Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cyber Withdrawal


Yesterday I posted notices on both my Facebook account and Myspace that I was going to cancel the accounts by the end of the week. I've been having second thoughts for the past 24 hours. Aaaaagggghhhhh!!!!!

So, here's the deal. After I finished writing the Joie de Vivre blog, I was doing some heavy duty brain work on the subject of happiness. I've definitely nailed down the fact that since our move to Arizona, I've been very unhappy. Besides the obvious issues of selling my beautiful first home, moving 1,000 miles away from all of my friends and family and the fact that Queen Creek is very possibly the ugliest smelliest place on Earth, I've been trying to really get a grip on why my happiness factor has dwindled so dramatically since we've been here.

Then, "BLING!" My inner light bulb went off.

Let me see if I can explain this without sounding completely brain damaged. Okay...one of my issues since moving here has been that I feel very isolated. Queen Creek is in the desert. Some brilliant yahoo got the idea a couple of years ago to turn it into the new, latest and greatest area to develop. Up go the houses and the beginnings of retail centers and down goes the economy. Now Queen Creek is this brand new town sitting in the desert, 20 minutes from anything, and an hour from anything good. So you see, the isolation complaint is not just an empty one.

But here's the thing. The isolation is more than geographic. It's an emotional and mental isolation as well.

One of the things that I've been doing much more since moving here is hanging out on Myspace and Facebook. Myspace is more of a blogging sight and is like e-mail on acid. You can easily post albums of photos and you can also just send quick "comments" to people instead of writing a full e-mail. I've had a MySpace account for about three years and for the most part have really enjoyed it. Through MySpace I reconnected with my best friend from years ago, met a new friend and maintained that relationship, and reconnected with a sister I hadn't seen or heard from in years. So, Myspace has been pretty decent. Then I got started on Facebook at the request of a friend.

Facebook is like crack. It's a quick "fix." There is no blogging, only "status updates" such as "Amy Is...." and then you fill in the rest. It shows how long ago you posted, which ends up putting some strange pressure on you to update your status. You can send private messages or e-mails to people, but the most common way to communicate is by writing on some one's "wall". You're basically just making a quick comment to them and they can quickly comment to you or on things you've posted. You're constantly being notified that you have new comments or that someone else has commented on one of your friend's posts. It's crazy. There are also "applications" that can be run like "poking" someone (not what you think, and not nearly as fun), throwing snowballs, passing a drink, etc. After about a week, I started hitting the "ignore" button on those. Anyway, the one cool thing about Facebook is that it enables you to connect to TONS of people and not just random people. It FINDS people you know for you based on your profile (scary....). In the past month, it found close to twenty people I went to school with and I've been in touch with most of them.

"Cool!" you say? Well, yes. I was really happy to be in contact with a few of those people. But here's the rub. You find yourself having these very brief "sound bite" type of conversations with people. With the exception of the initial catch up conversation of "How are you?! What have you been doing for the past twenty years?!" most of your communication is just these brief little comments. You find yourself checking the site constantly to see if there are any updates or notifications that someone has left a comment for you. Although you are an adult with a life, you end up kind of feeling like you're a kid in high school again, waiting for the In Crowd to acknowledge you and accept you.

Do you remember when e-mail came about? It was the most killer technology! You could instantly send a message to someone and get a reply, lickety-split. You could attach pictures and files and it was phenomenal. Then along came MySpace and Facebook and Skype and Twitter, etc. Now there are all of these sites that allow you to "converse" in lightening speed. There's not even a real thought process to it. Unlike sitting and writing an e-mail to someone and thinking about what you want to say and how to word things to convey your thoughts, these other websites simply let you say, "Hey! What's up?" and get a reply of, "Not much. Just waiting for work to be over so I can chill." (You'd be amazed at how many people are doing this stuff from work. Seriously.)

Are you getting my point here? These "relationships" aren't real. They're just very superficial quick fixes. They're relationship placebos. Yes, it's lovely to reconnect with old friends, but it's also a very hollow feeling. These people are spread out all over the U.S. and the chances we'll be having dinner or playing Scrabble together any time soon are almost nil. There are a handful of people I'd like to stay in contact with. I'm hoping those people will stay in touch via that old-fashioned technology, e-mail.

As I contemplated my overall happiness, I realized that the time I'm spending on MySpace and Facebook isn't time well spent. It hasn't contributed to my overall happiness. It might have actually done the opposite. Those people I was connecting with online weren't people who were going to have the ability to actually be a part of my life. They would always be cyber-relationships. A large contributor to my unhappiness in Arizona has been my inability thus far to find people to connect with. Real people. People I can call and meet for lunch and people who we can invite over for dinner and talk to and laugh with. Those are the relationships I need and want in my life right now and I need to be spending my time seeking those out instead of sitting behind a computer.

A few people on Facebook & MySpace have posted comments about my leaving. Sweet. I hope they can find the time to send me an e-mail now and then. I'd love to hear from them.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep blogging because it's my way of journaling. I get to sit and write, which I love to do, and then hit a button that sends my thoughts into cyberspace. That was the whole intent behind me starting a blog in the first place. Just to have a forum to empty the thoughts out my head. It gets mighty congested in there sometimes.

So now I have to make the move from behind the computer and out into the real world and seek out the freaks and the geeks like me. No small challenge, I assure you.