Facebook: A Love Story

One man’s view on an internet addiction.

By Bruce K Hamilton

On December 8, 2008, out of curiosity, I created an account on a website of increasing popularity. At the time, I didn’t know that I had become a part of a monstrous network so vile that would eventually seize everything I could call my own. But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story…

I think it was 2005 when, out of curiosity, I created an account on a website of increasing popularity. It was called Myspace. It seemed kind of cool at first. For the first time, my peers and I could communicate through a visual network that we could represent ourselves with. I chose to represent myself with a profile picture depicting Bart Simpson hanging out with 50 Cent.

Needless to say, when my parents found out about their fifth-grader’s internet profile, they freaked. It wasn’t even because I was putting up naked pictures of myself or cyberbullying other fifth graders; it was because of what they heard about Myspace via the only medium that was advertising it to mainstream America: the news. According to all the major news outlets, Myspace was a safe-haven for drug dealers, pedophiles, and any other archetypal bad guys. My dad tried installing a site blocker on our computer, but, if I remember correctly, I disabled it in thirty seconds on accident. This would begin the “Social Media Years”.

The years passed. I stopped using Myspace frequently, and I would only log on to chat with cousins who lived far away (all three of them) or to check up on my favorite bands (all three of them). Myspace had become a ghost town in a matter of years. It was like there was a food shortage in the plains, and somebody came and told all the farmers that there was an abundance of food out west (except the farmers were Myspace users, the plains were Myspace, the west was Facebook, and the food was just something cool). Everyone packed up shop and created Facebook accounts, and left their former Myspace profiles to rot and die. Sometimes I wonder how people one hundred years from now will treat those relics that haven’t been touched in figurative centuries…but I digress.

During eighth grade, I was given a laptop to use for the school year, for both home and school use. The administration, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, decided it was a good idea to give the entire eighth grade class, about seventy students, state-of-the-art Macbooks. This would encourage the eighth grade class to spend any minute of free time at school either 1: playing flash games online or 2: devising ways to circumvent the security measures placed on the laptops. At home, we abused social media. I quickly fell into the trap when, during the winter of eighth grade, some friends encouraged me to create a Facebook account, and I was hooked. The fact of the matter is that I would be on Facebook for most of the next three years.

It is now appropriate for me to ask, “But why?” Why would Facebook, social media, and the Internet at large dominate my life for a large portion of my adolescence? Other kids did this stuff too, but not nearly as much me, so why didn’t I have any self-control?

Hm.

My best guess leads to the symbolism of Facebook. On Facebook, there are people everywhere. That’s all it really is: a visual network that displays people and the things they say and the things they do and the places they see and the people they hang out with. Therefore, when I am on Facebook, I feel like I’m at a party, a party where everyone’s welcome and everyone’s having a good time and everyone’s cool. In reality, I am not a party. I am at the opposite of a party. I am alone. I am quiet. I might be in my underwear. I might also be listening to music they would never play at a party, like some ambient noise project from the early 90s or a concept album about being in love with Anne Frank. I wonder if Anne Frank had a Facebook account, would she have written such a meaningful piece of literature that ultimately was supposed to be read by only herself, or would she post small bits of it as status updates for the world to see, both jeopardizing her safety and her ability to create a beautiful work of art? Would the mainstream world know so much about the personal lives of the oppressed during the 1940s? If Facebook had been around for sixty-odd years, would it be a big deal anymore? Would the novelty have worn off by now? Would I still be crying, alone, naked, in a closet, thinking about Anne Frank and the 1940s and Bart Simpson and 50 Cent and Macbooks and misconceptions and parties and self-control and far-fetched symbolism?

Hmm.

Probably not.

But I digress.

In the same way that Facebook can make one feel like a member of Motley Crue in 1986 (cool, popular, etc.), it can also make one feel like a member of Motley Crue in 2012 (dead*). You may not be dead, but when you start to spend a lot of time viewing people who are alive and together, you realize you are alone, and you realize you are dead. Suddenly, your social life and self-esteem are long gone and probably hitchhiking to Canada, where they can enjoy universal healthcare, minimal gun violence, and hockey riots. With two necessary components to healthy lifestyle long gone, all you can do is rot in your own misery. You don’t feel like doing anything. You don’t ask people to hang out anymore. They don’t ask you to do anything anymore. Social media has bred antisocial behavior within you, but you haven’t figured that out yet.

The great awakening occurs when you put your head down on your pillow before you go to sleep and you think of all the things you did that day, and all you can picture is the screen. Your world has been confined to a screen. It sucks. You know what everyone’s been up to, but you haven’t talked to them in weeks. That’s the turning point. You arrive at home after school one day, get your computer, open a window on the second floor, and nonchalantly chuck it out the window. All your misery is gone, because the inside of your misery has been reconfigured by the forces of gravity and willpower alike. There is no retrieving it, and you have never felt better.

Unfortunately, none of that ever happened, except maybe some of it.

I can only hope that you, the reader, got something from this. Maybe you’ve been inspired to hitchhike north, or take out your dad’s old copy of the Crue’s Theatre of Pain on cassette, or read The Diary of Anne Frank, or deactivate an internet profile for the sake of regaining something you’ve lost.

*note – Nobody in Motley Crue is actually dead, but I’ll be damned if they don’t look the part.

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