Wherein I realize that I am an antisocial, disorganized mess
By Sophie Isbister, Staff Writer
Big news! Last Thursday, Facebook hit one-billion users, a cohort that I continue to not be a part of. In my second installment of my social media detox column, I touched on what I don’t miss about my Facebook addiction, but this week I turn my attention to the downsides of being out of touch with a seventh of the global population.
In my first week off Facebook I was at peace, purging my brain of the clutter of Likes and Shares. In my second week off, I felt free of the tethers of my smartphone, having banished the compulsion to check my apps for breaking friend-news every five minutes. But in my third week, loneliness has set in. My world feels pretty small now, probably because much of it was operating on the behemoth social aggregator called Facebook.
Organizationally speaking, my experiment has taught me that I really don’t have anyone’s phone number anymore. When I was 11-years-old, I had a hardcover address book. It was pink and had cats and roses on the cover, and inside it contained ways to contact all of my closest friends. I remember passing it around in school to make sure I had everyone’s number and address.
These days it seems like that information is more disposable, more transient. Have you ever texted a friend just to receive a text back that says “Sorry, who’s this? I lost my phone and all my contacts?” Was that friend me? I bet it was, because I’ve lost my phone (and all my contacts) innumerable times since those days of the cat-covered address book. Last week I wanted to contact an acquaintance who had mentioned on Facebook that she could cut my hair for super cheap in her bathroom (yeah, I’m a student). Without her number or any way to get it, I felt disconnected (Rosie, if you’re reading—get in touch with me!). Maybe this is just a personal problem. Maybe nobody else treats their friendships like a forgettable jumble of knick-knacks in the bottom drawer of an underused credenza. But I don’t think I’m alone here.
I also miss the ease with which I used to socialize. “Anyone want to get coffee near campus today?” was a common status I’d post. Oh, and I’d crowdsource with the best of them: “Can anyone recommend a good book/album/TV show?” I would use Facebook to solicit opinions about the mundane (sandwiches) and the momentous (careers). Above all, I loved the Events app. I used it to organize my life; to get invited to birthday parties and then to remember to go to them. If I had a free Saturday night, I would scroll through and maybe find something worth leaving my fortress of solitude for. Now I rely on physical networking. And a big part of that is a Pokémon-esque quest to catch ‘em all (“all” referring to the digits of my nearest and dearest).
But perhaps the biggest thing I miss is the news and pop culture that would pop up on my feed throughout the day. Facebook is where I learned about the deaths of Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and Andy Griffith. It’s where I followed breaking news about elections and natural disasters, all accompanied by the sassy commentary of my clever friends. Social media aggregates the happenings of the world in ways that are relevant to me. I’m not going to say it does a good or bad job, or that this form of social filtering is a positive or a negative. I can only speak to my own experience, which is currently one of feeling completely out of the loop.
Next week’s issue will feature my fifth and final installment of this experiment. When I return to social media, armed with new thoughts and a refreshed outlook on the role it plays in my life, hopefully I can apply the same moderation to Facebook that I apply to other areas of my life, like house cleaning.