I really dislike January 1st. My family loves it. They always feel this sense of rebirth and renewal. They spend December 31st filling their bellies with fantastic finger foods of all shapes and kinds. They watch Rockin’ Eve on the TV with fun, sarcasm, and anticipation. We all play board games. There is laughter and champagne and fruit punch. But I often feel unfinished no matter how much I try to reflect and compartmentalize the year. Restless soul syndrome, I guess. I know I am not good with goodbyes, or change, or endings, or beginnings. The party horns, the pots and pans, the Auld Langs Synes, and midnight hour marks this symbolic sense of renewal and I feel intense pressure.
The commercial played and the words “Never Stop Searching” scrolled across the screen.
After our low-key festivities faded into midnight, I sat there listening to the breathing patterns of my family gently slow into snores as they lulled themselves to sleep, their bodies wrapped in comforters as they camped out in the living room.
• • •
I “deactivated” my Facebook account a few weeks ago. It was just for a few hours. Just to see what it would be like. It was easy enough. You get the option to come back later so I knew it wasn’t this grand, bold gesture. Just self-imposed exile that was not dependent upon anything but free will.
Three clicks, a prompt asking me “ARE YOU SURE?”, photoed faces of random old friends seemed to manipulatively stare at me, begging me to stay, taunting me with computer generated words of: “So and so will miss you!” A secret code confirmed my decision.
Fade to login page.
Over the last year, I had noticed a few people mentioned they were leaving Facebook for a period of time to regroup. The reasons were varied. Some needed a break, some wanted to catch up on their reading, some just for the hell of it. I often wondered if that act of sequestering themselves from technology freed them in the way that they had hoped; if it gave them some closure or solace. How did they correspond? Did they make more phone calls? Did they move their conversations to another technology? Did they visit more people? I felt both exhilarated and anxious to let it go, even though I quickly realized that I relied on this “thing” for almost every conversation I participated in, work or otherwise.
Permanently/temporary logout. I did not mention it to anyone. I wasn’t totally sure why I did it at the time. I had been reading a lot of people’s status updates. Shootings and Fiscal Cliffs and Holidays were all becoming one long FB dialogue. The world was becoming less and less certain in high def and at a rapid pace. Status updates (including my own) ran the gamut of declarative drama, glee, humor, and matter of fact melancholy. But it wasn’t overtly sad, like the sad in which resided in the fact that sometimes life was sad and that tomorrow was a new day but for now there was sad. Maybe it was sad due to loss or some other hardship. It was silent strength amidst soundless stati. Silent searchings for words/responses. Maybe I simply felt lost in the circuitry. Maybe I needed more silence. Or maybe I was silently screaming. But I did not know exactly for what or for why.
The first hour passed by with very little fanfare. When you turn off your “world’s” light switch in only your house you expect… something. But really, nothing happens. I worked. I drew. Life keeps moving. It is like staying home sick from school one day. You’re an empty desk. You rest up. You get to play catch up once you return. Over the next hour or so, I received a few emails from people telling me my FB account had somehow gotten “messed up” and that they needed to contact me about this, that, or the other thing. I kind of felt relieved that life had afforded me those messages and I instantly felt ashamed in admitting that to myself. Had this working from home isolated me too much from the “real” world that I now needed the comfort of knowing people were a just click away? This IM communication that I often loathe, the painful misinterpretations of tone in text that turn into arguments, the instant accessibility, all these things that I so hated were now like a bad boyfriend I could no longer rid myself of. This thing that was both a vice grip and liaison to everything.
Maybe all of this nonsense is just winter personified.
• • •
I do realize my personal worldview is one of very close digital proximity. I get bogged down by and attached to the things in front of my face and I let the real, real world outside become distant and cold. I set up a protective barrier to everything and sequester. I blame my awkwardness. Yet I am sometimes so fearful of silence and I forget that the silence could be so much more silent. The people within my Facebook are my connective tissue to humanity. But I realize that even with this connectivity, more actual, physical human connection to humanity is needed.
So I conducted a second experiment. I wanted to see how connected I was to reality; the living reality outside my family.
At 10:30 PM on December 31, 2012, I opened my Facebook friends list, grabbed a notebook, and began to handwrite every single name. As I scribbled down each name I thought about how I knew each person. Like my little “log off” experiment, I did not really know at the beginning why I chose to do it. Maybe I wanted to reminisce. I took solace in knowing that I had interacted in some small way or had some sort of connection with most everyone on the list and that this list wasn’t just a collection of names. There were people there I missed terribly, people I had said goodbye to, people I had not seen in years, people who I lingered on, people I very recently laughed with, people I loved, people I wished I knew better… The song suggests that auld acquaintance be forgot. But I wanted to remember. I wanted to log off and connect.
The groundwork for art, photo, and other is being laid as we speak. The how and why I connect.
I stopped for a few moments at midnight. Kate was the name where I left off. My hand hurt by 1 am. I was finished by 2:33 am. Out of practice penmanship. 12 pages, single spaced. 681 names. People I know.