WHAT’S THE POINT — Of the over 1 billion people who have Facebook accounts, I’m one. But this summer I’ve taken a vacation from it. I’ve skipped a month’s worth of cat videos, pictures of children at pools being adorable and the endless political rants that my many friends and acquaintances on both ends of the spectrum engage in.
I’ve taken a breather from the Fathers for Justice group that I belong to. I’ve avoided getting invitations to the latest games and time wasters. I have reclaimed the time that I would spend mindlessly scrolling past the same stories to get to a new item, about a brownie recipe that was “Simply the GREATEST!”
This has been a welcome respite and oddly I find myself doing strange things these days. I walk my dog more. I read more.
In the last month I’ve read three books, “Humble Inquiry,” “Do Father’s Matter? What Science is Telling Us About The Parent We’ve Overlooked,” and “Platform – Get Noticed In a Noisy World.”
Reading is both an occupational necessity as a father’s rights lawyer, but also a pleasure when I can escape the boring and repetitive motions, briefs and declarations. To read a good book is for me one of the great pleasures. I like taking an actual printed book, and getting a cup of coffee and sitting down and reading with actual pages that turn. It can be an escape from the drudgery of day-to-day information gathering that is part and parcel of doing battle in today’s courts and corporate jungle.
When I was a child I loved to read books like “The Great Brain,” and escapist sci-fi by authors like Piers Anthony who created alternate worlds. Writers like Robert Heinlein built not just worlds but universes of new experiences.
As a boy my brother would take me to the 7-11 to read comic books as a way of being transported from the chaotic, painful and dysfunctional family life we had, to happier, better worlds. My favorite was Richie Rich. I loved the splendor and excess of his world. Today I still love looking at mansions. I read the Distinctive Homes magazine and dream of living in exotic locations with a big house and lots of people around.
Having the free time that my Facebook escape created has given me a new view of my neighborhood. As I walk the dog more, the more I see. This week I was out walking by Douglas Reed Park and wanted a cup of coffee. I looked up and across from the park at Saint Monica’s is a newish coffee shop, Holy Grounds. They serve Urth Café coffee and pastries and have a nice view of the park. I believe they have a wifi connection if you must have a computer, but I sat outside and realized that this is a perfect place to grab a coffee, eat a croissant and read a book.
Inside the café are tables and a selection of religious and philosophy books for sale. There are a few religious pieces of jewelry and knick-knacks. The day I was there, a wedding was happening and as I looked out the bride and groom were having their pictures taken. It was a delightful moment of community. Seeing actual people enjoying their lives in person.
As a counterpoint to the one-dimensional version that is put forth on Facebook by so many, it was refreshing. Connections and community really require in person contact. Yes I know that Facebook is a wonderful tool for keeping up with the goings on of old college friends in North Carolina, but it is also an easy way to avoid real contact.
I know it may seem a bit hypocritical to say that escape by books is good, but escape by Facebook is bad, but to me, the book has a value in sparking my mind. When I read a Piers Anthony book and he’s describing a world, I get to fill in the blanks and it exercises my creativity. When I’m looking at pictures on Facebook they don’t really spark creativity, they may spark envy, jealousy and reduced feelings of self-worth.
That doesn’t seem to happen when I read a book. So far, this summer the books I’ve read have been informational and educational and thoroughly enjoyable. I may go to the comic book store and see if I can find a Richie Rich comic, if I can find a comic book store left …