Sunday, December 17, 2017

Living Without Facebook

Today I posted on this blog the first piece of writing  I've done since I removed myself from Facebook, and today, for the first time, I find myself missing something that I know is bad for me. For the past several years, I'd put a link on Facebook to whatever I'd written here and within minutes, there was at least one "like." It was an insecure writer's dream come true, a rapid acknowledgment that the writing had been read. When I was really lucky, among the "likes" would be a verbal response, but even when there wasn't, the "likes" made me happy. In fact, they made me high.

We all know about the rats who would hit the same lever again and again to get a jolt of pleasure, choosing that over food or drink. For me that's what Facebook had become, a quick hit of gratification that was beginning to mean more than the writing. I was becoming a Facebook junkie, hitting that button over and over to see who was paying attention to me and who I could pay attention to.

Other people may be able to handle this, but I can't. I crave connection with people I love and people I like and people I'm interested in and people who are interested in me more than I long for almost anything else in the world. The good thing about that is I love to spend time with friends. I love to write, forging a link with people I may never know. And as it turns out, I love to be able to have contact with people by simply logging into Facebook; with a click of a mouse, the world is with me at any time of day or night. It's easy and that's what made it wrong for someone like me.

Can't sleep? Log onto Facebook. Need a break from work? Facebook's right there. Missing a friend? See what they've had to say on Facebook.

And that's a large part of what made me leave. When I did see people I cared about, the phrase "Right, I read about that on Facebook," cropped up all too often. Thanks to Facebook, it seemed as though we now knew too much, and too little. about each other.

Sometimes it seemed as though interacting on Facebook was almost as meaningful as arranging a visit. It certainly had supplanted email and long telephone chats were as dead as sending postcards. I had friends who lived in the same city as I whom I saw regularly on Facebook and rarely anyplace else. I had friends I'd never met. I had friends with whom I corresponded simply by exchanging "likes."

It began to feel as though I hadn't finished writing anything until I'd immediately put it on Facebook. Snapshots were instantly there in a single click. In fact nothing seemed to have taken place in any part of my life unless it appeared on Facebook to be greeted with the instant gratification of "likes." It became bad manners to read a post written by a friend without clicking "like." My world became truncated by squeezing it into status updates and tarnished if the updates weren't acknowledged by Facebook friends.  This was the worst place for an attention-seeker like me to be.

Then there was the incoherence of it all. I had long felt that Facebook was like a cocktail party where the guests all had ADD. Nothing fit together. A cat video would be followed by an impassioned political opinion which would be instantly succeeded by a recipe from the New York Times and then the news that somebody's parent had died. And it never stopped.

That barrage of unconnected facts and images and personal messages began to affect the quality of my attention. There just wasn't enough room in my memory for everything that jostled for place within it and I began to forget important things to make room for random details. And yet I was eager for more, worried that I would miss something crucial if I didn't log onto Facebook.

The worst part of all was I was so busy writing updates and responses and clearing up the inevitable misunderstandings that come from quick messages written on the fly that I wasn't writing much of anything else. The unceasing buzz in the background that Facebook had become for me was  clogging up any sort of creativity that I might ever have had. When I faced a blank document, there was too much inner noise for me to settle into a pattern of thought.

When I was fourteen, I read Truman Capote's short story, Master Misery, over and over again. Each time it made me cry and with every passing year, it has taken on greater weight. When Mr. Revercombe tells Sylvia that he can no longer buy her dreams, because she has nothing left, now I feel a sadness too laden with dread for tears. I left Facebook because I began to feel that I was trading everything I cared about for that quick fix, the instant gratification of "likes," and that eventually it would all be sold.

Each time I think I miss Facebook, I remind myself that I will never have to look at the words "unfollow" or "unfriend" ever again. That alone could be worth all of the "likes" that I will no longer  garner for any writing I may ever do again.

Hello. I'm Janet and I'm in recovery from Facebook...

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