Sunday night, my friend came over and we burned our anxieties. We sat on my couch with a ceramic bowl on my coffee table and burned written notes and pictures depicting our anxieties. We burned a picture of José Cuervo, a note that read “10-Page Paper” in Sharpie and my personal favorite — Mark Zuckerberg.
Now, I have nothing against Mark as a person (other than the fact he went to Harvard) — he’s probably a nice guy. My major qualm with Mark is that he invented Facebook, and Facebook gives me more anxiety than my looming senior thesis or job search ever could.
Three weeks ago, I went AWOL and deactivated my Facebook. Not because I was trying to be hipster (I’m not that hip), or because someone was stalking me (I’m not that cute). No, I simply wanted motivation to finish my senior thesis, and told myself I would sign back on once I turned in my rough draft.
Well, I hand-delivered my rough draft to my adviser Monday morning, and I don’t plan on saying hello to my minifeed any time soon.
After just a week without Facebook, I began to realize that prior to my cleanse, I wasn’t able to open my laptop without also logging on. I realized that my addiction caused all sorts of artificial emotions. I got giddy counting my “likes,” but anxious when I was tagged in some picture with a girl I didn’t remember seeing the night before.
But mostly, I realized that those lost hours I spent looking at pictures of friends and friends of friends was giving me FOMO — that my fear of missing out was becoming something so incurable that my friend actually joked about taking me to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
In a way, maybe Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook code invented the term FOMO. Maybe if we weren’t so sucked into what everyone else was doing, we might be perfectly content doing exactly what we are doing, even if that’s writing a paper.
There is such a thing as being too connected to people. By being hyperaware of the lives of thousands of “friends,” we lose connection with our own, adding more clutter to our already chaotic thoughts.
And maybe we need to take a step back and think about how this little website is affecting our lives. Maybe we are so lost in the minifeeds and profile pictures that we aren’t engaged in our own presents, in the beauty tangled in the simplicity of real life.
These past three weeks, when I have gotten bored, I have read a magazine, watched that movie I’d been meaning to see or climbed a roof just because I found a ladder. When I have gotten lonely, I have called a friend, or even better, I’ve walked to a friend’s apartment just to hang, just to laugh about nothing.
And by doing this, I’ve felt more connected to myself without feeling disconnected from those around me.
I can’t say Facebook is all bad; it’s not. It’s a huge part of our generation. But I couldn’t handle it, and like an addiction to a drug, sometimes the only way to heal is to go stone-cold sober. I’m not someone that’s good with the term “casual.” I’m an extremist: I don’t get tipsy; I get drunk. I don’t go on a diet; I go on a juice cleanse.
But for those of you that can handle it, or think you can, I beg you to remember that the friends we care about, our true small circle of friends, are usually just a phone call away. And listening about their trip to Europe or party at ADPhi will forever be more fulfilling than stalking them on Facebook and creating our own stories about their lives.
At the end of the day it’s about human connection: that laugh with a friend, even if it is over a glass of cheap wine on a Sunday night, burning a picture of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s that laugh and eye contact that makes us happy. It makes us forget about our anxieties and want to live in the present, no matter how bizarre it might seem to the outside world. Hey, it’s not like we’re putting it on Facebook.
I can’t promise you about Instagram, though.
Chloe Drimal is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .