There’s something wrong.
I find myself all too often feeling dejected after checking my Facebook and finding it devoid of any new notifications. No new ‘likes’ or mentions, no comments on my posts or comments on the comments I’ve commented on. Or liked. How many Facebook messages arrived in the hours between leaving home for a walk and my return from the grocery store? Zero.
Sure, there’s that old friend request from my father’s second cousin out in South Dakota, but that only makes it worse. No one’s left any real evidence, in the last since-I-checked-facebook-last, that I’ve occupied even the most casual of their thoughts (‘click’). Nobody did anything to let me know I’m funny, or smart, or cute, or envied. No one even sent a digital ‘poke’ while I sat on my inflatable mattress, watched Mad Men, made a cucumber salad, read part of a book, and randomly checked my phone to see if notifications had arrived.
This makes me feel dejected.
The fact that I feel a lack of attention from Facebook, however, makes me feel something else entirely more intense than any dull, tired-hearted dejection. I feel something more along the lines of, holy shit what the fuck is wrong with me?
Being emotionally affected by Facebook makes me want to throw my laptop out a window. Symbolically, at least. Instead I just check one of the other apps I rely upon for attention, like Okcupid (the dating one), or Instagram (the picture one), or Twitter (the one-liner one), or WordPress (this one). I check all of them, sometimes only moments after having just checked them. It’s especially crummy when not one of them gives me what I want; no messages, no likes, no shares, no follows.
Stop! Stop checking! I cannot.
Alone on a lonely Internet. Whether actually alone in my empty bedroom or sitting in the middle of a busy coffee shop with the laptop, or a crowded bar with the smartphone, I have the same lonely reaction to a still, silent Facebook feed.
I am having an emotional reaction to my social media, and while I must enjoy the feelings of love and infamy I bask in on particularly busy Facebook days, the emotions that most affect me are the shitty ones I feel when I find myself in withdrawal from digital attention. Not to imply that I have some sort of addiction to social media. Just to attention.
We’re all addicted to attention. Aren’t we?
Facebook has made attention so much easier to get, hasn’t it? Maybe not for you, but for an introverted elitist like myself, it has brought the world to my doorstep. I no longer must don my bright, patchwork pants and my “Made in China” American flag shirt to get attention. Now I can sit in my bed in my plain underwear, tap out a few inflammatory sentences, and wait for the ‘lols’ and ‘likes’ to come to me. I don’t have to arrange for a surprise birthday party to be thrown in my honor, oh no. I can rest assured that Facebook will remind all my friends about my day and that my newsfeed will be overflowing with birthday wishes.
All of that is great. The problem is that all this new attention is no longer scratching the itch. I can burn through upwards of 30 ‘likes’ in a minute. All I do is read the names of my admirers and then it’s over. Then I need 30 more.
I go out to a bar now and can’t decide if I should seek attention digitally for being at the bar, or have one more drink and go get attention from someone else who is actually at the bar with me. I hate my reliance on social media. It reminds me how damned lonely I am, even when it’s trying to cover up how damned lonely I am with memes of fat cats and stupid dogs.
Like most other things in life, I have an insatiable thirst for attention, for love, for acceptance, for “hey, look at me.” When I’m thirsty for one thing and I imbibe upon another, I find myself temporarily sated. Then, as soon as the substitute flavor leaves my mouth, I find myself thirstier than before. All this social media is like drinking sand. I don’t know where the water is, but I’m willing to bet it’s not on tap.
I want to go to a bonfire where we burn our phones, but then there’d be no way to document it for Facebook. Instead of burning my technology I suppose I’ll make a last ditch effort to curb my terrible dependence upon it. Starting tonight, I’m going to stop checking all of my social media for one week. I’m going to temporarily disable my accounts, I’m going to leave my phone at home. I feel like this is going to kill me, but if it doesn’t, I’ll be back to report on what I’ve found.
See you in seven days.