(Not) Living in 140 Characters

I will never forget the day back in 2006 (or was it 2007?) that I was introduced to Facebook.  I had been a reluctant adopter of a blog but was talked into it, really, by my Sociology friends at the time Marc and Meghan.  “Blogging is the new journaling,” they told me. (That’s how I remember in my age-addled brain). “You’ll love it.  We’ll all read each other’s and share ideas.”In some way this sounds like the man with the sketchy van in DARE videos that was going to sell you “dope.”  Anyway, they enabled and finally I caved…aaaand here we are today.  I don’t think they blog anymore but just like the addict I am, I do.  Thus began the slide into social media although there was no such term then.  So hooked and posting like, three times a day, when they came knocking with, “C’mon get on Facebook…you’ll love it…everybody’s doing it, ” of course how could I resist?  I tried to hold off for awhile but that was a fool’s errand.  It was only a matter of time.
Fast forward roughly ten years: I’m still on Facebook and starting to resent that I need it…like those addicts on Intervention who look straight into the camera as they talk about hating the drug while they’re shooting up.  It doesn’t make any sense–to them, to us–yet it happens.  “That’s addiction,” we say, shaking our heads with a sadness as we pour our 4th glass of Chardonnay and browse our newsfeed.
Obviously, being addicted to crack and being addicted to Facebook are not the same.  The former will literally lay waste to one’s life and then kill, painfully, if care is not taken to get ahead of it.  And even then, no guarantees.  Facebook will just make you miserable one fucking #happy, #blessed post at a time.  And that’s exactly where I found myself about a month ago.
Of course, the lie we know Facebook tells us is that we’re connected.  As long as we like or poke (oh lordy…do you remember poking!?!?! And how crazy it got?  And how weirdly sexually suggestive it was which you didn’t realize until your mom poked you and you were like, “Whoa.  This is not. right.” I mean, I remember throwing facebook sheep at people at one point. Anyway…) Facebook sings us to sleep with that lullaby about all of our 1523 Facebook friends.
Who are not real. 
Whose Facebook lives of fun, frivolity, and Buzzfeed quizzes about who their Game of Thrones spirit animal is are not real.  Because in those same lives, they have disappointments.  They get angry.  They have (I hope) sincere discussions about important things.  And all of this is not for the sake of presentation.  They do it because it’s part of real life.  Those things happen.  And are forgiven and forgotten or maybe remembered fondly forever.  But they’re not acted out with an audience in mind.  And they go undocumented why?  Because they’re real and they are the stuff of life but they’re outside the bounds of how we want to publicly construct ourselves.  We should be #blessed and #proud not #frustrated and #overit.  What I start to wonder is if I’ll we’ll ever be able to have a happy moment again without feeling a driving compulsion to “share it” so that people can “like it” and see how fine we are.  Do we ever do something amazing and just drink it in and say, “That was awesome” and then carry on?  If we’re that #happy and #blessed, do we really need a hashtag for it? 

And if I’m going to be shallow about it, how could they be having so much fun without me?  Whether I’m being philosophical or selfish (and sometimes both at the same time which, I think, is what we call self-righteous), not feeling the same way that others seem to be feeling in all of those shiny, happy posts can make one feel, oh, I don’t know:

  • alone
  • disconnected
  • without friends who care
  • without love
  • why am I even here?

I don’t know how there are teenagers growing up and learning to be human beings in this setting.  Is this how we get Millenials?  Because, if yes, we all need to take a pause and reflect.  That’s good for literally no one. 

I remember so vividly one night not that long ago I was almost literally crying to a friend on the phone about how bad I felt seeing pictures posted of a party I had not been invited to.  (Also, I’m nearly 40 so that’s a big, grown-up feeling I’m dealing with clearly).  And he very simply said, “Stop looking at them.  Why do you keep going to a place that makes you feel this bad?  And why are you concerned about people who don’t seem that concerned about you?”
“Yes,” I thought and said.  “You’re very right.”  The thought had not occurred to me to just turn it off.  And I did.  And I found myself so much more content.  And also so much more faced with my own disconnectedness.  My loneliness was real and needed to be tended.  In the harsh, un-backlit light of real life, I had become outside of social things and I didn’t really notice it.  Because as long as I had a moderate Facebook audience, it felt like I was interacting. I was making a point.
That was not real.
To be clear, I’m Prime Offender so if you feel #offended by my #truth, stand down.  I’m already pointing this finger back at me.  But since I seen the light, I’ve tried like the dickens to seek out real interaction.  I count phone calls because, please, we need technology.  I started playing tennis in a group class setting mostly just to talk to real people…and then slam overhead smashes at them.  I try to talk my way into meeting with friends in a place and time I can talk with them…even if they fight me on that.  We’re going to have a good conversation, dammit.  And I’ve mostly stopped thinking, “I wonder what quippy observation I can share on Facebook” or “I should instagram that.”  Instead…I just enjoy the thought for what it is.  Or that flower or the moon or the lake.  Right there, when I’m with them, I just take my moment then.
Those moments are real. And they’re life.

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