Everyone in my office has Facebook. Everyone in my immediate family has it, as do my brother, my sisters, and all my nieces and nephews, and even my mother. Just about everyone I know at work and in the world has Facebook. I have Facebook too, though I’m not sure why.
My children joke that if I’m carrying my cell phone, it isn’t on, and, if it’s on, I don’t have it. The rest of the time it is neither with me nor on. They chuckle over my glacial texting. They say, “Are you still working on that? Is it a novel?” Then they shake their heads with a smirk that says, “Silly Daddy.” To them, I’m an old dog incapable of chasing these tricky, new-fangled devices… and any modern means of communication.
Naturally, I see it differently.
Okay, I’m absent-minded and haven’t developed a habit of using a mo-bile phone, but I’m learning. I’m not an ossified coot or a Luddite or a sand-hooded ostrich. My youngers may see me as such, a fossil from a non-digitized stone age, but I don’t pine for any good old days of phone booths and landline isolation. I simply remember we once had different modern conveniences… and felt as fortunate. We didn’t know we might have more.
We do have more, don’t we?
The advantages of Facebook are plain to me—I’ve heard from and about people I might otherwise have lost, followed friends’ links to funny and interesting videos or articles, communicated social plans, and shared in the small and large triumphs and tragedies of friends’ lives. I also know which Twin Peaks character I’m most like… Agent Cooper.
But pesky balance sheets pop up in my imagination—what I’ve gained that I like versus what I’ve gained that I don’t. Because convenience has no master, distraction is as convenient as productivity, and intrusion is as convenient as accessibility. Before email, I couldn’t spend time avoiding work and calling it work. Before Facebook, I could write three or four paragraphs in a row.
Now my breaks have breaks. I avoid projects—like doing my job or helping out around the house—by answering dubiously necessary messages. But that’s hard too, so I turn to check Facebook or another email account or an information site I just checked a few minutes ago (and which might possibly have something slightly new to share) or I look something up on Dictionary.com or Wikipedia or I Stumble for a minute (going on half an hour) or I visit my blog to see if I might have received one of my semi-weekly comments.
Then I wonder if not learning to use my phone—I AM learning—is such a bad thing. At least my atomized attention doesn’t suffer from the additional distraction of receiving the relentless texts my kids do.
My iPod is broken, thank God.
A life of distraction makes me more distractible, and all those mental channels that used to take me from conception to execution seem to have filled with silt and cattails and become one huge undifferentiated swamp. Perhaps people born to this world see landmarks I don’t and navigate that swamp, but I’m lost.
When I said before that everyone in my family had Facebook, I made an easy and convenient generalization. Actually, my younger brother is holding out. Somehow he refuses to believe he’s missing something.
He’s my hero. I hope to find the courage to quit Facebook. I want to let go of some of the electric diversions coursing through my life.
I want to tie myself to the mast and sail straight again.