Facebook: More Like Christmas, Less Like Oxygen

I have a new Power Pose now.  I usually just go for the “Top of the Hill,” which I do…at the top of a hill, after I run up it.  It involves looking out over the horizon, hands on hips, while desperately attempting to control my breathing so I don’t die.  It is full of awesome.  Today I added “Noticing Reality” to my repertoire.  To do this Power Pose, open Facebook on your phone.  Then set the phone on the counter and turn your back on it for two minutes.  You will be filled with either a gripping panic that you might have missed something, or you will realize that the front of the refrigerator is so covered with face-shaped smudges that you’re not sure if it’s white or stainless.  You may even realize that it looks this crappy because you have been looking at funny cat pictures and haven’t cleaned the house in three weeks.

I'm really glad I Liked that comment before anyone else did.  Priorities intact.

I’m really glad I Liked that comment before anyone else did. Priorities intact.

I have a Facebook problem.  I actually wear out the protective screen on my iPhone over the Facebook app before anywhere else.  It has become such a reflex that I sometimes open Facebook when I mean to open something else.  I only have 91 Facebook friends, because I sort of insist on only connecting with people I would actually meet for coffee, and how much can they really be up to since three minutes ago?  Often…nothing, despite the fact that I am checking once a day for each of them.  All I’m getting is updates from the Pages I’ve liked.  I am rubbing a hole in my phone to see that some guy I’ve never met just ran 100 miles in a tutu.  Good for him, but that floor isn’t vacuuming itself, even if I told the kids that was what I was going to do upstairs.

Why do I check it so often?  Read: Why am I so pathetic?  Well, I am an introvert and a mom who stays home.  Some days, especially if Mr. YSBH is traveling, Facebook is the bulk of my adult interaction.  There are days when it is ALL of my adult interaction.  I could go join a group of moms to drink coffee and talk about nothing but our kids.  I could get involved in something.  I could do a lot of things.  I don’t, because I don’t have the social energy right now.  An introverted person who stays at home all day with small children is borrowing social energy from the atmosphere already.  Real actual people, I think you’re great, but you exhaust me.  Facebook gives me a way to spy on keep in touch with you, without having to interact with you.

BUT THEN….there is that beautiful thing that happens in the morning.  I wake up, stretch my arms over my head, and reach for my phone to check Facebook.  NOTIFICATION TIME!  How many will I have this morning?  2? 6?  Because my phone gets in my face so much during the day, I rarely have more than a couple of notifications.  But every morning, it’s like Christmas.  Except I guess some days I was bad, because I don’t get anything, but that doesn’t really help my story along here….so….anyway…  Anytime I am able to ignore my Facebook for a few hours, I get an armload of comments to enjoy.  I keep my posts sort of light-hearted and entertaining most of the time, and I like to know that I’ve made someone laugh or think.  Having a pile of notifications to sort through is fun and gives me a chance to think about what I wrote and who was interested or amused.



What would happen if I started treating Facebook like this all the time?  What if I took it off my phone and checked a few times a day on the computer?  I’d miss some things.  I wouldn’t be in the middle of some conversations that I currently enjoy.  The world might miss out on some of my funny.  Rather than breathing Facebook interaction like oxygen, I would open it up like a special package.  It would take a smaller place in my life.  I might not be in the cool kids of Facebook club anymore, because timing really is everything.  The pace of my life might slow down just a little bit.

This picture, while chock-full of oxygen, does not quite have the same magic.

This picture, while chock-full of oxygen, does not quite have the same magic.

Can I do this, this “slow living” experiment?  Can I post my updates a couple of times a day, read what my friends have written, and let the rest of the world pass me by?  I tried it the other day.  I spent a Sunday doing other things, and left my phone on the charger, partly because a friend and I had agreed to do it together.  I cleaned stuff.  I finished up the macaroni thing and posted it.  I did a lot of stuff.  I didn’t feel like I missed much.  The next day, I was right back to whanging away at the Facebook app like it controls the very beating of my heart.  It’s fun to have Christmas, but not *every day*.  That would get old.

Twitter Is Just As Bad As I Thought It Was

I just recently started a Twitter account. I avoided Twitter like the plague for a long time, because I thought it was a time-sucking bunch of inane drivel. Then, a few months ago, my friend Tom Racine (@talltaleradio) convinced me to start writing a blog. Then, he said, “You have to get a Twitter account to promote it.” I replied that I didn’t want to and he couldn’t make me, because he is not my Dad. For a few days, however, the thought kept nagging at me. What if he was right? What if the little push my fledgling blog needed was a few simple tweets?

It has worked just as well as my MSPaint skills would indicate.

It has worked just as well as my MSPaint skills would indicate.

I went out to Twitter and looked up a couple of variants of my blog name, You Should Be Happy. Wow…no one had chosen “@YouShouldBHappy” yet! I’m not sure what happened after that. I think it was a bit like an auction, where you end up buying that box of garbage for $500—because if that other guy is bidding, it must be awesome. I thought that I’d better snap that up, because when my blog hits the big time, someone else might take it and try to capitalize on my success. How lucky for me that it wasn’t taken! What an opportunity! Don’t let it pass me by, oh please don’t let someone else be poised with their finger above the enter key before I can make it MINE.

So, I signed up for Twitter. I felt kind of dirty and didn’t really want to tell anyone about it, sort of like that time that Carlos Danger sent me that picture online. I made a tiny mention of it. Two of my friends followed me right away. And then a Complete Stranger followed me. I thought he must have picked it up from one of my other friends, because they are both into comics (the art kind, not the onstage kind). Cool! A Complete Stranger (sort of) is interested in seeing my tweets! Yeah! I followed him back, just to be nice. You see how naïve I am? I didn’t realize about the quid pro quo out there…

Until…another Complete Stranger followed me! A COMEDIAN. For me, well, this was great news. He is a *corporate COMEDIAN, but still. He had a couple of thousand followers. This was going to be fantastic. My Twitter future was looking bright. Two days later… he unfollowed me. I guess I didn’t follow him back fast enough. I thought:

“Maybe I should follow him, and see if he refollows me. At the very least, I can unfollow him a couple of days later, and see how HE likes it.”

So I did, and he didn’t, and I did. I’m not proud of that. I should have just passed a note to my BFF during third period that said, “Kevin is a big jerk! We won’t EVER talk to HIM again!!!!!” (Please note, his real name is Kevin, with a K, just like I’ve spelled it here. Feel free to find him and give him a piece of your mind.)

Miss Craig, would you like to bring that up to the front of class and read it for everyone? - Rhetorical Teacher

Miss Craig, would you like to bring that up to the front of class and read it for everyone? – Rhetorical Question Teacher

I’ve been out there for a couple of months now. I am baffled by the behavior of what I believe to be adults, for the most part. Here are the strangest behaviors that I’ve seen:

  • Celebrity Stalkers: Dear Celebrity Person, please please please follow me, because I want to tell my friends that you are following me! Dude, none of your friends are going to believe that you have ANY RELATIONSHIP WHATSOEVER with that famous person. They are going to think that you begged and whined in a desperate and pathetic fashion to get someone to pretend to be your friend in an imaginary world where their identity often isn’t even certain. Sounds like a grand way to use your time and measure your self-worth.
  • Retweety Birds: They never met a tweet they didn’t want to instantly retweet. They retweet someone else’s thoughts and jokes and writing all day long, never adding an original character. If your job, or avocation, is promoting an art form, a cause, or whatnot…fine. I will know that when I follow @catzpicsallday, I am going to get a bunch of pictures of cats. If I follow @originalthoughts, I would like something besides a bunch of Monty Python quotes.
  • Support Stalkers: I admit, I tweeted a rather cranky comment about how Norton Antivirus keeps interrupting my writing to tell me that it has expired, like some over-friendly ghost that pops in to say, “Yep. Still dead! That’s me, all dead,” every five minutes. While I enjoy being Kittyfriended[1] to a certain extent, I don’t really want to have to get a piece of software out of my face every 15 minutes. Now I have a new friend! Norton Support! I think the Corporate Stated Goal is to ensure that every Norton user has a top-notch experience, or somesuch thing like that. This will be accomplished by publicly announcing that they heard what I said behind their back, and they don’t appreciate me talking sh&t about them, and if I’m going talk sh&t, I’d better tweet it at their faces.
Oh, I see, it's a protection racket.  Pay up, or you might have a little "accident," if you know what I mean...

Oh, I see, it’s a protection racket. Pay up, or you might have a little “accident,” if you know what I mean…

  • The Perpetually Pissed Off: Wow. You have ground that axe down to a nubbin and yet you go on and on and on. I followed one person because I thought the name on the account was clever. Turns out, that one small bit of clever was spawned during the tweeter’s brief flirtation with lithium. The rest of the time, he or she is a raging psychotic, and delights in offending and berating Complete Strangers for any wrong, real or imagined. It was terrifying and extremely annoying. UNFOLLOW, dammit, why am I not unfollowing you faster?[2]
  • The Promoters: I have a thing! Look at me! I’m on a book tour! I’m signing things! I wrote a crummy thing about Twitter, which I am now going to promote on Twitter! I obviously don’t have a problem with the occasional tweet about your thing. It’s a good way to tell people about things and stuff. I do get tired of incessant tweets about your thing. I am probably not as obsessed with your thing as you are.
  • The Weirdest Person Contestants: I did not even know that these people existed, or that they knew the alphabet. Actually, some are more adept with the alphabet than others (see @jonnysun for an apparently clever person abusing the alphabet). It seems that they spend a great portion of the day coming up with the oddest things they can. Sometimes, it is really funny. Sometimes, it is just weird, and worse, they tend to build off one another. At some point, the weirdness level is going to be so high, that it will cause a black hole to form within Twitter, and everyone’s tweets will get sucked into another dimension, and we will be able to smell them. See what I did there? That is weird. I probably should put in some typos and tweet it.

    Hey!  I'm here for the number pic....  oh.  Hi, D.  Very clever, yeah, I get it.  Ummm... get out of the way.

    Hey! I’m here for the number pic…. oh. Hi, D. Very clever, yeah, I get it. Ummm… get out of the way.

The whole experience is a bit like Student Council Elections in the 8th Grade. Millions of people competing to be Class President, with homemade marker and glitter signs. The cool kids…are already the cool kids. The wanna-be crowd is unlikely to become the cool kids. There are a few stand-outs who have made reputations, and built followings, based on the quality of what they have to say, including how they condense it into as few characters as possible. That’s cool. I’m not going to cancel my Twitter account, even though I don’t much like the overall vibe or the medium. After all, I have to keep telling my six followers about updates to the blog. I’m sure it is the highlight of that Norton Support guy’s day.

Oh…and follow me at @YouShouldBHappy. There’s a little clicky button on the side of the page right there.

Postscript: I now have five followers. The guy who draws the incredibly violent comic book has unfollowed ALL of his Twitterites except the Rajneesh. The actual Rajneesh who took over Antelope, OR, with his fleet of rainbow Cadillacs. Being a Native Oregonian, I remember the news coverage of the Rajneesh and his actions, many of which were not as above-board as you might think a “spiritual leader’ would strive for, including the first act of domestic bioterrorism. The Rajneesh has been dead for 23 years, and is still annoying Oregonians from the grave. Well played, sir.

[1] Kittyfriending is the process of getting all right up into someone’s face and meowing repeatedly until they break down and pet you. Kittyfriend was a neighborhood stray at our first house; he was aggressively friendly to the point of absurdity, which was oddly charming. Long live beautiful, scraggly, big-hearted Kittyfriends.

[2] I finally got this lunatic unfollowed. Two days later, Twitter sent me an e-mail suggesting other accounts that were like “@nutzball.” I guess this was to help me find the right kind of crazy, because I obviously wanted some crazy in my feed.

Sauron Forged My iPhone In the Fires of Mordor

My husband grabbed my iPhone out of my hand last night without warning. He wanted to make sure that I didn’t manage to get a picture of him in his Tommy Hilfiger blue-checked dress shirt, bicycle shorts, argyle socks, and clippie shoes. Believe me, I tried, but he rode away too quickly for my phone to power back up, the bastard. The grabbing…was NOT COOL WITH ME. A mild wrestling match/fistfight ensued. If it had persisted, I might have bitten off some of his fingers to get it back. Now you know why we call it “The Precious” in our house. As I sit here at my computer, The Precious is right next to me, in case I need to touch it for reassurance.

"A most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm." (Tolkien, The Hobbit)

“A most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm.” (Tolkien, The Hobbit)

It’s sort of unhealthy, I know. I did an experiment this morning, and left it plugged into the charger, Smaug, in the kitchen. ALL MORNING. That does not mean I didn’t look at anything, I just had to be in the kitchen to do it. I found out that I get a lot more done around here when my phone isn’t in my face. I also found out that there is a tiny buzzing anxiety when it’s not in my pocket, or my hand, or otherwise right next to me. It made me think about what other transformations might be happening that I don’t realize are happening. Am I going to be biting the bellies out of live fish next?

Taking inventory, I realized my circle of experience is now limited to things that show up on my phone. Clearly, a dramatic change from when I used to get input from the TV and other valuable sources. If I don’t have an app for it, it effectively does not exist. Since I have very few apps, this means I am current with what’s happening on FaceBook, Twitter, WordPress, Audible and Heiny the Weasel’s Dirty Verse Pile. Otherwise…I find out about major news when it blows up on Twitter, which is pretty surreal and weird. Honestly, I don’t have time to care right now. Maybe in a couple of years. In the meantime, if something really big happens, would you mind posting in on your Facebook timeline for me? That would really help at all the cocktail parties and diplomatic events I go to.

Catching up on my reading.  It's so important to stay in touch with the finer works of the English language.

Catching up on my reading. It’s so important to stay in touch with the finer works of the English language.

I am conditioning my children to despise handheld technology. My children are not part of the clamoring horde of toddlers chanting, “iPad! Me want iPad!” They give me dirty looks when the phone comes out. They come up with all kinds of fun things we could do together instead. “Mommy! Can you come and watch me wash the windows?” The baby actually came up with this at about eighteen months: “Mommy, all done phone.” They are small Luddites for the moment. I know that they will eventually have texting calluses of their own, but maybe they will first learn how to interact with the outside world. “Remember, we don’t want to end up like Mom.”

I really love playing with the kids!  Little...ummmm...little guy!  Hey!

I really love playing with the kids! Little…ummmm…little guy! Hey!

Physically, this obsession with my little friend is not a great thing. My neck hurts. My thumb hurts, and the LOLs are turning into OWs. I am a few apps away from hunching over and galumphing along on all fours like Gollum. This is why I do not have any games on my phone. My repetitive motion mess is bad enough from obsessively checking Facebook, let alone adding a game where the point is to mindlessly touch the screen over and over again.

This is a normal hand-shaped hand, right?

This is a normal hand-shaped hand, right?

I spend so much time doing everything on my phone, that I am forgetting how to use a real computer. I sat for a few minutes the other day wondering how to work on two things at the same time…on the computer. In the wayback (read: five years ago), I used to run two monitors. I finally remembered that you can have more than one thing open on a real, big-boy computer. I have also actually TOUCHED MY LAPTOP SCREEN and expected something to happen besides a dusty fingertip. I could argue that this was because my desktop IS a touchscreen, but I never remember to use that feature on it. Never.

I am creating a hard-wired connection in my brain that says, “Are you close to experiencing one moment of boredom or reflection? QUICK, grab your phone!” This is accompanied by an autonomic reflexive action of my hand, reaching for the phone. If the phone is not in the expected pocket, the hand frisks me until it finds it. The fun of self-frisking aside, this is a little bit too much like a certain amphibious object of pathos. Is my fate to be intertwined with the iPhone? Will I give my life to keep it within my grasp? I don’t know, and I am nearly beyond caring…as long as I have The Preciiiiooouuuusssss…the one Phone to rule them all.

Maybe I should get out and enjoy nature.

Maybe I should get out and enjoy nature.