What I Do Not Like About Facebook, Part 1

photoEver since I joined facebook my past has been creeping up on me. For so many years I had done a good job of keeping my past behind me, compressed and folded away into the back of my closet. Now it seems to have returned with a vengeance- and for this I have only myself to blame. For months my wife has been urging me to join facebook. “It’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances and it is also a good way for you to re-connect with people from your past,” she would always tell me. “I have few friends that I need to remain pre-occupied with and why would I want to revisit a past that I always got seriously wrong?” I would reply. Besides- I saw facebook as another shackle to the on-line brave new world that I have witnessed slowly swallowing many people alive. I try to keep my on-line commitments and activities to a minimum so as not to become a mere digital reflection of the flesh and blood that I really am.

I am a man of contradictions. For as long as I can remember my thoughts and beliefs have rarely lined up with my actions. One day I may swear allegiance to one thing and the next day- despise it. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that a man of contradictions was a sign of a brilliant mind- but in my case I think it is nothing more than a  sign of my confusion about who I really am. So not to make a long story short- not too long ago, I joined facebook and nothing has been quite the same since.

I first began with the hesitancy of a cat crossing a busy street. I posted one or two pictures of myself and made no more than five friends. But as the weeks passed my mailbox filled with requests for friendships- which I granted. Soon after this I was receiving greetings from people I had not heard from in quite some time. I felt mildly excited about this new way to connect with people I had thought I had lost touch with. I returned their greetings with affirmations and interest. Like most others, I was having fun stirring up old friendships on facebook without having to leave the sanctity of my house. My wife and I also began to communicate over facebook more than we communicated over the dinner table- and for a few weeks I thought that facebook was the greatest invention since sliced bread.

But like all good things, something went seriously wrong. I felt agitated by the numerous requests I was receiving that asked me to give gifts, accept gifts, join organizations and get involved in causes. I am a simple man and like many aspiring Taoists, I believed (and still believe) that happiness is to be found by being in the world but not of the world. I try to maintain a simple life but facebook seemed to be making my life much more complex. I was becoming jealous about the fact that some of my new found friends seemed to be happy and “success filled” while I still struggled to maintain my monthly rent payments and was terribly uncertain about what happiness meant. On the other hand, those of my friends who were still struggling to survive and “down-in-the-dumps” made me feel an uncomfortable relief that some people were doing worse than I.

My past started to encroach upon my present when long lost girlfriends and old photos of me from centuries ago- found me on facebook. The photos filled my mind with not only a younger self that I have been trying hard to forget but also an awareness of the relentless passing of time that has cleared away years of my life in the blink of an eye. I made contact with my x-girlfriends and began struggling through weeks of insomnia that I am convinced was induced by old memories. I would lye in bed and be dumbfounded by the question- “where did all the time go?” I would recall may teenage years with the vividness of a movie screen right behind my eyes. The young faces of my x-lovers would follow me around all day and the only thing I could do to mitigate my strange emotional reactions was to return to facebook and read more.

“Randall is attending an art show in his head,” “Randall is happily flying with the birds,” “Randall just awoke from a nap and is going back to sleep-“ I would find myself spending hours of time contemplating what kind of clever entry I would make- that would allow my 56 friends to know how clever Randall was at that moment. When I had a break from my job I would run to the computer and make entries and check up on what friends were up to. I reached a point where I was making entries into facebook at least 5 times a day. My wife and I would make comments over each others entries and we were actually having more fun together on facebook than in our real life!! Even though I was enjoying this newly found fun with my wife and friends- I could not get away from the thought that something was seriously wrong.

After a conversation with my therapist- we both thought that it would be best if I took some time off from facebook. My past was haunting me like a bad dream and my relationship with my wife was becoming dysfunctional, in person. I was constantly checking my face and pulse for signs of aging- since I had becoming overtly conscious of time’s passing since joining facebook. I was spending more time on facebook than I was in my life and I think it would not be unfair to say that I started to confuse the two. Facebook became a social gathering for me (and I am a guy who is not very social and considers himself a self declared introvert). My withdrawal from facebook was hard and lonely but once I got back into the swing of living my life in the present and off-line, I found that I forgot about my on-line community of friends and began my life again where I once left off. I was no longer plagued by the burden of my past and the perpetual responsibility of maintaining 56 friendships.

After a month of abstaining from facebook I have gone back to it with a more moderate approach. I know that I do not like what facebook can do to me, so I have to use it with caution. I keep my friends down to a manageable number and I only allow myself to make an entry every other day. My wife and I have agreed to not communicate on each others facebook but rather try and communicate over the dinner table. I realize that I am susceptible to falling back into the digital jaws of facebook (I feel the urge now and then)- but with weekly meetings with my therapist, a supportive wife and the ability to choose only certain x-girlfriends that I am willing to communicate with- I have been able, so far, to maintain my distance from the things that I do not like about facebook…….

7 thoughts on “What I Do Not Like About Facebook, Part 1

  1. I dislike Facebook equally, not for some questionable past creeping up on me, but for the amount of time useless little widgets take up in people’s lives. Add this, join that… oh look, I can do this and you can too.

    Really… really? Is this what our new social medium has turned into?

  2. I know exactly what you mean. These new social orders and lives in the virtual communities (if you think facebook’s bad, check out “Second Life”. Google it enough and you’ll find that there are innumerable people who have actually GIVEN UP on their personal lives and have started to live in the virtual world of Second Life. It even has a currency of its own that you can buy, for crying out loud!) are things which tread on a knife’s edge, and can so very easily cut you apart. But there re a couple of points I would like to throw as food for thought. Don’t take them as either advocating facebook or rejecting it, but a mere non-judgmental series of observations.

    I came to facebook later. Orkut was the first such online community that I had joined, and at that time, it was filled with immeasurable obnoxiousness. So it didn’t take me long to get out of that.
    I then joined facebook; because at that time, it was a very simple thing compared to Orkut, and that is what I loved it for. There were no applications, no events, no quizzes, no causes, and almost none of the rubbish that it is now cluttered with.

    As time grew (along with these clutters), I was getting less and less amused by facebook too.

    But what did I do?

    I actually re-joined the Orkut account alongside. Now I’m registered in both the places, but…
    …I use them very sparingly, and for very occasional purposes. Saying a hi once in a while.

    Here’s the thing. As Carl Jung said, “What you resist, persists”. I have always been an introvert kind of a person throughout my childhood, having very limited friends. I have spent loads and loads of time on my own, all too often watched the seconds of a clock tick by, etc.

    And it is that aloneness that I have to acknowledge for my immense spiritual growth. People are afraid to stay alone and be with themselves and they are always seeking solace in the outside world. Whether in materialistic things or external relationships. But they go after all these things with an emptiness inside of them; they don’t have a relationship with their own true selves while they try to enforce relationships with other people; they don’t know, forget love, who they really are, while they try to love others.
    And sage after sage, wise men after wise men, have repeated the same thing: Go Within. All the wisdom and all the answers to life are simple to grasp, if only we go within. If we don’t go within, we go without.
    And the whole society is more or less an epitome of this paradigm of existence — everyone is seeking happiness in the outside world; a world of which there can be no satisfaction.

    So my advice would be not to hate facebook. The more forcefully you push against it, the more force you exert on your own self too (The laws of motion are often true for many more things than motion alone). The more you try to “resist” it, the more it will persist.
    Instead, let it be. And see it as an opportunity wherein you choose to prioritize going within yourself, being with yourself, or your family, etc, over the unending trips of the virtual world. It is a tool, and like any tool, it can be useful or misused. Use it, but only for purposes that you truly deem beneficial or worth. You can actually look at it as the wonderful barometer of our society – showing exactly where it stands – advanced technologically but dissatisfied internally. A barometer that can serve as a reminder that it is time to be with one self, and to find one self in the true depth of our being, and to fall in love with that real self. Because when we do fall in love with ourself, we cannot help but love everything and everyone else. And then tools like these can actually help to spread that love.

    Be in the darkness to give it light, not to curse it because there is too much of dark!

    Abstinence only increases desire and dissatisfaction.

  3. I love the Jung Quote! I have already used it twice today. Thank you for the thoughtful comment- I have printed it out so that I can re-read again….and maybe again.

    Have you ever read Herman Hesse’s, “Demian.”

  4. Beauty. Seriously.

    I too was addicted at first. Even going so far as to look at other peoples friends comments.

    What had me slamming the desk today with laughter was your ‘Randall is’ status comments. Too funny.

    Also more communication over facebook then the dinner table.

    You kill me. Now I just use facebook to play wordscraper a game like scrabble.

    Love it Randall, just like I love everything you write.

    Love Renee

  5. I am glad to here that we share a similar experience.

    Thanks for inspiring me to continue on writing self deprecating satire Renee. I am starting to look more forward to receiving your comments than I am to writing my own entries. The gift is priceless.

    Now if you can somehow find a way for me to get inspired to put my work together into a cohesive whole and get published I will split the profits with you (assuming there are any profits).

    I hope you are feeling well and if not- I do know that laughter is some of the best medicine one can take.

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