How Low Can You Go ?

Limbo Craze

An hour or so after I delet­ed my Face­book account, I got an email explain­ing that in fact my account had only been deac­ti­vat­ed but it would “be per­ma­nent­ly delet­ed with­in 14 days.” Which means it wasn’t delet­ed at all. If I logged in dur­ing those four­teen days, the delete request would be can­celed. I’d have to can­cel all over again and wait anoth­er two weeks. I was in Lim­bo.

I knew I wouldn’t make it. I quit in the first place because I have no self-con­trol. I was com­pul­sive­ly check­ing FB fifty times a day. When I wasn’t on it, I was think­ing about it — which pho­to I’d post, or which inane arti­cle I’d share, not to men­tion all the out­rage I drummed up respond­ing to every­one else’s out­rage. I wouldn’t be able to stay away for four­teen days. And why four­teen days ? Why not twen­ty-one days ? Why not sev­en ? It wasn’t arbi­trary. Noth­ing on Face­book is arbi­trary.

To Face­book, each of us is a gold nugget of data. No, that’s not right. A nugget of gold is use­ful only once, when you sell it. But a radioac­tive gold nugget is dif­fer­ent. Face­book has fig­ured out a way to enrich us like ura­ni­um so we siz­zle and radi­ate away our half-life into the ether day after day. A radioac­tive nugget is a life-long gold­mine, and no way is Face­book going to make it easy for that gold­mine to dis­ap­pear. I had been active on Face­book (a gross under­state­ment) for almost sev­en years. None of my likes and posts and shares and quizzes and com­ments were use­ful to any­body even a few hours after I made them, but to Face­book they were iso­topic ever­last­ing gold­en gob­stop­pers, which is why they’re saved in per­pe­tu­ity. I’m sure Facebook’s social engi­neers, or Fascisti­neers for short, burned through months of data, cash, and guinea pigs to fig­ure out that twen­ty-one days would make peo­ple think something’s fishy — noth­ing takes twen­ty-one days to delete ; sev­en days would be too fast for most peo­ple to have sec­ond thoughts and change their minds. Four­teen days must have been sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly deter­mined to be the sweet spot, and I didn’t stand a chance.

But it turns out I did. After a cou­ple days, the com­pul­sion fad­ed. After a few more days, I stopped think­ing about Face­book entire­ly. When some­one told me about some­thing they read on Face­book, I had a sort of men­tal gag reflex. I didn’t care and I didn’t want to hear about it. The four­teen days came and went four days ago, and I’m real­iz­ing it only this morn­ing.

I miss my friends on Face­book. I met a lot of new peo­ple there from around the world who I’d nev­er get the chance to meet oth­er­wise, and I stayed in touch with fam­i­ly and old friends too. All that is gone, and that’s hard. I live a pret­ty qui­et life, and I don’t take friends light­ly. I used to say I might be alone but I’m not lone­ly, but I feel lone­ly now. I also think it’s okay to feel lone­ly. It’s okay to feel bad. Now may­be I’ll do some­thing about it — seek out friends close to home, get out of the house, etc.

But on the oth­er hand, I feel like I’ve gained at least two hours a day. It was unset­tling at first because I didn’t real­ize what was hap­pen­ing. It felt like the clocks were run­ning slow. But now I’m lov­ing the extra time in the day to work. Beyond that, my mind has start­ed to calm down. If the mind is like a car’s engine, my idle speed was way too high. I was burn­ing fuel and and wear­ing myself down for no rea­son, revving hot and fast all the time. It feels like my mind has set­tled into a calmer, qui­eter nat­u­ral state. The­se days I’m in the mid­dle of a very stress­ful and unhap­py divorce, and recent­ly I’ve fal­l­en out with a good friend I love ; yet even with all the anx­i­ety and exhaus­tion and sad­ness, I’ve been calmer and less scat­tered than I can remem­ber being in years.

But did Face­book real­ly delete my account ? I’ll nev­er know. If I check, there’s a very good chance I’ll be right back where I was 3 weeks ago. Lim­bo is the very edge of Hell where sin­ners must wait for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of sal­va­tion, but it’s also a super goofy dance.

Hi Fi

I remem­ber the Nation­al Lam­poon of my youth as cut­ting-edge, razor sharp social satire with some sophis­ti­cat­ed sex­u­al humor tossed in to keep the plebes hap­py. When I got the jokes and the arcane polit­i­cal ref­er­ences, I felt like I was part of a high-mind­ed fra­ter­ni­ty. Well, I start­ed look­ing through some of the Nation­al Lam­poon archive recent­ly, and it’s safe to say that the real­i­ty is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than my mem­o­ry. While there was some fun­ny art­work and clev­er satire, most­ly I saw a shit ton of tit­ties. Plus a mil­lion stereo ads with more tit­ties. I can’t say the ads didn’t work. To this day, I love a good stereo.

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T + 48

This is the sec­ond day since I delet­ed my Face­book account. I joined back in 2009, so that’s sev­en years of posts, com­ments, threads, friend­ships, “friend­ships”, and more gone forever. I don’t have to look back very far here to see that I’ve tried deac­ti­vat­ing my account in order to gain some sep­a­ra­tion from all the things whirling around in the world. I’ve tried it a few times. It didn’t work. I’m an idiot child. I’ll fol­low any dis­trac­tion through the trees and into the rape van it’s got parked behind the com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter. Not that Face­book is a rape van, but it is, kind of.

So I delet­ed it. It wasn’t hard. I like scorch­ing the earth behind me, leav­ing nowhere to go but ahead. A bunch of years back, some­one robbed my house and took my cold weath­er coats, my stereo, and my lap­top. I didn’t have any­thing backed up. Every­thing I’d writ­ten since grad school through the first three years of my career was gone. Sto­ries, let­ters, poet­ry. I wasn’t upset though. I felt lighter, freer And I felt an urgen­cy to go out and make new things.

I’ve gained at least two hours per day over the last cou­ple days. It’s ridicu­lous but it’s true. I’m not all chum­my with my phone any­more either. I don’t check it when I wake up. I don’t don’t check it dur­ing the day. I hard­ly look at it at all. I know I’m miss­ing out on stuff. My friends from every­where are writ­ing smart, hilar­i­ous things and shar­ing art I’d want to see. I’m already out of the loop on all the lat­est out­rages and gaffes and rev­e­la­tions and lis­ti­cles and deaths and sta­tis­tics and out­rages, again. It real­ly is a loop, accel­er­at­ing, feed­ing back, blow­ing apart and then reform­ing, giv­ing me no time to sit in the after­noon breeze and won­der what’s hap­pen­ing with me.

Death or Glory

I’d rather be strung out & broke, shit­ting in the park, and for­got­ten by my chil­dren than write a book about why what I do is so great and then sub­ti­tle it “How to Think About Art, Plea­sure, Beau­ty, and Truth.” What a nob, A.O. Scott.

Oak

The colum­nist reads the crows
falling out of the the lau­rels
and adjusts his hat. The sto­ries come
when the dogs go slack in the wet grass
and the crows walk in the street.
There is talk of revolt,
the mad­ness at home can wait.
We wait until night to howl at the rats
behind his house where he waters
the grass, sil­ver and naked but for his hat.