Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From a Human Larynx

I mentioned that I was taking a break from blogging for the month of February, and during that time I also took a version of a Facebook break. My general practice prior to February was to check Facebook multiple times per day when I was at work and to leave it open all the time when I was at home. I would also read it in great detail: I'd set my feed to "Most Recent" and scroll down as far as I could to read everything Facebook had to give me. I know its algorithms don't show me everything everything, but I was doing my best to be a completist.

During February, I checked it once in the morning and once at night, and I didn't scroll at all. I just looked for notifications and read what was on top of my feed. And it was the best thing ever.

I found myself with a great deal more spare time. I felt calmer. I guessed that I was missing all kinds of life events among my friends, small and large, but I found that I could live without knowing most of those things, and that I'd rather know about them from an email or a call or a coffee date anyway. I wasn't reading nearly as many meaningless or forgettable articles, and that meant I had mental space to read actual books instead.

In March, I've gone back to posting things on Facebook. Hence I feel a certain obligation to read other people's posts too instead of expecting people to react to my posts without reciprocation. And I check it several times a day again, because I want that hit of self-satisfaction when I see that someone has paid attention to something I've posted. But I no longer enjoy much of this. I like the interaction very much (my friends are scattered everywhere, geographically), but I dislike the expense of time and energy on what's going to be forgotten, by tomorrow, in favor of the next batch of content. And the attention-seeking feedback loop is just so abhorrent in all ways.

I don't know what to do about this. I'm not going to join Twitter, and I don't really know how else to a) interact with the outside world and b) keep a line of social media open for my writing. And it feels so selfish to add my own posts without reading others'. But I loved the focus that returned to me, the way my brain slowed down, the sense of not giving a damn that I was consistently missing what was going on.

Would love opinions on the issue.

Last week I held what I thought of as an open house week, where I invited a friend over to eat dinner with me each night. I did this because Matt was working a crunch week, not getting home until 8:30-9:00 and eating at work, and I hate cooking a whole dinner for just me. The idea behind this has its roots in the same place as my New Year's resolution about throwing a party: stop being ashamed of my apartment complex and just invite people the hell over. If they're grossed out by where I live, they don't have to come back a second time.

It turned out great. I loved the company. By the end of the week I was pretty tired of the sound of my own voice and I really wanted to sit in my bedroom alone for about six hours (I kind of seesaw between introvert and extrovert), but the food went over well, I had lots of fun with my friends, and everyone seemed very chill about the problems of my apartment complex.

Part of what I enjoyed so much about this open house week was the chance to interact with people face-to-face. A lot of the people I've come to know in L.A. are people I see for 10 minutes in between classes or have interacted with primarily on Facebook. Having a couple of hours of uninterrupted hangout time was a warm, rich experience. It's not that I rarely do the in-person thing, but seeing people four nights out of five was a sharp contrast to my usual nightly social interaction.

Which takes the form of reading through my silent, fractal, unsatisfying, addictive Facebook feed.

I hope to hold more open house weeks in the future. I'd much rather get the news from a human larynx than from a screen with a blue border on it.

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