their food is…whatever.
I simply don’t agree. Maybe it seems like that. But in my opinion Facebook, is a serious portal. It is a portal into other worlds, into other possibilities, into jobs, and groups, and opportunities, and connections; into the lives of long lost friends, issues that matter, and in my case, a bridge between my very remote world in Eastern Turkey and everyone else.
Without Facebook, I would have never started my company.
This is one thing I am absolutely sure of, and I can pin it down to the person and the movement who give me the courage to start doing what I ultimately decided to do.
The person was Kristin Knox, or the Clothes Whisperer. I could care less about clothes. But Kristin brought the topic to life – and not in a creepy way where your clothes seemingly walk themselves out of the closet in the middle of the night and then lay themselves across the floor and you wake up to a huge mess (how else could they have ended up that way…). Kristin was a bootstrapping worker at Anthropology who just loved clothes. She studied classics at Oxford. She had a little dog named Butters. She had a closet-sized apartment in London that was, well, just a closet. She wrote two incredible books out of a Starbucks on the corner, which was the only way she had Internet. And she took photos and she posted about her love of clothes from her little Starbucks roost, and I watched her over a two year period rise from a person who I went to school with – a shy friend who always dressed well – to one of the world’s top underground fashion bloggers. She spent every day communicating to the world about her love of clothes. And I will say it again. I don’t love clothes. But through Kristin I began to obsess about fashion, and what it MEANS. How is it an expression of people and what we care about? How can we do it better? I followed her dog Butters’ tweets and all of a sudden I HAD to know about what Butter’s perspective of Fashion Week would be…without even knowing really what Fashion Week even was.
Kristin taught me that you really CAN make a career out of what you love. That if you can find creative and compelling ways to deliver the information that you care about, other people will care too…even when they could really give a crap about the subject.
And she did this all through sharing her blog posts, photos, and thoughts on Facebook.
The second great role model that changed my mind towards Facebook was the entire amalgam of Egyptian youth during the Arab Spring. The way they used social media, the way they got the world to care, the way they channeled social media to craft their message.
Being there in Egypt, watching as people organized all around me, it clicked for me. I realized that I could actually move to a corner of the world that no one really knows about or can locate on a map, and BE relevant. That the internet and specifically Facebook gives people a window in real-time to the realities or semi-realities that people are living every day. And it makes us invest in stories. And it makes us care.
So I would move. And go something seemingly quite ridiculous. And Facebook coupled with THIS blog would be the portal to make it happen.
I said a figurative goodbye to every person I knew, moved, and then slowly reconnected with almost every one of them from my base camp out-in-the-middle-of-remote-nowhere. And I wrote and I posted and I took photos from the farthest corners of Eastern Turkey. And my friends paid attention and they cared. And I didn’t become arbitrary or forgotten or lost. And I was able to build a whole community of people who all of a sudden wanted to know, what was happening to bees in Eastern Turkey? And how old is the yeast that local villagers use to make bread?
That is, and remains to be, an amazing thing. Without Facebook, I probably would have written three books by now about my experiences with all of the free time of not spending on Facebook… But wait, ACTUALLY, there would not have been a way to even fund my life in Eastern Turkey, because all of those people who bought our trips, supported our Kickstarter campaign, and who are now purchasing our honey – approximately 70 percent are my friends on Facebook.
I don’t care it its Facebook, or Reddit, or whatever. I found a community of people who learned about what I have been trying to do, supported me, wrote to me every day, and cared. They knew where I was, they paid attention when I need help, and they cheered me on when good things happened, because I shared that too. And on the flip side, their stories, their personalities and their passions kept me going when I needed a little (or a lot) of extra motivation.
Facebook, social media, Twitter, Instagram – it is all an effort to share our stories, to connect with other people, to know we are not alone in this crazy plight of trying to find what makes us tick and then to make a life doing it.
Perhaps the most poignant thing I have written in an interview was the following quote:
“The thing I love most about bees is that, above all else, they are a creature of stories; small stories, about food, pollen and nectar, big stories, about threats to the hive, mating, and moving. They communicate in all sorts of ways, with dancing, pheromones, antenna touches, and smells. Likewise, sharing our own stories builds our communities and gives our lives purpose. They help us forge connections with the ones we love, build us into who we are, and direct us towards what we know we can become.”
I have a theory that it is our desire to share that makes us human. What compelled us to draw petroglyphs over 20,000 years ago? To live with others? We wanted to share our lives. We wanted to share our stories. We learned that being with others increased our chances of survival and sharing our knowledge increased the chances of the survival of our children. It is as simple as that. And it still is.
Technology lets us do this in new and incredible ways. And I am so grateful to have learned how to harness this to start movements and to spread awareness. To build stories about the things I believe in most, and to connect with others who care too.
It has also been my beacon to cry for help. To cope with a lot of loneliness. To find a friend when I really needed one.
I think just as I put so much weight on its significance in my past, my future lies in this, story telling and story sharing; and I am looking forward to finding out what exactly that means.
The first step in that is to better understand the story I just lived. As many of you know, Balyolu is officially closing in five days, on October 7, 2013. And for the first time in five years, I am closing down my Facebook account with it.
Maybe I won’t make it very long. Maybe I won’t be able to go even a week without asking for your help, for your company, for your support, for your willingness to share my story, to share my burden. Maybe I will be too curious about what is happening to Butters, or what is trending, or whether your baby was born, or how your race went that I will break my fast and check back in.
But I want to respectfully unplug to give my brain time to reboot. If you can’t tell, I believe in the value of Facebook. I have built my community and company and global family around connecting with people through this pretty fabulous platform.
But I need to say goodbye to my little company. I need to pack up my things. I need to move on. And as much as I want to run to you to be comforted and distracted and connected, I think I am supposed to feel the raw pain of this transition, in the moment, in the flesh, and unfortunately almost virtually on my own.
This is my very favorite speech. It is by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaimon, and it about surviving in the world as an artist, and a whole lot more.
The part that I always repeat to myself when I feel discouraged is this:
“Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.”
To me, it means, when you are low, channel all of your pain and heart and soul into doing what you love. So I am going to feel my pain a little bit and do just that. And when I am done, I will be back.
Though not specifically using Facebook in particular, I will still be online. II will be writing, and hopefully making my version of “art.” You can find me at cjaffee (at) gmail.com or my new website http://www.catherinejaffee.com where I will be publishing final versions of my work, and here at http://www.inspiredbeeing.com where my unedited musings find their way online. I hope to hear from you. No, after everything that we’ve been through, I can say that we’re friends, and I can be a lot more straightforward that that. I actually can’t wait to hear from you.