Facebook Was M.I.A. Yesterday

Great — now turn off your damn phone, too

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

FaceBook was down yesterday.

And as much as I bitch and complain about how social media controls our every waking moment, I realized how completely dependent I am on the little blue icon for certain things.

  • For staying in touch with a few of the people I talk to almost daily.
  • For checking in with several writers’ support groups.
  • For posting my latest articles.
  • For finding the latest “cute kitteh” video — okay, just kidding about that but there is a new “Cute kitteh” GIF.

Seriously, though, there’s gotta be a FB factory somewhere with little blue FB elves churning out “cute critter” online-swag — GIFs, icons, memes, video clips? FB Elves — they’d be a cross between the Keebler Cooky elves and Smurfs. Only not so annoying.

But the whole day, I kept checking back

Reloading the page to see if I could comment on a post. Closing and reopening my browser to see if that would help. Firing up another browser to see if I cold et on from it. Jonesing for a fix like an addict.

Yes, I’m a bit of a nerd. I have different browsers for different online activities. I don’t let my banking browser play online, and I don’t use the same passwords between them. Colour me old-fashioned.

But seriously — checking in on FB twenty times in one day? C’mon, people!

Normally, the little blue FB tab sits way down the menu bar in my browser while I’m busy doing other things — useful things. Like writing. Like reading other writers’ articles. Like commenting and applauding.

Like researching my next article. And no, in this case, that is not”writer-speak” for goofing off online. Except on Wednesday, when I check my Medium stats Way too often while waiting for the Partner Program results.

Everything wrong with our lives is not the fault of social media

I have to remind myself sometimes. Not just when FB craters for the day. There have always been sad and lonely people in this world. At times, I have been one of them.

People who’re unable to make a lasting connection. People who can’t seem to find their “match.” People who find their match and then lose it or break it.

There’s more to our ongoing affair with social-media than we’d like to admit

And our fascination with comparing our lives to the lives of others is certainly not confined to the information generation. This discomfort “dis-ease” has been around for much, much longer. And, long before the “Agony Sister’s” newspaper columns encouraged ordinary people to share their problems with the world.

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

We love gossip — oh, we don’t call it that these days. We call it “following.” Stalking maybe?

We haunt the FB pages of those we’ve friended — comb through their account, their Twitter feed, and every Instagram post looking for a chink in the shiny “My-Life-Is-Wonderful” crap we all post.

The perfect holiday pics. The smiling family-get-together/road-trip-to-Grannie’s-house shares.
The instant memorie clips of our latest, greatest, incredible outing.

The ones we post to convince ourselves and everyone else our lives are completely wonderful and completely enviable.

I turned off my notifications — ages ago

Both on my notebook and my not-so-smart phone. I couldn’t stand the constant, attention-grabbing dinging and flashing and clucking. Every blessed time someone did something earth-shattering.

Seriously, how many truly earth-shattering posts have you made in recent memory — not so many, huh? Be honest — did it completely alter the course of our lives to see your cute pup catch his first frisbee?

But those attention-grabbing chirps and squawks also serve another purpose — they keep us coming back.

It’s all about “Intermittent Rewards”

Much scientific research has been done on gambling and gambling addictions. Solid real research, not that pseudo-science fluff we see so much of online — hard science. And all of it points to the incredibly addictive nature of intermittent rewards.

Those harmless kids' games? They totally employ the “you don’t win every time” method of snagging and retaining players. Animated apps — the cute match-the-shape-and-colour ones with all the bright bouncy characters and funny, exciting noises.

Your brain is wired to grab on.
You and I are highly motivated by the idea we could win. It’s so much more attractive and far more addictive than winning every time.
Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash
And then, of course, they try to sell you more coins, or gold bars, or rubies.
Or whatever else they’ve taught you that you must have to reach a that next, higher level in the game.

Every time you hear a ding or see that little icon flashing, you’re highly motivated to check it out. You are being triggered. You have been taught, primed to think it could be something really interesting this time.

So, okay, it was a little unnerving to feel so remote from my online communities.

But yesterday, cut off from the FB world, and unable to “catch up” with friends, I did manage to get one hell of a pile of writing done.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +434,678 people.

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