Hello, my name is Emma and I’m an addict.
My addiction is common and it has caused me to lose friendships, it has dulled my brain and, most importantly,it has taken days of life from me. It has kept me from my family and prevented me from enjoying the beauty of every day life. It has destroyed my confidence and made me feel less-than when faced with my peers.
I’m talking, of course, about Facebook.
I’m also being a little melodramatic; forgive me, reader. It’s Friday. But underneath the addiction talk there’s a lot of truth: I spend way too much time on Facebook. When I’m supposed to be working, I’m scrolling through news feed. When I could be out taking a walk or painting, I’m scrolling through news feed. While people are chatting in the café on the corner or having a glass of wine with a lover, I’m scrolling through news feed.
I know more about the life of a girl I never talked to in high school than I do about the people who live next door.
When I take an honest look at how many hours per day I spend skimming through the minutiae of other people’s lives, my claims of “not having enough time” to do the work that I know I need to do in order to further my career as a writer are exposed as bullshit. It’s not that I don’t have the time; it’s that I’m wasting my time on what Sally had for lunch and how adorable Terrence’s kids are.
Why the fuck do I care?
Truth is, I don’t care. I really don’t care at all. I’m just a nosy person and Facebook offers an amazing window for voyeurs like me. I’m the person who loves dusk because no one has pulled their shades yet and I can see what the insides of their houses look like. I’m not looking for anything scandalous; I’m usually not even looking for people. I just want to know what living room furniture they invested in, what art hangs on their walls. I want to know where the TV is positioned and I want to make up stories in my mind about the people who live there, a hobby I’ve had ever since I was a little girl.
But I’ve stopped just observing and started comparing.
Over the past couple of years I’ve read studies about how spending too much time on Facebook is correlated with feeling worse about ones self. Like any addict, I told myself it would never happen to me. “Nope!” I thought. “That’s just for losers who already have nothing going on in their lives.”
And then I found myself thinking about the fact that I’m 27, have a haphazard job as a blogger, haven’t lived in one place for more than a year since I left New York in 2011, and have no plans on settling down anywhere anytime soon. I saw photo after photo of “friends” weddings and children and houses they were buying and suddenly started to worry about what the fuck I was doing with my life.
Last night on Skype, I told my dad in all seriousness, “You know, I have to have kids in the next ten years if it’s going to happen.”
He threw his head back and rocked in his chair, laughing uncontrollably at my very serious tone and reminded me that ten years ago, I was 17.
“I know but, Dad, for real. It’s like, 13 years max,” I insisted as he laughed in my pixellated face.
“So you mean about half of the time you’ve already put on this earth?” he replied as he kept chuckling.
Touché, Dad. Touché.
So I’ve taken myself out of the news feed game. I haven’t deleted my account; it’s not like when I quit cigarettes and had to get rid of all traces of the addiction in order to keep myself from falling back into unhealthy patterns. Nope, it’s more like when I periodically decide that I’ve been drinking too much wine and become more conscious about my consumption, keeping myself to a glass a night instead following my genetic inclination to overindulge.
How have I managed to cut out the time suck that is news feed without forgoing messenger and status updates, two tools that have become essential to this blogger who lives overseas? Well, there’s an app (or, at least, a Google Chrome installation) for that: Kill News Feed. My boyfriend has been talking for weeks about how much it has improved his life and, yesterday, I finally gave in.
I still find myself clicking onto Facebook with an automatic motion that reminds me of the way I used to smoke while waiting for the bus. When I do, I’m met with the words “Don’t get distracted by Facebook!” which is enough to shame me into going back to work. I know there’s a way to disable the app but I’ve told my boyfriend not to show me yet and I’ve purposely not read the website to figure it out.
I’m going to go at least a week before I check back in. I’ve quit addictions before. I know the value of cold turkey.