There’s something you should know about me. I, Daniel Rocha, made a pledge not to look at Facebook for an indeterminate amount of time, for my own good.
How did I come to make such a bizarre promise? Well, it’s actually on the orders of my counselor.
My counselor, Mary Anne, told me that she has a number of patients coming in to her because of Facebook. It gets into people’s heads. It makes them question their own lives. It makes them feel inferior. She gave me a warning: “Stay away from Facebook,” she said, “lest it devour your good sense and poison your mind.”
Okay, she didn’t say it quite like that, but the message was intact.
So what, exactly, is it about Facebook that upsets so many people, including myself? I’ve asked myself that question many times, and the answer is pretty simple. Looking over my News Feed, and the self-aggrandizing posts that populate it, makes me feel like shit. People use Facebook, and most other social media, as a means to validate their own lives, to feel as though they’re “making it” in our bizarre American culture. In this culture, success is measured by popularity. How many subscribers do you have? How many people follow you? Are you a beacon that lures people with no lives of their own? Do people envy you and your good fortune?
Are you a celebrity, or do you at least look the part? Everything’s A-OK in your world? No problems, no issues, just a picture-perfect life? Well, it’s no good unless you can show it off.
In the First World, where the lower three tiers of Maslow’s pyramid are more-or-less taken for granted, esteem is the true measure of success.
I don’t value esteem. I value the success of my works, but not of myself. I just want people to enjoy the things I make.
The world of social media, however, seems like the perfect opportunity for the rest of us to play celebrity, and God damn, if those folks who need that validation didn’t take it.
I don’t know why it bothers me, or the others who go to see Mary Anne. Or maybe I do. Maybe I don’t like to see people getting recognized, celebrated, even worshipped, for doing nothing more than living their very simple, very ordinary lives.
Do followers, admirers, worshippers, really make you feel better about who you are? Or is it a cover stick for your perceived failings? Does it ease the pain of knowing you’ll never be Kim Kardashian? Or Nicki Minaj? Or any other inexplicably popular human being in this screwy country? If that sort of thing doesn’t affect you, why bother sharing your own adventures online? Why bother presenting the best possible picture to strangers? Whom are you trying to impress?
Maybe I’m just a crusty old thirty-something who doesn’t fit with the flow of today’s cultural currents. Maybe I’m a crazy man who’s suffering under the weight of my own failures, but I just don’t see the need to celebrate myself. I don’t like to talk about myself; I never have. I like to talk about cartoons. I like to talk about movies. I like to talk about drama, emotions, how to evoke the strongest possible reaction in people through words, images, and ideas.
I’m feeling more and more like an old man. Goddamned kids just like a twist, I guess.