I sat down and did the math: I have spent 7,300 hours on social media in the past 10 years.
Specifically on Facebook.
Facebook and I have gone through a host of relationship shifts over the past several years, way more-so than, let’s say, the relationship I have with my friends or with my mom or with pretty much anyone else.
It is the most unstable relationship in my life.
And I realize this is not a new topic of conversation—of how social media affects us, how it’s building new styles of communication and how it’s creating our ideas of ourselves. I realize there are people far more qualified than me getting their doctorate degrees in this stuff.
But I’m going to talk about it anyway, because I think I am as qualified as anyone to at least make the statement: Facebook has made me (at various points in my life) a complete and total crazy person. Like bat-shit crazy. Like someone-put-electrodes-on-this-girl-and-study-her crazy.
The night I signed up for Facebook was the night I signed up for classes for my first quarter of my first year of college.
In other words, Facebook created my college experience. I have no idea what college would have been like without Facebook, and I have no idea what high school would have been like without Myspace (or the three Livejournal accounts I used to passive-aggressively spew angry poetry at my boyfriend).
I’m going to assume that most of the people who will happen upon this article have or have had a Facebook account at some point in their lives. And I’m not discrediting the usefulness of those sites: without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t even know what elephant journal is, I definitely wouldn’t keep in contact with as many people as I keep in contact with, and I don’t know how I would keep up with what play is going on this weekend or what band is playing next weekend.
I currently have a Facebook and I am not considering giving that up right now.
But the other thing is: Facebook makes me a psychotic mess sometimes. It makes me a psychotic mess because most things I do on that site (either consciously or subconsciously) is competitive in nature. There’s something about the exposure of it all that makes it feel like everything on Facebook is on display so other people know I’m good enough.
Cool: you wrote on my wall. But why not just text me instead?
There’s something about the idea of other people seeing your inside jokes; your pictures; your fucking check-ins (I’ve never understood that); your status updates that either let people know how fucking awesome you’re doing (be jealous!) or how miserable/pissed off/whatever you’re doing (feel sorry for me!).
It’s almost as if we’re saying our experience of living is not legitimate unless someone else knows about it.
And we’ve assigned meaning to all of that. We’ve assigned meaning to how many likes our profile pictures get, how many times people reach out to us without us initiating contact first, who looks more happy via recent pic uploads post-break-up…
Now I’m not too concerned with how other people use Facebook, although I can make conjectures that a lot of it is unhealthy—at the end of the day, my quest is my own health. And my quest is to not demand others to be healthy, but to create space for others to honestly self-connect if they choose to (only if they choose to).
There is so much activity happening on Facebook constantly—it’s like this rapid whirlwind cesspool of activity and stench-y, swirly gut-spillage–that it’s easy to completely stop paying attention. And by paying attention, I simply mean that as we turn our thoughts into behavior, we ask ourselves, “does this make me feel good?”
Maybe I should define the word good. By good, I do not mean vindicated, I do not mean superior, validated, better-than, etc. Those feelings are a short spike of good feelings and then the good feelings leave and we feel like shit again.
By good I mean (at least I think I mean): does my behavior allow my celebrate myself and others equally? Does my behavior make me feel free of burden and conflict?
And it’s easy to not hold ourselves accountable on Facebook (and who are we kidding? in real life too…) because our computer is one big fat shield that separates our actions from our intentions–other people see only the actions, and they assume what our intentions are.
Let me give you an example: I’ve written on peoples’ walls before, you know, like ya do. And I’ve said a bunch of stuff that I thought was awesome that only Nicole would get because Nicole and I are so awesome together and we have all these inside jokes and I want to remind her of them in this public way and start a comment chain. Or at least, that’s what it seems like.
In actuality, I’m really only writing on her wall so that maybe my ex-boyfriend will see it and know that not only am I okay, I’m totally thriving, no thanks to him, and I hope he feels like shit knowing that since we’ve broken up, I’m just one big delicious ball of fun and, oh yeah, Fuck You!
Like I said, my relationship with Facebook changes all the time. These days I try to use my account for the purpose of celebration—both of myself and of others. And I try to engage in any and all activity without expectation that other people respond to me in a certain way (or even respond to me at all).
Facebook gives me good things…I think. But because of the speed of information that is thrown at me over social media, my natural tendency to check-the fuck-out and just start doing things without thinking (that’s when you realize it’s Friday night and you’ve been unintentionally on Facebook for four hours; and although you haven’t really moved from your seat on the couch, you’re vaguely sweaty and have lower self-esteem than Britney after that haircut and are hoping that no one asks you what you were up to this weekend because you never want to speak of this night again).
We’re a cool generation—getting raised on this stuff. And I think we can use social media to enhance our communication, but only if we want to. We have to want to use this stuff wisely and mindfully, or else succumb to the behemoth of online socialization that would happily claim all happiness from our lives without batting an eye.
I don’t want to use Facebook to make me feel better about other people, I want to use Facebook to make me feel connected with other people.
And that intention makes all the difference.
Ed: Bryonie Wise