...my time, that is, and my creativity. So, I've decided to give you a break so that I can once again enjoy my life, realize my dream about having a clean house, read a book or two or three per month instead of the News Feed, listen to music, and start writing on my own website. Perhaps I might even give you a permanent break sometime in the future. It's something I've thought about many times over the past 2+ years since I've signed up for an account, as Facebook has become a sort of personal experiment of mine from which I learned much about human interaction in the digital age as I carefully observed, and at times interacted, with the pages I've followed.
It started with a personal account where I, as many others, posted photos of my children. Shortly thereafter I created a Facebook page for my business. Afterall, everyone has one. Right? The problem now IS that everyone has a page and the information overload is immense. How can you possibly follow the hundreds of pages you've added? Your Status Updates are glossed over, unless, of course, you're offering something for free. Why have an account at all? Why would I want someone knowing anything about me? Why would I care about someone else's "perfect" life? Because everyone else does it?
I'm sure many of you can relate to this 21st century social media phenomenom. You wake up and immediately reach for the iPhone to see what's new in Facebookland. Throughout the day, as you're waiting in line at the grocery store, the doctor's office, or sitting at the intersection waiting for the light to turn green, you check the News Feed for the latest happenings not wanting to miss out on any updates from your virtual friends. "Oh, but they're not virtual, they're real!", you exclaim. Sure, some of them might be friends from your past and others might have become friends along the way. I know that I've met quite a few very nice people I'd love to meet one day. In the evening, you then find yourself in bed, lights out, iPhone in hand browsing the News Feed before falling asleep. Communication is not as it once was and most likely will never be the same again.
I remember a time when people used paper and pen to write a letter to a faraway friend. I remember a time when people talked endlessly on the phone, chatting away about the weekend's get-together. I remember having an answering machine and getting home to see the red light flashing on the machine, the number on the display indicating the messages I've received while out. I remember the many nights I spent with music in the background, my special leather journal and .20mm black micron pen writing poetry and any thoughts that came to me. I wrote, reflected, thought. I remember a simpler time when people actually had the time to meet up, drink some coffee, and be free from distractions.
Flash forward to today...2011. Almost everyone has a cell phone, even children. iPhones are everywhere you look. People are walking and driving while scrolling through emails and News Feeds. I remember when my husband first got the iPhone. His cell phone contract expired about a month before mine, so he decided he wanted to get the iPhone. That was the beginning of the digital newspaper at breakfast time - the replacement of the physical newspaper. I'm reminded of that "I Love Lucy" episode where Ricky puts the newspaper up to his face, ignoring Lucy as they both sit down to breakfast. Every morning, I'd watch my husband as he flipped through one Wikipedia or news article after another, Googling something that interested him, feeling as if I've been replaced. My husband doesn't want anything to do with Facebook despite my trying to convince him that it was a good idea. I'm starting to think he was right - there is not much to be gained except lost time. Then I got my iPhone. "Ding!"...let's run and see who sent me that email, breakfast can wait five minutes. Another "ding!"...oh, a sale just went through. Water for the Turkish coffee is on the stove, let's quickly flip through the News Feed since hubby is busy on his iPhone. Oops!, the water has almost evaporated in the meantime and I have to add more. Breakfast has been delayed for 10 more minutes.
We have this growing desire to let the world know our every movement, our every meal, the songs we're listening to NOW...our every everything. Then there are the photos. We're all guilty of them - myself included. Although I can relate to a huge pile (or in my case piles) of laundry that you have to wash, I somehow feel that is best left visually unshared. We also have the desire to one-up each other, although most will not readily admit to it. You have a new lens? Hey wait, I have a new camera! You have a new house? Hey, look at my cottage/guest house/studio/furniture/private jet...you get the point.
When you venture out to the Internet, you have a story to tell and there is this sense of perfection that takes over. "My husband is the best!", "My children are so smart", "My life is perfect!", "I love my job!"... Oh, how we want to be liked. We try every day, several times a day, to get noticed, to be heard. It's like Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat: "Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW!". At one point you might get worn out trying to keep up with the virtual Jones'. You've been sitting at your computer for hours editing photos, writing emails, sitting at your dead end cubicle job - all with Facebook in the background. You're bored. You need some excitement. You turn to Facebook. Maybe someone will have some controversial discussion going on in which I can participate. Maybe I can scroll through someone's photos while I wait for my cubicle neighbor to finish with her copying job. Maybe I can post something, anything, just so I get noticed.
My personal page hardly ever gets updated. My business page is filled with photos of my products and Status Updates left uncommented. I often wonder why Mark decided to name the Wall as such. Maybe he was thinking of the catchphrase "Let's throw it against the wall and see if it sticks"- maybe someone will listen, maybe not. What I've observed thus far is that people simply do not want to take the time to think about anything for longer than the length of a Twitter update. Begging for "Likes", the "Look at me! Look at me now!" era of social interaction is how the world of Facebook works. If you don't have at least a thousand fans, you start to feel inadequate as you look over to your competitors who have somehow managed to gain a following of thousands or tens of thousands of "fans".
Facebook is the modern-day soap opera. My husband once told me that Facebook would be dead without women. I remember even posting this as my Status Update that day on both my business and personal Facebook pages. I agree. So, Facebook, you can have all the "Likes" you want. I'd like to have my life back...my time, my creativity, my mind. My kids are growing up too quickly and I fear I have wasted too much time not making a difference in the virtual world when I can make a much greater difference right here at home.
If you think that you're not addicted to Facebook and that you can live without it, try it. Log out of your Facebook account on your iPhone and desktop/laptop for a week. Go ahead, try it, I dare you. I doubt many will be able to survive just one day without feeling that urge to scroll the News Feed.
In the meantime, go talk to someone face to face. Say "hello" to that cashier at the checkout who has to scan your items while you scroll through your News Feed. Interact. Live. Think. Don't let technology rule your social interactions. It's time to get back to a more peaceful way of living - introspection, rediscovery...Zen.