Now, lest anyone assume this current turn of events has anything to do with peer pressure (good grief) or some inevitable surrender to a nagging realization that OH EM GEE, I really did miss Facebook after all! Let me make a few things clear:
1) I Still Don’t Like Facebook. In fact, I kind of wish it didn’t exist at all. But as my late Pop Pop used to say: “Wish in one hand and shit in the other and tell me which one fills up faster.” Look, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I find Facebook a loathsome, tedious timesuck (at best) and a severely dangerous and damaging privacy/solitude/mindfulness eradicator that, like some invisible alien overlord, may have already inextricably altered the better angels of our collective consciousness, and not for the better (at worst). All of the reasons I quit Facebook nearly two years ago still hold true. I enjoy the private life. Anonymity is precious. Voyeurism is an insatiable parasite that will forever gnaw at the fiber optics of your spirit. And unfettered interconnectedness is probably doing more damage than good (for examples see here and here). In short, Facebook is kind of a drag.
2) But it’s becom(e)ing a tech necessity. When I graduated from college I still didn’t have a cell phone. And damnit, I was proud of that fact. Like all self-righteous Luddites before me, I found nobility in my technological resistance. If someone needed to get in touch with me, he or she could call my house. And if I wasn’t home, that person could leave a message. Who the hell needs more than that?
Well, about three months into my post-graduation summer I had an epiphany. I needed a job. In fact, I had probably sent no fewer than 30 resumes and cover letters to dozens of area magazines, newspapers, and trade publications since leaving the halls of Temple University. One day, while painting some old home’s aluminum siding (my summer job) it occurred to me that potential employers may have been trying to reach me…but I was perched 20 feet high on an extension ladder, very far from my home phone. Then it also occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one looking for a job. There were dozens—nay, hundreds—of other graduates out there doing the very same thing. And if they had cellphones that meant they were more readily reachable than I. And that, kids, is what we call a leg up on the competition. So yeah. Shit. Looked like a needed a cell phone.
The same thing has happened with Facebook. Since making my exit I have continued to amass a respectable portfolio of longform journalism (see links above), but my audience—by virtue of no longer being on “The Book”—has shrunken. And so it is, with a heavy sigh of resignation, that I now know I must return.
3) Nonetheless, we still need to have this conversation. My choice to get back onto the Facebook horse comes at an interesting time. Just yesterday, comedian extraordinaire and ravenous social mediaite Patton Oswalt announced that he would be taking a summer-long hiatus from social media. The reasoning he outlined in his farewell post was brilliant and concise, and includes gems like:
I was reading some — not all — but some of Camus’ THE REBEL. At an airport, waiting for a flight. And this line hits me like a ton of bricks:
“Tyrants conduct monologues above a million solitudes.”
I’ve become my own tyrant — Tweeting, and then responding to my own responses, and then fighting people who disagree with me. Constantly feeling like I have to have an instant take on things, instead of taking a breath, and getting as much information as I can about the world. Or simply listening to the people around me, and watching the world and picking up its hidden rhythms, which crouch underneath the micro and the macro. But I’ve lost sight of them. And it’s because of this — there’s a portal to a shadow planet in my right hand, the size of a deck of cards, and I can’t keep myself from peeling off one card after another, looking for a rare ace of sensation.
Isn’t that fantastic? “…[A] portal to a shadow planet in my right hand, the size of a deck of cards, and I can’t keep myself from peeling off one card after another, looking for a rare ace of sensation.”
Or check out some of this truth:
I’ve aggressively re-wired my own brain to live and die in a 140 character jungle. I’ve let my syntax become nothing more than a carnival barker’s ramp-up to a click-able link where I’m trying to sell something, or promote something, or share something I had no hand in making.
I want to de-atrophy the muscles I once had. The ones I used to charge through books, sprint through films, amble pleasantly through a new music album or a human conversation. I’ve lost them — willingly, mind you. My fault. Got addicted to the empty endorphins of being online.
So I need to dry out, and remind myself of the deeper tides I used to be able to swim in — in pages, and celluloid, and sounds, and people.
Patton my good man, you are spot on!
So much of what he expressed yesterday precisely mirrors feelings I’ve had (and continue to have) about this strange, strange world in which we live (and type and thumb up and like and post and tweet and blah blah blah). So please people, let’s continue to have this self-critical conversation. It may be one of the most important of our age. In the meantime, I’m going to try this Facebook thing again and see where it takes me.
Oh, here are two relevant videos. The first from Mr. Louis C.K., the schlub sage of our time:
And then another, slightly more academic take on loneliness and social media: