Where’s Walden

facebookLast week I was in the middle of struggling through a paper that I put off for far too long. I sat down to start writing it around 7:30 and then found myself having to drag my laptop downstairs, powercord and all so that I could watch 24, furiously writing and agonizing over words during the commercial breaks. And in the midst of all this writing, for some reason I found the pressing need to keep Facebook open on one tab while I kept my writing prompt open on another. Within the course of about twenty minutes I opened my Facebook page, checked my Facebook page, or stalked someone on Facebook close to twenty times. Thats one Facebook-related action a minute. All while getting frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t find the words to fill the necessary page requirements for my paper. (I just flipped from this page to check my Facebook without really thinking about it)

Last week I signed up for Facebook’s Mobile feature. So now when I’m away from my computer, say in class or at work or in the bathroom, I can still receive my crucial updates and know when people write on my wall or send me messages. The problem with this is, of course, that I’ve grown used to not looking at my phone when I text. (Which has lead in at least one case to me uploading somethings onto Facebook that weren’t inteded for a public audience). 

“Drug addicts don’t shoot up as often as we check Facebook”

makeababy

This was the observation made by one of my fellow classmates in my creative writing course this semester, part of a larger body of work of which I cannot display its whole contents without offending a large portion of my readers. But I find it ironic, that for all that people may say about how we’re addicted to Facebook, about how it controls our lives and determines our social activities and how we are viewed and view others, we still use it. We still update our statuses from our phones, upload our pictures from our last vacation or drunken party, invite friends to birthday parties and weddings, and even have kids on Facebook. Its sad but true that I probably spend more time interacting with people on Facebook than I do in real life.

I was sitting on the bus this morning on my way to class. We stopped at Whitehall Terrace to pick up some students, and every single one of them had headphones on. We’re talking five or six people. Standing there, each listening to something different, no acknowledgement of the other people around them. They boarded the bus and I looked around and saw that a large portion of the riders had headphones on (myself included). 

I get this sense that anymore we’re become more and more isolated from one another, even though today we are more connected than we ever were. Media analysists would call this demassification, or the breaking down of a unified majority into narrow sects with specific interests. Robert Putnam would call this Bowling Alone, or a decline in social capital in our country. I don’t really have a catchy phrase for it, I just know that I can walk through a campus of 30,000+ people for a day and never once have to talk to anyone.

Its weird anymore. I’m more comfortable texting someone about something difficult than I am talking to them about it face-to-face, or even over the phone with my own voice. Maybe there’s something about the raw honesty of emotion thats conveyed through voice and facial expressions. Its just too real and raw and I don’t want to be seen like that. Words on a screen don’t convey emotion, just cold phrases open to interpretation. Its a telling sign that I can post a vague status on Facebook relating to some deep issue I’m wrestling with, and yet the struggle would go completely unnoticed to anyone reading my status. I know I’m not alone in this either. I’ve read other’s status updates, and somehow I can just tell that there’s something deeper going on there, but I don’t ever say anything. Its like we’re all silently screaming at one another to notice that we’re going through something deep, we’re just waiting for someone to acknowledge that they understood what we were trying to tell the world and they want to help. For all the connections that we have through Facebook and elsewhere, we’re still all just as lonely.

Maybe I’m just disillusioned. Maybe I’m just bored with Facebook and my life in general. But I just want a change from it all. I want someone to call me up and ask me to go for a drive and not have to wonder where we’re going or what time we might be home. I want to be able to sit down with someone face-to-face and be real and raw and honest. I want to be able to throw my phone into a river and not have to wonder if anyone was going to call me or text me. I remember the freedom I felt for those two weeks in Costa Rica, where I had no cell phone service and never once missed it. I want to feel that again.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”   –Walden, H. D. Thoreau

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One thought on “Where’s Walden”

  1. When I lived with my grandmother [and had Internet access 24/7], I would either be asleep, in class, at work, or on the Internet at home.
    I moved back to my dad’s house, though, where our Internet sucks and getting a decent connection means going to Arabica or Tri-C. Now that it’s way less available, I find myself using it less and doing a lot more socializing. Try finding ways to make the Internet less accessible (such as opting out of the Facebook Mobile feature); it’ll be hard at first, but in time you’ll hardly miss it.

    I don’t know if this is just a personality quirk of mine, but I sometimes walk around with headphones on. They won’t be plugged in to anything, but people will see them and assume that I’m listening to something (especially if I pretend to mouth some song lyrics) and leave me alone. :\

    On the other hand, though, I HATE talking to people on the phone or through text messages, precisely for the same reason you like it. I often worry that people don’t understand me as it is, and I can’t even stand the thought of someone just getting a vague/general idea what I’m trying to convey. If I can’t meet someone face-to-face, I’ll settle with an email [because there I can read over what I wrote and tweak it to make sure it’s about as close to right as I can stand], but I would much prefer a face-to-face discussion.

    You don’t have to cut yourself off from the world entirely, you just have to learn to wean yourself of things like Facebook and text messaging. I spent most of my life without such things [I got my first cellphone when I turned 18, and aside from when I lived with my grandma I’ve never really had a decent Internet connection], so it’s easy for me. Just set a goal (“I’ll only send 50 text messages this month”, “I’ll only spend an hour on the Internet everyday” or whatever works for you) and try to stick with it. Over time, it’ll get easier.

    Sorry this was so long. :\

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