Nota bene: the drug analogy is used purely for poetic reasons, and nor it or the author condone any type of drug use.
See the little word-play I did there? ;) You know that feeling after using for years and then suddenly deciding that’s it, I’m gonna grow up now, become responsible and stop wasting my time with mind-altering substances? Well, I don’t, but I bet it must feel something like this — liberating!
I got introduced to Facebook back in 2007. In the shady corners of the world wide web someone gave me a URL, an invitation to try this thing called Facebook. And I did. But back then I did not really see its point, it wasn’t cool, none of my friends were using it so I quickly got rid of it.
Everything was on the wall, it was like a free city centre public toilet for people’s thoughts and personal information. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what it was, and what it is today. And please don’t tell me you don’t use Facebook exactly for that while on the crapper, because you do, and you know it!
It wasn’t attractive at all. It still isn’t. But by 2011 or so the story changed, so there I was giving Mark Zuckerberg’s one-night-in-a-dorm-room-invention another go. By then I had plenty of friends already hooked on it so I guess I was kind of coerced into following the crowd. It wasn’t just me any more. All the cool kids were using it, and none of the parents and grandparents were on it. It felt almost like an act of rebellion. Even if half the world was jumping into the same big black hole.
Then years passed by, and the high kept getting better and stronger. Not your average coke, ay? The crowd got bigger, we all created our own little corners and flavours of online existence, groups, pages, fan-pages and whatnot, and it felt like the gift that kept on giving. We got nice video embeds, news popping up, selfies became the thing, and we even got to use it as a key for any other online presence from Spotify to Tinder. We got the news fed right onto the page. And I kept consuming. And I kept putting content out there. Sharing it with my nearly 200 friends. The food I was eating, the places I was seeing, the music I was listening to, thoughts I was having, thoughts I shouldn’t have been having, commenting, sharing, liking, hearting, reacting and expecting the same 200-fold. Finding love, breaking up, posting about it, commenting about her, commenting about others, others about me, I had my own Gossip Girl show going on, and I didn’t even realise it until years and countless hours later: I’ve been drugged by Facebook.
Now, truth be told, I was one of those addicts who’s never really fine with it, but keeps using simply because stopping might be too dramatic. Also, there was always peer pressure. Every time I decided that’s it, I am out, I was pulled back by my nearly 200 friends, saying my presence is required, as they were unwilling to use any other alternative communication channels. I should have taken that as a massive alarm-bell bursting my ear-drums of how much my friends care about keeping in touch. But when you’re hooked, you’re hooked, and no matter how much you know you’re hooked, you’ll keep defending the concept. So I stayed, and posted some more, liked and hearted, reacted and ignored, bookmarked and spammed, shared and re-shared anything that gave me any momentary satisfaction. Because that’s what it is. A moment. Much shorter than an orgasm, but certainly much longer than nothing. Every reaction, every positive comment, every like, another booster shot into my hungry veins of digital exhibitionism.
And then it all came tumbling down. The realisation, the true realisation of what digital means. Unreal, intangible, dust of zeroes and ones. Hugs that are GIFs, people who are carefully curated pictures, edited conversations, and nothing truly memorable.
You might think I have crappy friends, but that was never the case. My list was better curated and hand-picked than Trump’s advisory panel, and getting onto it was certainly a privilege. But regardless, by the end of it, all that kept me going were the few whom I was in constant contact with. The people — some of whom actually know where I live or would trade a kidney for my life — those were ones I was still using it for. The ones who always stayed after the party. But by late last year I realised I am feeding an addiction and a system that doesn’t give me anything back. All that time and content I poured onto Facebook’s servers was creating profit for Facebook, but none whatsoever for me.
None of the memories that make me smile or cry today, have anything to do with Facebook. None of the faces that will forever be etched into my brain have anything to do with profile pictures, and none of the hugs and kisses I will take to my grave, are a GIF.
In January 2017, Facebook introduced a new setting when suspending an account that allows you to keep your messenger contacts and chat with them privately. I call it: ticket to freedom setting.
Grab a beer, hug a friend. In a pub.
Over and out!