friends, circles and followers

November 15, 2012

I had a Facebook account and about 450 “friends” up until last March. I eventually deactivated my account and haven’t returned. I didn’t close the account because I didn’t like Facebook (I loved it); I closed it because checking Facebook was interfering with my normal life. If it’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night, you’ve probably disordered your priorities.

I stayed on Twitter and Google+, though. Both of my feeds were a hell of a lot less busy, so they were less compelling and less distracting.

During the eight months of unemployment last year, Facebook was a strong link for me to others in the blank staleness of my days. I have realised that Facebook was not only a form of entertainment for me, but a very real way of alleviating the loneliness that comes with not having a job.

Despite my now absolutely hectic people-packed life, I often feel very isolated from others. I think most people experience this to varying degrees. It’s not disabling for me in any way, and I do value my own company, but I often find I stand alone in my passions and perspectives, whether that would be within the church or without. It’s not so much about not having people in my life – I do – and wonderful people at that. But I can count on one hand the people that I feel a deep connection with. I recognise as I write that that I am lucky and privileged to have those few. But I have certainly been using social media to numb that sense of disconnect with others. Getting positive feedback loops from witty comments or interesting articles is surprisingly gratifying, for something so unimportant. But numbing that disconnect is all well and good until your feed is full of messages from people in your life that highlight ever more starkly the ways in which you are worlds apart. Getting negative feedback loops is also surprisingly bruising.

So in a way, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have made me feel lonelier than ever.

I’ve deactivated all the accounts now. I need to address my sense of isolation in other ways. I need to read for pleasure. I need to make more coffee dates with friends. I need to spend more time outdoors. I need to acknowledge my feelings instead of hoping the bad ones just go away.

Sometimes I feel a bit poisoned by the shittiness of the world. My husband-unit says that sounds pious. I’m sorry about that. But I feel like social media allows the shittiness of the world to be hooked to my heart all the waking day. I think reading the news just once a day (right before praying) is probably a practice I should make a habit, instead of making my mind a storehouse for every horror story going.

This is making me think about writing a paper on existentialism and social media. If I stay off Twitter, it might actually get written.