Sunday, May 13, 2018

I quit Facebook and my life is now one long vision quest

Let's just skip past the usual awkwardness about how long it's been since I've made anything resembling a real post and get right down to the bones of the deeply-personal-to-the-point-where-it-gets-icky awkwardness that makes up the core content of this blog, shall we?

I've had a pretty shitty winter. It's almost funny how predictable it is, because I've written before about how every year the glow of September makes me drunk on a heady feeling of promise in the air, only for everything to come crashing down quite spectacularly once the light dies and the days grow shorter. Only this time it was actually the promises and highs themselves that ended up creating what turned out to be the perfect storm to almost pull me under.
There was the sudden and unexpected promotion that finally made me feel validated at work but turned out to be far too stressful for me to handle, not in the least because it completely wrecked my already pretty precarious sleeping pattern, and turned me into a paranoid shadow person by the time spring came around. There was that amazing trip to London centered around a charity event and two gigs and bringing together people from all over the world for ten days of immersion in giddy togetherness and acceptance and euphoria and love, only to catapult me straight into a black hole when I got home (as was to be expected, but still), which then led to me desperately trying to sustain it by going out drinking far too often when I should have been at home trying to sleep. Then there was the sudden confidence and optimism of all that, which somehow led me to open up and let my guard down and be vulnerable for the first time in over a decade, which, again, somewhat predictably, caused me to be at various levels of blind panic pretty much all the time since.

Somewhere halfway through all that, in what was mostly an attempt to regain some of my sanity, I quit Facebook. I know people are quitting Facebook left and right these days, and I am not going to get into all the ways in which Facebook is creepy, which was one of the reasons, aside from the continuous struggle to cut down on distractions in my life so that I can read and write. The main reason I quit though, is that it was an addiction, and like any other addiction does scary things to my brain, and I wanted to be free of that.
But I wasn't prepared to find out precisely why Facebook is as addictive as it is. It isn't because it is mildly entertaining, or distracting, and people post funny memes on it. It is because of the thing it forces you to face when you get off it, and what it is mainly a distraction from. It's because of raw, soul-shattering loneliness. Plain and simple.

People are fucking lonely. I am fucking lonely.

It is not a thing you are supposed to admit, even to yourself, so to be bludgeoned by the blunt truth of that fact on a cold February morning is a pretty unsettling experience, to say the least. And to admit it to others is akin to committing social suicide, like telling people you have the plague. It's strange how instinctively we shirk away from things that are so universally human. But I no longer want to hide from it, because once you've stared it in the face, all the ways in which you've been deluding yourself all this time actually feel more humiliating than to just admit the truth.
What really hit me was when I was clearing out my mailbox and stumbled on a conversation I'd had with someone about six months ago, where I said that I was tired of grownup people waiting for some magical person to come around and fix their loneliness forever. I remember why I said that, but in the wake of brutal honesty, 6-months-ago-me didn't just sound like a cold hearted bitch, she sounded like a complete and utter moron. Because no matter how aware you are rationally of the impossibility of perfect communication and connection, or how deeply you believe that the best thing humans can hope for is to keep each other company and maybe even, in rare moments, be graceful and kind, believing all this has never truly kept anyone from yearning anyway. From wanting something that is impossible. For someone to take in every part of you, all past present and future, every thought or dark urge you have ever had, and to love you anyway. To understand.

There isn't a single soul who is above all that, and to pretend that you are is foolish, yet for some reason it is also imperative. And if you already are the type of person who intellectualizes the most basic human interactions just to keep up some semblance of normalcy, being hyperaware that this is really what you are deep down looking for is not going to make things any easier. It leads to a weird type of tip-toe dance where you venture out among the humans only to end up drained by the utterly insipid exchanges that are the norm, and that you had to spend years getting well versed in as if you are some kind of alien learning a whole new language, but that still to this day depress you when you have to take part in them for too long because of how much they confront you with what a freak you are, as they seem to be perfectly pleasant and nourishing for everyone else. And so you retreat, and end up being perceived as cold and distant when what you really want is the complete opposite, but you hide this fact and guard it with your life. It's a clusterfuck.

And maybe what you are is just greedy, and your secret desire to slither your little fingers underneath the outer layer of other humans so you can take a little peek under the hood only makes you into a creep. It certainly makes you feel like a creep, because you have front seat tickets to your own thoughts at all times and you are the only one who will ever hear yourself screaming incoherently at parties that yes, fair enough, we are all drunk and laughing and sharing the moment and good times for all and selfies and wooo!, but who the fuck are you people anyway? WHY AREN'T WE CONNECTING? but to an outside observer you just look like someone who is awkwardly clinging to the snack stand by themselves, which isn't half as bad, considering.

And it didn't used to be this hard. Friendship in your early twenties seems to be a result of proximity and not much else, except maybe time. I used to get telephone calls at eleven in the morning, back when phone calls hadn't become the aggressively intrusive things they are now, for the simple reason that none of us ever had anything to do, so we would hang out wherever, forever, pretty much. The days seemed endless, as did the years. Not for a moment would it have occurred to me that I was investing in something, while now it is pretty much all I can think about, because thirty-somethings are obsessed with time. It consumes us, has us in its grip, keeps us away from each other, and if we are ever, through some occult happenstance, able to meet up for coffee, it is all we can ever talk about. Our lack of time.

Suddenly you become very aware that time spent with another human is an investment of precious time that you don't have. Are they worth it? Is it too soon to tell? How many potential other things are you missing while doing what you are now? Is this networking? Was that a thing you ever consciously decided was a good idea? How many books have you read this year? That doesn't feel like enough.
Or you start thinking about how you are only being nice to this person because you hope that may entice them to be nice to you in turn somewhere in the future and if Kant saw you now he would weep Prussian tears into the dust.

Or you agree to hang out with people on the vague unspoken hope that may lead you to maybe meet more fun people while you are there, i.e. Friday night. It always looks so much better in photographs, which is another way in which Facebook keeps us drugged. It is so very seductive to have the tools to show the world that you were there, even if 'the world' in this case consists of nothing but your mom and whomever else you randomly agreed to enter into this virtual relationship with that consists of you projectile-vomiting your existence at each other day in day out. You were there, see? And so were a bunch of other people, so surely you can be trusted to not be one of those creeps who seems to think that this can't be all there is, sustaining all eye contact a beat too long because you are searching for signs of life in there. You are a fun party person.
You are even smiling, and if it doesn't quite reach your eyes, that can only be because you are drunk. Maybe it's the light. It certainly isn't because you are desperately wondering if anyone there perhaps feels the same as you, and wants nothing more than to find someone, anyone, to sneak away with you into the night, and listen, and see, and confirm that even though you are, indeed, lonely, you are also not alone, because so are they.
Surely it can't be that.