On January 2nd I went out back to fill up the wood box and there were deer tracks in the snow all over the yard. It happens every year—first week of January—deer pass within twenty feet of the house. Kind of the deer’s way of saying, ‘Neener! Neener! Neener!’ How they know hunting season’s over is a mystery but they don’t come around between August and December 31st. If they did somebody would follow them up the hill and they’d be roasts and stew meat in the freezer by now. Clearly whatever information highway exists among deer on Douglas Island is reliable. Which brings me to Facebook.
What if deer used Facebook? What if, after three and a half million years of evolution all sixty-odd deer species on the planet stopped using local cues they’ve adapted continuously over millennia and tapped into world-wide social media instead? Imagine Sitka blacktails sitting out in the woods sipping lattes, tapping away at the screen with their little hooves, posting pictures of themselves and the twigs they ate for supper. A bear comes by thinking, “Score!” and whacks one upside the head. Another deer records the moment, posts it, and gets a hundred thousand ‘likes’ including one from a moose in Maine who shares every bear attack with his three thousand followers. Reading the comments he’s distracted. Just as he hits ‘reply’ there’s a blast of an air horn. The moose’s last selfie is himself demolishing the front end of a tractor trailer truck going seventy miles an hour down the southbound lane of Route 95. The post goes viral. Deer on remote islands without roads or bears form discussion groups and stay up all night arguing about whether bears or trucks are most dangerous. An old buck in Wisconsin, who posts whatever scares him, invades road/bear discussions with long comments about wolves, chronic wasting disease, arterial worms and mange. Average deer time on Facebook increases to fifty minutes per day. The first cases of ‘Facedeer Depression Syndrome’ appear in the feeds.
Lucky for them, deer don’t do digital devices. We think we’re smarter than deer but consider a New York Times article I read right after seeing the deer tracks. James B. Stewart wrote: ‘Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day. It wants more.’* He reports that the average daily time on Facebook, Instagram and messenger platforms (not counting WhatsApp) is 50 minutes and Facebook is looking at how to expand its hold on people’s time. I did the math and figured that if Facebook has, as they claim, 1.18 billion daily users then 1.18 billion times 50 minutes per day equals 59 billion Facebook minutes per day. If you think of all of humanity as a single organism, we’re spending over 983 million hours, which equals 40.97 million days, which equals 112,252 Facebook YEARS every freakin’ day. Over a million years every nine days, and so on. All on a thing that didn’t even exist until twelve years ago. Whew. It’s hard to pin down because none of us wants to admit how much time we spend on social media so we under report just as we do when the doctor asks us about alcohol or sugar intake. “Um, ah, well gosh let me think…”
Full confession here, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve logged onto Facebook and have no idea how much time went by the wayside there. I don’t mean to be preaching to anyone but me when I tell you; “Brothers and Sisters of the Cordwood Congregation, I have Strayed from the Woodpile.” Deer tracks and the New York Times back to back was a message from on high for me to exorcise the demon with Facebook Friday.
Not being ready to kick it entirely, my compromise was to give Facebook twenty minutes or less—only on Fridays. For the rest of the week time saved has become Wendell Berry time. Wendell Berry says, “Live a three-dimensioned life; stay away from screens. Stay away from anything that obscures the place it is in.”** “A three dimensioned life.” Is Wendell Berry the Man or what? But what to do with that extra time? Spend it outside. Not the usual outside time when I’m out doing something anyway but random fresh air, a few minutes here and there, late at night or early in the morning. That’s the plan until at least Spring Equinox. So far it’s going pretty good. I’ll remember those extra moments last weekend, wrapped in a sleeping bag on the back deck when the wind was blowing sixty and up, whipping hundred foot trees back and forth under a bright half moon and the cold stars shining. And if I’m lucky enough to see deer walking through the yard, they will be three dimensioned flesh and blood deer that I’ll have no more need to take a picture of for social media than the deer would have to take a picture of me. Because deer don’t do that.
*NYT, May 05, 2016
**How To Be a Poet (To remind myself) by Wendell Berry