Life is not easy. It’s not easy if you have a facebook, or even if, god forbid, you don’t have one. It’s all about evolution. The people who are popular on the internet are usually better than everyone else and have a better chance of survival. And survival isn’t about putting particular moments of your life online, it’s about putting every shred of experience that means anything at all to you on your public wall: marriage, food, trips, pets, babies, plans, selfies, art, complaints, witticisms, call for donations, political opinions, blog posts, sports observations, or jokes. And when these things are “liked” you subconsciously want to post more and more, until you can’t stop and it consumes your life. Could you survive without facebook likes? Could you make it through one day without your second cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s brother validating your pineapple fried rice with a click of a button?
As a person who has never been a severe facebook-like addict, I can only speak from that perspective. My insight into your world is only through cyber stalking. I do not wish to sit in your comfortable desk chair and post twenty pictures of my dog in an hour. But I can tell you what it’s like to sit in mine – living extended periods of my life without a facebook.
Everyday I have people ignoring things I do and not caring at all about my discoveries or accomplishments. It may seem selfish and narrow, but I believe that the center of one’s being and the best emotions and experiences in one’s life are incommunicable and inexpressible. Yes, I like cyber pats on the back and documentation of what I’ve seen and done. But these pleasurable pricks of validation and ceaseless capturing of what you observe can cover up bigger things like powerful, life-changing emotions, self-development, insights, real laughter, real tears, patience, discipline, and actually listening to the people you’re spending time with. That being said, I believe that the desire for validation is no different for a facebook-like addict or a non-addict.
Daily, there are people out there who don’t care about what you think, observe, or do: this includes your friends, bosses, spouses, girlfriends, and parents – that is just a part of life. Being ignored and feeling angry because you didn’t take a picture of a beautiful sunset is as much as a part of living as joy, happiness, love, and having such a good time you forget to look at your phone. Dying alone and having everything pass away with time is the same for an addict as it is for a non-addict. The difference is how we react to and cope with this loneliness and transitoriness, whether our coping mechanisms are good or bad. I don’t know what hundreds of facebook likes does for an addict to help cope with the void inside of all of us. I don’t know the bursting high of receiving more than a thousand likes on a picture or a video. But I do know that my life would be boring and unsatisfying if I was always concerned with what the internet thought of my new haircut or political stance.
I have no doubt from observing you that you hated every day you were spending hours on facebook. I can see how your life was out of control, spiraling into a pit of hurt, hashtags, and despair. You were so lost that when your best friend came to your pigsty of an apartment and said, “Hey man, want to go on an all-expenses paid trip through the Amazon jungle with my nymphomaniac hot old sister?” you replied,
“Will there be wifi or cell phone service?”
I see your struggles without receiving facebook likes. More pain than joy. It’s a time in your life where the social scales aren’t balanced. You are working so hard to be a real person, when no one is there to react positively to your selfie in a mirror. There are so many confusions. What is the use, you may wonder? Do I even exist?
Being on facebook was the one place where you could craft your identity how you seemed fit. “I’m happy! I’m well-traveled! Look at me with friends! Look at the things I do!” It is a place that always accepted you. The life of facebook-likes you have known for just over a decade. That is the easy path to take.
But please know that the immediate pain and loneliness you will feel without facebook likes, now, will eventually fade.
Just as when my dog, Sheena, died when I was young there was terrible pain for me. I wanted to give her a ten minute belly rub in the morning to wake up her up, but I couldn’t. I flashed back to the good times, walking her everyday after school and letting her sniff around her favorite spot to shit, the neighbor’s front steps, but they were not to be anymore. I believe my desire to share my sadness with the internet and post pictures of her carcass on MySpace is something you are fighting against. Your old life must die, and there is tremendous pain with death. Each day you will want to post something on facebook to receive a “like” just one more time. And let me warn you that time may heal all wounds, but sometimes the emptiness you feel…when your co-worker’s son’s best friend doesn’t like your video of an orangutan swinging from a tree…lasts forever.
In time, the social scales will balance and you will be able to experience something without the reflexive thought: “I can’t wait to post this on facebook!” But for now, you must travel the difficult path of nobody noticing your life and find the will to be your own, glorious witness. You will become stronger and happier each time you think, “You know what, I’m not going take a picture of that sunrise, I’m just going to look at it and put my arm around my girlfriend,” and, “Hmm, maybe I’ll keep my opinions about the presidential candidates to myself.” It may be hard to see a path without cameras or status updates because the path to recovery is difficult. But please know that you can only walk this path alone – and that life is waiting out there for you to savor and grasp in all it’s brutal, fleeting reality. Just turn away from the screen, my friend, turn away…