Monday, April 20, 2009

Status update: feeling like a twit

Earlier today I deactivated my facebook account. In the cyberworld, this is a phenomenon called 'facebook suicide'. I committed it once before and then came back from the dead. Deactivating facebook (you cannot ever delete your account, creepily enough) is a strange ritual- first facebook aalyzes you- it asks you why you're doing it and depending on your reply, tries to offer suggestions for how you can stay. (For the record- I have no deep reason for doing it- I'm just sick of checking it but more on that later). So if for instance you pick 'I'm spending too much time on facebook', it offers you the option not to receive emails from it. Then it tries to go for your heart strings- I was told I'd be missed by Tulip, my sister, Machete and other close friends, with pictures from my albums of them. When I continued to do it steely eyed, facebook sadly told me that it hoped I would come back soon. And then I clicked the window and sat back and instantly felt a strange combination of weird and free. Weirdly Free.

It's not going to be easy - this little break. From my previous experience I know that I will feel like there is a whole world out there that is going on without me, even though the friends I'm most concerned about are the ones I see or speak too everyday. People will slowly notice I'm not on it and will ask if I'm ok, with genuine concern. And what's more, I'll understand why they're asking. I will feel a compulsion to share bits of my life like "read an amazing book" or "had a lazy saturday" and will have no avenue in which to do it (my break also entails no twitter, which will not be hard at all). I will feel like there are happenings, events and news that I'm missing out other words, it will be like quitting anything addictive- not easy but potentially good.

When did it get like this? And what does it have to do with my resuming blogging (is this a nicotine patch to the facebook cigarette)?

Well, I've been thinking about how I use technology lately and much of it has centered around my poor, abandoned blog. When I wrote my little preemptive ditty last month, I scarcely anticipated this complete silence. I thought the frequency of my posts would go down a little but no blogging at all? Sadly a month later, my blog lies in cyberspace- sad, neglected, gathering dust...I look at it fleetingly and think about it guiltily before glancing away. I promise myself 'I'll blog about it' whenever something interesting comes up and yet, never get around to doing anything about it. Like old friendships and correspondence with distant relatives- intentions never translate into anything concrete.

But there's another reason for my prolonged silence apart from the busy-ness and laziness: A couple of weeks ago Margaret Atwood (whom I admire from what little I've read of her) said in the context of blogging and the advent of twitter ""It's like everyone's blogging about how they brushed their teeth this morning." I'd like to think my posts have been slightly deeper than that but the comment got me thinking. Maybe one reason I've been so unmotivated to write anything is because there is nothing truly compelling that I have to say? And so, isn't silence better?

That sounds depressing but I'm not. I just wonder if in this compulsion to constantly 'broadcast ourselves' (to borrow from youtube), what we have to say is becoming less and less meaningful? There is just so much of it, all the time and all written in pretty much the same blogese. You know what I mean-'snark', lists, open letter format, wtf stories, mock confessions that are designed to make you look cool even as you're professing to be a nerd... it's all quite formulaic and you've seen it all on this blog too. We are constantly inundated with people telling us about themselves- through you tube videos, blogs, status updates, profiles, tweets and it's slowly become part of the rhythm of our daily lives.

I've been pondering and questioning this constant need to communicate. Who are we all communicating to? For what purpose? What kind of narcissism is this? And is it really making us stupider, less sensitive and giving us the attention spans of goldfish? The answers to these questions, from my experience and what I've been reading, are not comforting.

And it all happened so quickly and subtly. A couple of years ago I had no idea where my casual acquaintances were once they left my immediate context. People faded out of my life -as they should in the normal course of events- one heard about them once in a while and that was that. Then came facebook - initially just an innocuous, fun way to stay in touch with people from school, check people out anonymously etc. Gradually it became part of my everyday routine- check email, read news, check facebook. And I'm not even a heavy user of it. It's own evolution meant that it became more and more difficult to escape what was happening in people's lives who you don't care about but are now just permanently there I find myself wondering 'what's X doing lately?' and look him/her up only to find that they went to a party, or watched a movie and hated it or bought groceries. I might not have seen X in 3 years and have no idea about how they're really, truly doing but I know when they buy groceries. It's relentless-the constant status updates, the newsfeeds, the emails with updates, the casual way that deep, life changing things get broadcast to the world 'X is no longer listed as in a relationship' or 'Y just had a baby'. A quick smiley face on their page and you're done. Now we have twitter, which takes the vacuousness to another level altogether-and ofcourse everyone, (including yours truly) is on it.

Am I making too big a deal of it? I'm sure I am but all I know is that I've felt a need to step back from the inanity of 'broadcasting myself'.

The good news (to me at least) is that while the rest of it I deem pretty dispensable, I realized the genuine, aesthetic pleasure I find in writing. Even a small, blog that 8 people read. Even when it's shoddy. Even when it's inane. Because it's 8 people I know and who know me and whose opinions I value. And it's really the only medium in all of this that has brought me pleasure. And so here I am, blogging away at 12 in the night- and it feels good!

And to facebook? I'm sure I'll come back to your seductive ways one day but not without a fight. Don't call me, I'll call you.


itinerant said...

Ha, perfectly said.

I was addicted to orkut too, it meant happiness in the initial stages (2004) and a potential fishing arena.
But the social networking phenomenon was rather new then and no wisdom available.
Scraps were bearers of news (some, important, any, whatever) in my boring and unchanging life.

Slowly, it became painful (attachment causes suffering), especially getting in touch with people from the past, wonder, why they thought, the past was over and done with and that new technology had turned us all into imitations of the father of the nation.

This January, a Pakistani dude hacked into my account and I used the golden chance to get out of it.

I think I am done with them now.

chanbong said...

I admire you, for you are a true scholar. You just cited in your blog Youtube: "'broadcast ourselves' (to borrow from youtube)" So sweet.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I tried for the longest time to get myself off FB. For me though there was something about the solitude of writing a dissertation though that makes you want to 'plug in' to people's lives all the time. Weird right?

If getting off facebook means that you stay an active blogger I am all for it!

Anonymous said...

I had missed this, but it is beautifully written. The larger issues are all very true, but yu are such a gifted writer--as seen from this blog itself-- and capable of so much more than broadcasting your daily itinerary that I am so glad that you have reusmed blogging.
Enjoyed it.
As the great German said `the unexamined life is not worty living` and this was a great `self-examination.

prpriya said...

I finally managed to figure out how to get to your blog on my own, and I'm really glad I did. Its true what you say. What I find particularly sinister about Facebook is how it constantly tries to extend your network of 'friends' some spider spinning its web and cocooning you tighter and tighter into it. Still, whatever its faults, I do have to give it credit for connecting me with long-lost friends. I have also come to appreciate some acquaintances (through the articles they post or status updates) that I never really bothered to get to know when I was physically around them. I agree its bizarre that you know people's grocery shopping habits...but knowing these mundane things can also make you feel closer to them, and make them and their lives more 'real'.
So, I'm staying for now...lets see how long the love-affair lasts!

Claudia said...

Brave you are, my friend. Well done. I can see how you'd feel free. How's things post-Facebook? You should write an update. Maybe there's hope for us all, particularly, the insanely addicted. :-)