Fragmentation and Facebook
Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love that it reunited me with my various friends from the past. I loved that there were vibrant political conversations during the 2008 election. I enjoy that my former students feel free to contact me over Facebook, and so I often get to see them long after they graduate from high school. I love that my close family and friends who live across the world get to see Serafina grow. However, that is where my love of Facebook ends. My continued discomfort with Facebook has to do with the fragmentation of time, people, and politics.
In trying to examine why I still felt busy after stress subsided, I realized that my time was consumed with checking email, Facebook, the Post, and blogs. So, over the past year I adjusted my Facebook participation. I posted less, I de-friended people who I hadn’t seen in the past five years, I stopped checking profiles or really perusing the website. Last year at work, I opted to keep the Facebook block that we have for students, which teachers can remove, on my computer. Productivity was up, and I was a happier worker bee. Then, summer started. Sitting in line at Starbucks, on the couch and yes, in traffic jams, I quickly checked Facebook. I looked at the news feed, always dissatisfied and bored. I didn’t think much about these mini-moments, and how I experienced life in these small minutes. I told myself that they were breaks. Breaks from the reading, the working, the unpacking, the traffic…the things in life that felt frustrating at times. A treat. However, rather than just letting myself think and be, I occupied myself. In the past, these were the moments where I reflected, read for pleasure, or relaxed. My time was starting to feel too choppy to enjoy the free moments. I started to evaluate how I was using it. In a yogi-like moment, I realized my mind needed to just be. When we moved into the new house, we gave our laptops a new home as well, a study. In our old house, there was no place for the Internet to live, so it lived everywhere. Now, I blog, read, work, and do my internet work in the office. A place where Serafina, due to my grandmother’s very un-childproofed art pieces live, is not allowed to enter, and work is not allowed to leave. Most of my online life streamlined to a more peaceful experience in our new home. However, I kept checking Facebook on my phone. Time. Interrupted. Continually.
Even after checking Facebook thousands of times and finding nothing particularly interesting or redeeming, I went back for more. I felt like I had a never-ending desire to know what was going on in other people’s lives. Must. Feed. The. Information. Demon. However, these little, perhaps meaningless, checks cut up my time into fragments. Fragments of attention on other aspects of life. In response to this, I cut down my “Friends.” However, the news feed kept going. There was always opportunity to find something new, however, each check left me feeling a little more bored and uninspired. The information I was learning about others was a snippet of what they wanted to share, not really all of them. The profile allows for people to personalize, or advertise, a person’s interest. Key phrases and ideas that mark that person’s identity. However, I felt estranged from those identities. Each of my “Friends” were not the sum of their Facebook parts. They were fragmented paintings, the work of Georges Seurat, and all the “Friends” together in the news feed might actually make a real person, but they didn’t. Their status updates, vacation announcements, and life changes, which had kept me interested, started to feel like two hundred people yelling on bullhorns- loud, disjointed. I began to not care, when I knew I really wanted to care about them. I no longer enjoyed the interaction. I felt like I knew everyone, but nothing about them.
Being a Cultural Studies student, I really wanted to use the medium for positive political action. For me, the equal treatment of LGTBQ peoples is THE civil rights issue of our time. Treating all people with love and respect, to the best of our abilities, is at the core of my belief system. To try and educate people on the small things we do that might work against this philosophy, I posted articles on gender, sexuality, and educational development. I enjoyed learning from other friends who posted articles and ideas. However, I am not sure the articles or comments had the action towards political change that I hoped the medium would offer. People who agreed gave enthusiastic comments; they clicked the “Like” button. However, they were the same people each time. The people who agreed, agreed. The people who did not agree were not going to change their mind through my postings, as much as I really wanted to believe that. We live in our own Internet alleys, which reassure our own beliefs. Ironically, the person whom I have learned the most from is AAM, someone who avoids Facebook. He sends me piles of articles to read and discuss. In the car or over dinner, he raises issues and becomes outraged by prejudices and ignorance. He absorbs the information from interactions with real friends (as opposed to “Facebook Friends”), incorporates them into his own philosophy, and defends LGTBQ issues no matter the audience. I felt more intellectual exercise from our conversations than from the black hole of Facebook. Additionally, I had a similar experience creating a page for the blog. I was posting to an audience that already agreed or knew about the blog. Everything seemed to be a replication of the known. Politics on Facebook are fragmented reassurances of our own right-ness.
So, in a few days once all photos and personal information has been deleted, I am de-activating my account. I am deciding to re-establish my relationship with the Internet. Taking Control. For this reason, if you get your blog post reminders from Facebook, enter your email address in the subscribe window in the top right corner of the blog or just check on your own whim, when you feel you have the time. I will continue the blog, as it never was about wasting time on the Internet, but it is also not about becoming “Liked” on Facebook. It is an exercise in writing a record of recipes, food, and ideas. A simultaneous tribute to conscience eating, my grandmother, and my child.