The Perils of Social Media

“Meaning is not in things but in between; in the iridescence, in the interplay; in the interconnections at the intersections, at the crossroads.” -Mallarme

I think there are a lot of us out there trying to wean ourselves off of Facebook. I’m getting better at it. It used to be a challenge to go even a couple hours without checking it. Now, I can make it through a whole day (if I’m lucky.) Why do we hate Facebook so much? It’s not necessary, as many will argue. For most of us, it’s a tool for procrastination. I think it’s a way for us to bridge the gap between what we’re doing right now and what we know we’re supposed to be doing.

I waste lots of time on the Internet. It’s an easy and immediate form of escape–not something that I enjoy using so much as something that sometimes, I just can’t avoid. Facebook is so insubstantial that it’s almost impossible to stop ourselves from going there when we have nothing else to do. I’ve tried setting arbitrary goals for myself, saying that I won’t log on for the entire weekend, but it’s rare that I keep to them. What is the use in denying oneself something unless one has a greater reason?

If you really want to reduce your Internet usage, you have to focus on the positives. Don’t tell yourself not to waste time; find better ways to spend your time. Don’t kid yourself, either. Sometimes, it’s good to indulge and reward yourself for what you have accomplished. I’m getting better at this, but I have a long way to go.

It’s difficult when your entire life revolves around a computer. It’s quite impossible to do the work I do without a laptop. Sometimes, I see people sitting in a computer lab, doing one thing on a laptop and something else on a desktop. I could never multitask like that. I try not to have more than five windows open on my computer at one time. I also try not to let my inbox get too cluttered. If I have close to 100 emails in there, it’s time to start deleting. Once or twice, I have made the mistake of deleting something that was really important, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. Ask yourself if the messages in your inbox are there for a reason, or if you’re just too lazy to delete them. They just keep coming, don’t they? And even though you feel somehow sloppy for allowing them to pile up, you just can’t work up the energy to sort through them, not when there are dishes to be done or even just a new viral video to watch. I know how you feel. One of my courses started three weeks ago, and the exam is scheduled for next week. It’s going to be long, too. Did I mention there’s a group presentation on the syllabus as well? The fun never stops for the people in my program!

Blogging, for me, becomes more fun the less I focus on myself. Looking back, I find the stuff I was writing several months ago to be mopier and more solipsistic than what I write today. I’m still narcissistic and whiny, but that’s much easier to live with. Still, I can’t quite seem to let go completely. Most of us have thought of giving up all of our obligations and living a secluded life on some remote island or whatever, right? If there’s one piece of wisdom I’ve picked up in the past few years, it’s that freedom comes not from lacking responsibilities, but in choosing them for yourself. So much of what happens to me happens to me. Part of the reason I’m going to grad school right now is because I chose that. For better or for worse, I decided to be here. It’s a leap of faith. It has to be.

The irony is that even though I chose to be here, there’s a whole lot about this program that I would totally change if I had the choice. One of my classes (it’s actually more of a workshop) deals with career counseling. One of our homework assignments was to create a LinkedIn profile. I had one already, but even so, that pissed me off. I don’t mind being told to read a book or answer questions about carbon emissions or whatever. But somehow, creating a profile for a social networking site as part of a homework assignment feels like a violation of my personal space. Even if it’s a site intended for professionals rather than just friends looking to connect, I feel like I should be the one to decide whether I want that service. Maybe people felt the same way when first told that they needed a phone installed in their home or to sign up for an email account, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to carve out a space where no one can reach me. I never take pictures. I don’t especially like posing for pictures either. In some cultures, it is believed that pictures somehow steal a part of your soul. I don’t believe that, but there are times when I wish I could be Thomas Pynchon and remain a total enigma. He’s a real person, but that’s pretty much all anyone except a select few knows about him.

I can’t stay much longer. I have a lab due tomorrow, plus an outline for a report I’m writing and research for two group projects to finish by tomorrow night. Generally, I figure that if I can’t find the time to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, then I need to reevaluate my life. No matter what, I never miss an episode of The Daily Show. A man should have a ritual. And since I don’t go to church, I might as well worship Jon Stewart.

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