That fucking Facebook feeling

Something great is happening. I’m listening to The Kinks album “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.” It’s 2018 in Chicago but it could be 1968 in England when the album was released or 2002 in Wheaton, Illinois, when I first heard the album. The feeling of being transported by music is incredible; most people in the world somehow haven’t heard this album and I KNOW that they’d love it.

I gotta post this shit to Facebook.

This fucking Facebook feeling shakes my belly. It’s an early response to enjoying some simple bit of life, a fiending for a feeling. The rhetoric of the fucking Facebook feeling is, Wow, what a great moment, let me post it to social media.

Whoa, what a cool passage in this book or a great night with friends. I should snap a picture and post this to Instagram.

Hey, that thought I just had was witty. This is so stupid it’s hilarious. That opinion is one people should think about. That article was so fucking good. Hey, I should post this to Twitter.

MAN, that song “Do You Remember Walter” by The Kinks is the greatest shit ever. I should post it to Facebook.

It goes on. The fucking Facebook feeling doesn’t always win, nor does it stick around for very long with any given thought. But why should that fucking Facebook feeling shake my belly at all? Why not just enjoy the nice moment for myself? Why should one of the first feelings I have with a nice moment be “tell 800 people”?

I love people, which is a big part of the problem. People post on social media, but the platforms serve as more of a mimicked gathering, or perhaps an indie TED Talk, than they do a real-life social situation. On social media, people will look at you and see what you’re doing and care about what you say, even if just for a moment. Or at least that’s the illusion you get: You’re the life of the party from the comfort of your own phone, without all the boredom of listening to other people or meeting someone unpleasant or having to stop talking for a few minutes.

It’s a drug, this feeling, a gamble. Similar to playing on slot machines in Las Vegas, the fucking Facebook feeling makes you think that maybe THIS time I’ll get the response I need. Surely people will react to THIS. I’ll be vindicated, made to feel worthy, some may think. People will think that I’m funny or serious or interesting or unique. The most successful chasers of that fucking Facebook feeling won’t think much of anything aside from, Of course thousands of people are paying attention to me, I’m fucking incredible.

Sometimes people expect a good response but get a bad response. Oddly, they don’t tend to think, “Oh well, can’t win ‘em all” and give up, they want more of the good response and feel a deep gut-sinking feeling of disappointment. Their neck tightens and their stomach fills with rustling butterflies. It’s the same drug, the one they feel ashamed to wake up thinking about, the one they itch for with every nice human moment. They want to find the next nice feeling to share because maybe that one will sit better with others.

Better for others?

The fucking Facebook feeling is closer to publishing a story than I’d care to admit. It’s part of what drew me to writing, that feeling of people reading as I tell a story or share a piece of information, the feeling of being able to craft something beautiful or interesting and share it with a “my readers,” a term I once found hilarious but now take to heart. At times, my thoughts might become yours, a shared mental image of feelings and movements connected to words drawing our minds closer. It’s all a roundabout way for me to get a high and each new story still makes me insanely nervous and excited. But the more I’ve written, the more the high has come from the craft, the feeling of creating something that I’m proud of, something that other people may find beautiful or useful or informative. I don’t believe that I’ve ever been proud of a post on social media.

The hangover from that fucking Facebook feeling is also much tougher than the one I get from publishing a story. The fucking Facebook feeling is a cheaper drug, after all; the stakes are lower when the time output is lower. I spend less on chasing that fucking Facebook feeling than I do putting together a published work, but when a social post lands poorly, it makes me question what’s wrong with me. Not intellectually, of course, but in my belly. What the hell is my problem?, I wonder.

These little moments posted to social media aren’t valueless, but they’re close to it. What we get from any given social media post is a moment of making someone else’s synapses fire, a fleeting reaction quickly forgotten. There’s no pride because the memory is created and then instantly hidden by the next posted memory, buried by the avalanche of thoughts and feelings and articles and music and jokes and photos.

Even so, we love seeing ourselves reflected in the moment, and posting to social feels like a great way to document our lives. Since we’ve had inexpensive cameras, humans have taken photos of ourselves and our loved ones. We troll old family diaries for some clue as to how we ended up how we are. We read human history, fascinated by the errors and triumphs of people just like us. That’s a large part of that fucking Facebook feeling, that need to document that we existed and had moments of happiness, the need to see that others aren’t so different from us. As The Kinks’ Ray Davis sang on the final song of “Village Green,”

“People take pictures of each other
Just to prove that they really existed
Just to prove that they really existed
People take pictures of each other
And the moment can last them forever
Of the time when they mattered to someone”

Each post wrung from that fucking Facebook feeling is a snapshot in time, one where we’re seeing ourselves matter to other people. When we seem to matter less, it hurts. When we seem to matter most, the feeling is incredible.

But we’re no longer usually taking pictures of each other to prove we existed, we’re taking pictures of ourselves to show that we’re happy and fulfilled and lead a life of meaning. This isn’t a criticism of selfies, it’s a criticism of the fact that we’re all trying to be miniature autobiographers through our own photos, quips, and stories, all focused on ourselves. I rarely see one person tell another person’s story. It’s a stressful preoccupation, watching yourself at a close grain…. But not too close, we wouldn’t want others to see those blemishes. What you post from that fucking Facebook feeling doesn’t feel so good if it’s sad or depressing. It only feels good when you’re matching all the heights of achievement—a new baby or house or story or trip or feeling. A great party. A nice day at the beach. A fun song. The hopes of something good transmitted from one person to another. It’s not the full story, but it’s the good stuff.

Some are very good at this and handle it well, leaving these snapshots of themselves on the internet for others to see and think, Wow, look at him, impressive. Some can’t stomach that fucking Facebook feeling and avoid it—why would I want to do that to myself, they think, and why do I need to feed that data beast? Why would I want to lie by omission and leave out the bad moments? Most play the middle ground and chase that fucking Facebook feeling with photos and two-sentence stories and quips and links to songs and articles. They want to be among company, to briefly be the life of the party. I want to be happy and sane and quippy and entertaining and thought-of like everyone else, they think. No one wants to be left out.

But the party is an illusion; no matter what you post, you’re alone. “Writing is a lonely job” is a common warning to young writers. Are you ready to be lonely in most of your work?, older writers asked me when I was young, and I’m grateful to them. But there’s no similar warning to young social media users. If you post about your life and don’t get the reaction you want, it’s a lonely feeling. Even if you do, it’s just you feeling it; there’s no shared human emotion, no love and joy from getting likes. And sometimes, if you’ve made your world feel big as the universe and it turns to be as small as one human mind, the comedown can be vicious.

Our good, human thoughts become tied to that fucking Facebook feeling to the point of never having a good thought without it. We’re addicted to the shiny, well-presented version of our own story.

Sometimes, I simply want to have a nice moment or hear a nice song and enjoy it just for myself and the people I’m with. I want my memories to live in my mind, offline. But that itch, that fucking Facebook feeling, stays. I fiend and fight it, hoping that I can enjoy one thing for myself.

I guess that it won’t be that Kinks song. You KNOW I’m about to post this shit to Facebook.

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