For a while now I’ve wanted to write more personal writing pieces, but never quite gotten there. Every blog I’ve tried to make has either felt forced, or neglected. Monthly is my best answer to that problem. In an effort to weed out over-posting for the sake of content creation, and posting one thing every 5 months and looking like a person who’s neglected a website, I’ve created a blog that this year will get exactly 12 entries. One for each month. I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be about, except that I’ll probably be in it.
This month I stopped using FB. Kind of.
Facebook and I have a very stereotypical relationship. I say this because like many relationships it started out fresh and exciting, and since then over the course of the last decade or so our love for each other has morphed into an single cell, tumoric cancer, based out of necessity/apathy. Facebook and I sleep in separate beds because a divorce would mean dividing up the shit, and that’s just too messy; the “shit” in this case is the messaging system. More on that in a second.
And really, I absolutely mean it when I say there was an “exciting part” of the relationship. I joined Facebook in 2006 and ostensibly got to be a part of the interesting part of the movie, “The Social Network”. University only signups (i.e little to no parents/teens), no 3rd party apps, no timeline. None of that. Funnier still, I stayed on it long enough to watch the hurricane of 1st wave naysayers, who despite bashing, criticizing, admonishing FB didn’t actually get rid of their profile. I try not to make schadenfreude an critical part of my life, but there is something very funny about someone who clearly wants to complain more than they want to actually want to backup those complaints with actions. You want a dislike button? Go to Reddit. I’m sure you’ll love they’ve done there.
Recently though things did reach a turning point, I became the naysayer I used to laugh at. I don’t know what it was but about a month ago I started seeing what I can only describe as a orgy of videos on my timeline. I don’t know if they tweaked the algorithm ever so slightly, or I just “liked” one too many videos, but all of a sudden I was seeing a shit load of them. Combine that with the fact that the timeline within FB is so wacked out on goofballs that you never know if what you’re seeing is something naturally popping up, or some amalgamation of liked content that’s floated to the surface of your feed. It’s just gross. There were days when I found myself scrolling through my feed where by the end I found myself asking the question, “What the fuck am I even doing?”, and that’s a huge thing for me. As a person who’s borderline obsessed with being in the know, frustrating my efforts to find information is a herculean task. You truly have to be offering me absolutely nothing for me to be like, “Fuck this, it’s not worth it anymore.”.
And that’s where the messaging system comes in. I can’t quit FB because quitting FB would be the equivalent of throwing out a virtual roladex of contacts, and then telling any future contacts to fuck off. I don’t think any of the OG developers could have seen this coming, but the FB messaging system might just be the most efficient way to connect with other comedians. It is confusing how many cool people I’ve met by means of “messages”. I’ve gotten gigs though it, worked out shooting schedules on it, and even gotten in contact with a handful of people who’ve had Comedy Central specials. It’s weird. You’d think these people would be less accessible, but that’s the thing. Professional comedians exist in this nether realm of knownness where they can be on TV, and also have a personal FB profile. A profile that you cannot only message, but one that most of the time they actually message back on. So I can’t leave FB, yet. Messaging has become so synonymous with comedy communication, that it’s become a branded verb. I tell very few people to email me. I tell a shit ton of people to send me a “message”.
And then one day, it just sort of hit me. All this shit I’m dealing with doesn’t necessarily have to do with the notifications I get or my connection to the messaging system, it’s the Timeline. Everytime I scroll down on the timeline the chances of me learning something new or accomplishing something plummet. So I made a rule for myself. If the timeline on FB isn’t helpful anymore, don’t use it. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. The rules are simple:
1. Don’t scroll down
That’s it. The Facebook timeline is essentially a giant, neverending scroll, so all you have to do in order to avoid it is not look down.
Of course, I definitely check my FB several times throughout the day, but the time I spend on it has drastically dropped. I’ve gone from brainlessly scrolling through ads, people I don’t want to listen to, and weird sponsored content to just sort of jumping in to check my notifications and jumping out again. I should also mention that I have the FB app on my phone as well with notifications set to off, so if I do have time to check it I can just scroll over to the app icon, see if I have any notifications, and decide if it’s worth it to check it or not.
It’s too soon to say whether or not this has necessarily made me more productive, although I can say with a certain amount of confidence that I definitely feel more aware of the time I’m using. There’s this unique sensation I get once I’ve checked my notifications and I realize I have no other reason to be on FB and my subconscious pipes up with something like, “Hey, we’re done here. Time to do something else.”. Even if the only thing I do after that is watch HBOGo I’m still pushing myself to something that isn’t just mindless scrolling.
One thing that I didn’t anticipate that’s happened a handful of times are those situations where I won’t be thinking and I’ll subconsciously start scrolling. Those moments have been very weird; realizing that I’ve been so connected to something for so long that even when I’m trying to quit it, my brain naturally falls into this weird consumption pattern. And then of course there is FOMO.
For the uninitiated, FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. If YOLO was the golden child of an obnoxious family, FOMO would be the red headed step kid who while not biologically related still retains the same culturally obnoxious traits. YOLO is busy making terrible decisions, while FOMO can be found sending out nervous texts wondering, “What people are up to!”.
And I totally got! I found myself wondering if there were events I was missing, subtle updates that I wasn’t seeing that would link to one thing that would link to another that could possible be a cool thing. What was just a silly experiment turned into a real concern that I wasn’t keeping in the know. And the shitty part is this probably is happening to an extent. But I’d say I’m happier, as well. I don’t feel the kind of apathy I felt gazing into an endless feed. It also seems like while you do make more connections by being on FB’s feed, they don’t mean as much. 1000 passively observed status updates seems to be worth about as much as one genuine interaction with a person.