Facebook Withdrawals

Quitting Facebook for Lent

Day One

I find my phone in my hand randomly without reason. I stare at it for at least three seconds before I realize there’s nothing I could want to do with it. Where before I used to take it out to do something else and then realize I was on Facebook instead and had forgotten the original intent, now I realize some of those times might have not been “other reasons I’d forgotten,” and that my hand and eyes and subconscious had taken out my phone and checked Facebook all on their own. Feeling even better about doing this.

In the moments where I take out my phone and stare at it, there is a strangely existential panic eerily similar to cigarette withdrawals in physical sensation yet emotionally more like not answering the phone when a lover who is bad for you calls. I’m also reminded of my adolescent freakouts when the internet stopped working and I couldn’t get on any of my chatrooms, which reminds me that I’ve been using some version of social media as long as I’ve been smoking. This has the potential to get very intense before it’s over.

Philosophical: the rise of identity politics entered my mind as I contemplated a near-violent real-space incident from Monday, the 27th. The fact that facebook, whose hold is certainly greatest in the West, hits the dopamine centers associated with human connection but provides no long-term connections with other individuals can be directly linked to the loss of individual empathy and the rise of empathy with labels. When one is connecting in short bursts all day with fifty to a hundred people, the brain must rewire to associate that connection with broader categories. One doesn’t connect with black friends; he or she connects to blackness. One doesn’t connect to Republican friends, one connects to Republican-ness. People who read Salon. People who comment on certain YouTube channels, etc. When someone criticizes the label or the umbrella through which the label connects — a facebook group or a webpage or a blog — the entire group jumps to defend themselves, or at least those who identify with the label the most. If men are criticized, anyone who thinks of himself as a man feels the need to chime in and say “Not all men…”

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