First, I want to thank you. I enjoy diversion and connecting with people. I am grateful that I can more easily stay in contact with friends who have dispersed all over the world. I love that I have made friends, albeit virtual, in places I could never but dream to visit.
I enjoy posting pictures so that they are more easily accessible to family and friends.
But you ask me every time I log in what is on my mind. Honestly, it is the bothersome notion that algorithms run our lives. I, like many others, am a person who enjoys variety. When I ‘like’ a page or status, your algorithms inundate my newsfeed with suggestions for similar things. I find it boring at minimum. More often than not, I find it irritating, as it reminds me that we are just a commodity that you continually manipulate the market of.
Personalization and privacy are simply a guise. We don’t really have that, do we? I can no longer set my newsfeed to read as I wish, as your algorithms decide for me what I might prefer to see and from whom. I cannot go to another website to shop or read without returning to facebook to see ads for the things I just looked at.
The only way you could be more intimate in my life is if we were to actually, physically touch. And I don’t like that.
Each day you work towards ways to make the masses stay glued to their newsfeed like a heroin addict. If we don’t have our smartphones with our handy dandy apps, we go into withdrawal. We refresh our newsfeeds like we are double and triple checking our stash to make sure our next fix is there.
And you know this.
Much like the savvy drug dealer, you find out what you can about us to make sure we keep coming back to you; to make sure we need you. We isolate ourselves with the false notion that we are interacting with others. We begin to live our lives in our heads, staring blankly at a screen enjoying the high of ones and zeroes that denote the code we perceive as being real life. Instead of living, we now share memes about living.
We are so “busy” doing nothing.
We go to parties, but we spend our time shooting up our facebook fixes together. We are still capable of normal, rational conversation….but then our messenger dings, and the need to satiate that craving takes precedence.
You are good at being a drug dealer, Facebook. So. Damn. Good.
Much like the drug addict, we need more. We begin to feel depressed with just a little bit of digital interaction, and you know this. So you give us a little more. Now much of our self worth lies in codes of ‘likes’, even though most of us don’t want to admit that. We get an ego boost when our statuses and pictures receive likes.
We feel down when they don’t, as if nobody wants to play with us on the playground. The easiest answer for any of us is to limit our time. To simply balance a real life with the diversion of checking facebook once in a while. But you got us hooked, and you won’t let us off that easily. We cannot log out of messenger. We cannot do much of anything online without it being connected to Facebook in one form or another. It is almost as if you have trapped us into choosing between being the allegorical zombie or alienating ourselves, with little left in between. We are dollar signs to you, no different than the junkie is to his candy man.
So to feel connected to our world, we stay. Some of us pull away a little bit from time to time, but then we have a situation and we come back, looking for just a little bit. Then a little bit more. And we get high from it. We feel invincible. We become keyboard warriors. We debate senseless opinions and begin once again to ignore more and more of life outside of the screen. We fall into the idea that if it wasn’t seen on Facebook it must not be important or real.
Our very real lives are impacted by things done on Facebook more than things done offline. Memes and opinions are taken as hard fact. As easily as friendships are made, they are lost. We are hurt more over someone not ‘liking’ our selfie than we are of relationships affected by lack of in-person communication.
You see, Facebook, I want to be human again. I want to feel life. I want to feel the sun on my skin; the rain on my face. Neither of which I can do if I am staring into a screen. I want to sip coffee without the silence of company searching their phones. I want to laugh and play with my children without the ding of an update or message. I want to converse with friends without them checking their updates. It isn’t that I am boring. If I put the same conversation on Facebook that I wanted to have in person, it gets far more interaction. I want to be in control.
It seems the only way to do that is to take control. I need that in my life, and it isn’t something I will find scrolling through my newsfeed (is it really news if your algorithm decides what I see, the same things and opinions over and over?). I can’t live a life without your constant interruption unless I first remove the apps. Which I have. And let me tell you, it feels amazing! I feel a little more free. I have opened myself up to seeing that without the constant need to check up on Facebook, I’m really not as busy as I thought I was. I have time to tend to things in this very real life I seem to have forgotten how to live.
You see, it seems I wasn’t busy with my own life, but rather I was busy trying to keep up with everyone else’s. I got depressed comparing myself with what everyone posted. But we aren’t who we post about being. We are so much more. Don’t worry, I accept responsibility in this, too. Drug dealers don’t make addicts put the drugs in their bodies; they just provide the product.
Facebook, I don’t want you to be my drug dealer—I’d rather you be my bartender.
I want to come to you for something I enjoy in the camaraderie of friends. Much like a good bartender, you will probably have an idea of what I like, but will let me choose. And when I have finished, I will leave, looking forward to seeing you again when I choose to return. I’d rather you be a diversion I look forward to once in a while that allows me to connect and share. To let loose a little. To have fun. You serve a purpose, one which I am thankful for. I am also thankful that I can choose where I put you in my life.
I have said before that what I’m looking for in life cannot be found on a screen, and I still firmly hold to that. But I think the things I am looking for are easily accessible: the Log Out button, and then the off button.
I think that just beyond those are the things I am really looking for—the real intimacy of life: the smiles of my children I would miss if I kept looking at the screen; the hand I want to hold that can’t if those hands are typing; the closed-eyed kiss of a lover that can’t happen if our eyes need to be open to read the next update; the body language and vocal tone of a real face to face, uninterrupted conversation.
This is about the people who make life worthwhile and the experiences with them that ones and zeroes could never fully and accurately express.
Author: Jen Lyndsey
Editor: Renée Picard