In 2005, when I was working my first job as a reporter at the Waco Tribune-Herald, Facebook opened up to students of JBU, my alma mater. A few of us disgruntled alums were perturbed that we still had no way to join the the social network because we no longer had our school email addresses. Many schools allow their alumni to maintain a dot edu address so the schools can keep up with former students after graduation. JBU might now do this. I don’t know. But, the university didn’t at the time have any way for a former student to join the Facebook network. A friend actually contacted Facebook to have them create a pseudonym email address that alumni could use to join the network if they no longer had their school addresses. And we were in the club.
I found myself spending more and more time on Facebook and Xanga, an early social networking/blogging site. It quickly morphed into a weird I-can-do-anything-better-than-you experience, at least for me. I can’t speak for all my friends, readers or folks I read, but for me, there was a sense of keeping up with everyone else and trying to become the most clever, most right, most read version of me. In short, writing quickly became about what everyone else thought, not about what I thought.
And therein lies the entirety of the problem I still face with writing: trying to write anything for any reason other than the pure joy of thinking in more than 140 characters at a time.
At the moment, I’m stuck between a hard place and a boulder. On the one hand, Facebook and Twitter are part of my job (as are LinkedIn and soon YouTube), so I can’t exactly go off the grid the way I’d often like to. On the other hand, I know as soon as I did leave the grid, life wouldn’t get any better. These tools would still taunt me, convincing me that everyone else’s life is better than mine.
Basically, Facebook is making me sad. It might be making all of us sad. But, there’s no way to give it up, no way to let it go. If you do, you’re virtually assured that your life will pass into irrelevancy in no time at all.
But maybe that’s OK.
This weekend, I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone and made a decision to only access the site if I’m in front of an actual computer. Since I rarely get on my computer at home, this mostly means I’ll only check Facebook at work. I decided to keep the Twitter app for now. That might change later. I can’t say for sure. For now, I can only say that there is something freeing about not being able to log in at every moment JUST IN CASE someone happened to have written something remotely interesting anywhere. I’m still getting used to this new-found carefree attitude toward Facebook, but I think I like it. Mostly, I like that when I’m in the car with Brandon, we can ride along in utter peace and talk like I imagine people used to before they felt the need to broadcast every spare second of life to the masses.