- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Emily Belton
I didn’t realise before making the conscious decision to stay away from Facebook how much it had embedded itself in my subconscious. All day, whenever I have approached a keyboard, I have had to make a concerted effort to stop my twitching fingers from firing off the URL – twice I have accidentally arrived at the log-in screen before realising what I was doing. It seems that I could probably find my way to Facebook in my sleep.
At about four in the afternoon I’m sat on iTunes, trawling through shared playlists and laughing at people’s unusual music choices. I’m gawping at the length of one friend’s collection of Alphabeat records (who knew they had so many?) and dissecting what it might mean when I suddenly turn to my friend Simon and ask – “what am I doing? Why am I finding this so interesting?”
“It’s because you’re not allowed on Facebook,” he responds in a heartbeat. And he’s right. It’s going to be a long week.
It has taken less than 48 hours for my friends to cotton on to the fun they can have with my Facebook ban. Suddenly, there is a whole dimension of communication that I’m excluded from, and the knowing glances and suppressed giggles flying around are becoming unbearable. I am aching to know what hideous photos I have been tagged in, what incriminating posts have been made about me – basically, what fun the other kids are having outside while I’m forced to come indoors.
The very fact that I’m so worried about what my friends (shall we call them frenemies?) might be doing to deface my profile indicates the level of closeness that I have with the hundreds of “friends” I have made online. Facebook has become less about close-knit groups of friends and more about extended communities – personally, I reckon that I have a different “face” for each of my social groups. My family get one part of me, my uni friends another, distant acquaintances another, and so on. To put all of these faces in one book can be quite disorienting, and lead to humiliation – in my case, my auntie asking my mum over tea why I had been posting statuses about “bumming”. Clearly, “banterous” frapes are not aimed at such an audience.
All of this plays on my mind as I check my emails for the 37th time in as many minutes. My Facebook is out there, playing havoc with my social life, and all I can do is sit here and whine about it.
Paranoia is setting in today. Twitching slightly, I am convinced that the world is trying to contact me – that my friends might have broken earth-shattering news of marriage or pregnancy, that my brother might be thinking I’m ignoring his messages, that Prince Charming might have sent me a friend request.
In reality, surely none of this is happening. I’m inventing a more exciting alternate reality for myself, and I know it; when Facebook is available, I sit like a drone refreshing the page every few minutes as I work, deluding myself that my life might change drastically between one click and the next. It rarely does. But sometimes I do get poked.
“I wonder when you’ll hit the point where you don’t care any more?” someone asks me as I vent my frustration in The King’s Arms.
I wonder that too. It can’t be far off, can it?
Facebook turns everyone into a comedy writer. I’m starting to realise now the extent to which we craft our lives in Facebook statuses in our minds, sealing events as online updates as they happen. It seems that nothing is funny anymore unless you can mould it into a neat punch line that gets at least 30 “likes”.
It’s strange how we have this need to status-ify our existence. We can raise awareness of cultural issues by joining in viral crazes, watch moral debates played out in the online exchange of articles, and make a musician a phenomenon by pressing a single button, and encouraging friends to do the same. And you can also occupy the blank space in your mind during a lecture with the question of “how can I make this anecdote sound funny on Facebook?”
Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m sat eagerly watching the scroll of my news feed, perusing notifications and noting down birthdays I had forgotten about. I gave in. I’m back.
I can measure my week in the little red boxes that have popped up in the top-left hand corner of my computer screen, and I can recall how recent events unfolded by looking at the debris left on my profile. There it is: a record of my life, stored safely in cyberspace, waiting for me to come back to. So yes, I guess I’m addicted; as addicted as a childhood version of myself might have been addicted to keeping a scrapbook or a diary. I can track monumental events as well as tiny ones through this online testament to my life.
Am I putting too much importance into this description of Facebook? Probably. Am I being a bit narcissistic? Definitely. But, as I have proved this week, unless I’m out there making memories to one day go on Facebook, I spend most of my days keeping Facebook around so it can remind me of those memories.
And, of course, so I can edit the past. Thank you, “remove tag” – I don’t know what I’d do without you.