Monday, March 24, 2014

Casa de Corona | Oct. 14, 2009 - March 24, 2014

Casa de Corona was “born” on October 14, 2009, when I decided to join Facebook under a nom de plume inspired by my street address.

Originally a vocal critic of Facebook, I finally acquiesced and created a profile because I got tired of not knowing things that “everyone else” seemed to know.

You didn’t know that Jim is traveling through Central America right now? But he has been posting pics on Facebook!

You didn’t know Scott and Leslie got engaged? But they updated their relationship status on Facebook! 

After enough of these conversations, I bit the bullet and joined, but I did it on my terms.

I created Casa de Corona to maintain some level of anonymity on the social network. I wanted to make sure the people who had naturally drifted out of my life would stay that way. It’s not like I had a horrible past or anything. It’s just that I already found it hard to spend quality time with the people who were in my life presently. The idea of rekindling a friendship with, say, my physics lab partner from high school held zero appeal. (Sorry, Lee. It’s not you. It’s me.)

In addition to using an alias on Facebook, I set my privacy settings high and made Casa de Corona unsearchable. I sent Friend Requests to all the Contacts in my phone and — voila! — I was now officially “in the know.”

And, man, I had no idea how “in the know” I could be.

Not only was I now up to date on everyone’s vacation plans and relationship statuses, but I also knew what they ate for lunch, that they couldn’t sleep at all last night, that they slept for 11 hours straight last night, that they were having the most amazing night out with friends right now, that they were stuck in traffic, that they were relaxing on a beach, that they just listened to this MGMT song on Spotify, that their adorable dog was being even more adorable at this very moment, that their kid was at the ER and look at his tearstained face (#nofilter #whatachamp #poorlilguy), that they looked killer in their new sunglasses, that they stumbled upon this amazing article/photo/video and will never be the same again, that they made this delicious smoothie, that they laughed so hard at this meme, that they can’t get enough of House of Cards/Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad, that they think this quote is poignant and everyone should read it too, that they got a new haircut/bike/cat/girlfriend/tattoo, that they should really live in Cape Town, and — most importantly — that they would be Blanche Devereaux if they were a Golden Girl.

Before creating Casa de Corona, I didn’t know most of these things about my friends and I got along in life just fine. However, now that I knew these kinds of things, I had to keep knowing these things!

It became an involuntary habit to reach for my phone or open Facebook on my laptop whenever I wasn’t actively engaged in something. Waiting in line? Check Facebook. Eating alone? Check Facebook. Procrastinating? Check Facebook. Can’t sleep? Check Facebook. Bored? Check Facebook. Writer’s block? Check Facebook. And yes, I admit it: At a red light? Check Facebook.

It didn’t matter that I had just scrolled through my News Feed only minutes ago. I had to check it again because, you know, I might miss something important, like a gorgeously staged photo of the cocktail my friend just ordered at WeatherUp.

Over the past five years, I have allowed the lure of Facebook to routinely and regularly interrupt my productivity and creativity. A task that should take me only an hour drags over an afternoon because I take multiple "quick" breaks to troll through the News Feed.

I created Casa de Corona to stay more connected to others, but, for me, Facebook has morphed into The Ultimate Distraction.

I find it disturbing that I seemingly have forgotten how to stay present during the natural pauses in my day. Instead of welcoming a window of unoccupied stillness, my hand automatically reaches for my phone, my eyes leave the world around me, and all my attention and energy gets poured into a glowing screen.

It’s sick. Sick, sick, sick.

However, that’s not the worst of it.

What I find most disconcerting is that, for the most part, Casa de Corona has become my primary outlet for creative writing. I’ve started to regard most everything I experience as a potential Facebook post.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where I must draw the line.

Since joining Facebook, my writing life (that is, my non-billable and creative writing life) has looked somewhat like this: If The Universe graces me with a keen observation or a bit of humor, nostalgia or enlightenment, I don’t journal about it. I don’t turn it into a short story or an essay or a magazine article. I don’t sketch out the beginnings of The Next Great American Novel.

Oh, no, no, no. Why, that would be too much work!

Instead, I immediately reconfigure the thought or scene into a pithy Facebook post, cast it into the News Feed and wait hungrily to see how many Likes and Comments it’ll catch. It’s so quick and effortless, and I have an audience available to me 24-7.

Sweetening the lure is that people often tell me, both online and in person, how much they enjoy my Facebook posts — that they actually look forward to them. And let me tell you something about writers, people: We love receiving feedback like this! I love learning that my words have resonated with another human being, that my writing has made someone laugh, think or just feel less alone in that moment.

I admit: This part of Casa de Corona’s “life” has been rewarding and very positive. I am grateful to her to this end. Casa de Corona has given me a (somewhat) public platform to voice my take on this thing called life, whether it’s a scene I observed in a coffee shop or the inventorying of a rather remarkable day.

But here’s the rub, my friends: Writing Facebook status updates has nothing to do with real literature and everything to do with tossing my creativity into a bottomless cyberpit to immediately gratify my ego.

It is like witnessing The Slow, Unceremonious Death of a Writer.

All those status updates I referred to above? I’m guilty of posting most of them and more. I mean, how many times a day must I say: “Look at me, everyone!”? Because let’s face it: That’s basically what I’m doing every time Casa de Corona posts a status update.

Look at me! How clever. Look at me! How fun. Look at me! How pretty. Look at me! How smart. Look at me! How strong. Look at me! How crazy. Look at me! How cool.

Do I really need a collective thumbs up from the Facebook community to validate my experiences, thoughts and feelings throughout the day? Since when did I become so outwardly focused in affirming who I am on the inside?

I know better than this. I was born with an independent spirit and a desire to pursue the road less traveled, but Facebook has somehow hacked into my internal compass and made it too easy for me to stop and ask for directions, to demand a virtual pat on the back versus patting myself on the back and knowing that that is enough. 

The good news is that I’ve become acutely aware of what Facebook can (and can’t) do for me. I have traveled the full distance with Casa de Corona. And as it turns out, she is a dead-end street.

Simply put: I am killing Casa de Corona to rescue the writer in me.

The Next Chapter

Like most writers, I think I have at least one book in me. Right after my divorce, in the early 2000s, I had an idea for a novel and I pursued it by spending two months in Mexico and then traveling across Spain in a tiny Fiat with three amateur bullfighters. I wanted to write a novel about a rodeo-cowboy-turned-matador. My ex-husband was a pro bull rider, so I knew that lifestyle well. I just had to educate myself about the fiesta brava. I taped hours of interviews on cassettes and filled a few legal pads with notes and observations, but, in the end, the book never happened. For reasons not worth going into here, my fascination with the bullfighting subculture waned, and I no longer felt compelled to write the story.

For a long time I beat myself up for not writing that book, but now I look back on that time in my life and I feel in awe that I spent that kind of time and energy pursuing a creative writing project that had nothing to do with my paid writing jobs.

I want to do shit like that again.

I will do shit like that again.

The trick is — and I can feel this like a deep knowing in my bones — I need to relearn how to stay present in the natural pauses throughout my day. I need to stop filling my head with News Feed fodder and make room for stillness. That’s when Ideas are born.

Moreover, when The Universe throws me an idea, I want to write at length about it. I want to process things thoroughly. I want to sit and revisit. I want to throw away and start over. I want to write and revise — and write and revise again.

I want to spend real time on real things.

For those of you who want to continue reading my work, I encourage you to follow this blog so you’ll receive alerts whenever I write something new. Casa de Corona’s final status update will sit in the News Feed for a couple days and then her profile will be deleted forevermore. Amen.

For the time being, I’ve decided to keep my Instagram profile alive because it doesn’t feel threatening to my writing life like Facebook does. But who knows. I might kill that too eventually.

I trust that those who want to be in my life will remain in it, and I'm certain I will find ways to stay connected and accessible to those I love, admire and care about.

Isn't that how the original model for friendship has always worked?