I have a Facebook account. A Facebook page. Two Instagram accounts. A Twitter account. What’s App. IM. Three email accounts. I have dabbled with Pinterest. Attempted Snap Chat. Played with TBH. I use Trello. I have Slack. I use Skype and Appear.in, Google Hangouts and Facetime. To name a few. 20 different ways to connect – but why do I feel so disconnected?
https://youtu.be/OINa46HeWg8 - I forgot my phone.
After a 9-year hiatus, in 2017 I decided to get into the social media space again through Facebook. Everyone was always talking about it and it felt right. Felt easy. Needless to say. I barely look at it anymore. I opened it, set it up, started reaching out to “friends” and before I knew it, I had a bunch of new friends and a lot of old ones that I had not seen in close to 25 years. Wow, everyone liked me so much. So many people really cared about me.
When you are a stage actor out of New York, you can build up a long resume and I did just that. I think in 15 years I did over 17 shows and readings of new shows. That is a lot of other actors and performers you work with. When shows lasted longer like 12-18 months, you started to feel like family. However, when a show was over, you rarely kept those same relationships into your next show. It just wasn’t possible. But now, with Facebook, suddenly everyone is reaching out and it is a family again. Right? I feel like Dale and I are great friends again sharing a dressing room. Or Victor and I are once again grabbing drinks in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Or Kim and I are actually dating again. Oh, or my Blood Brothers friends and I are all hanging out. But, then one day it hit me. Although I felt like I had reacquainted myself to all these people and I was spending a lot of time of my day and evening on my phone posting, scrolling, reading and “connecting,” I never, not once, had even spoken on the phone or grabbed a coffee or even texted anyone outside of Facebook DM. The realization jarred me. And it was just that – a realization. It felt like my life was full again. Like I was on stage all over again being applauded night in and night out. Only to realize, I was often sitting at my desk and after 45 minutes woke to the fact that I was just that, sitting at my desk. How come it felt like I was close again and living out my 1997 experiences, but I actually was feeling empty and somehow disconnected in 2018? I was engaging, so I thought with all these people and one day I realized, I was not engaging AT ALL. Facebook made me “feel” like I knew them and was spending time with them and connecting to them, but I was simply seeing and relating to photos and typed words curated to all our benefits. 25 years had passed with some of these friends who I had not spoken to in 25 years but somehow, I had been faked out to believe we were still involved in each other’s lives. But why? How did I get sucked in. When I really looked over all our feeds, they were more like news feeds that I was reading from a distance than an engaged friendship. Don’t get me wrong, there is good that comes from Facebook like reconnecting with old family members and sometimes even friends but why was I feeling so disconnected in real life when I had all these “Facebook friends”? Why was I starting to feel lonelier each day when I didn’t spend enough time on social media like Facebook? Why was there an emptiness at the end of my “liking” everyone’s posts? Why? Why? Why? Before I signed up I would tell friends, “I don’t need a Facebook page. If I haven’t spoken to someone in over 25 years, why would I want to speak with them now?” But suddenly I did. And like a drink in a dessert, I needed to speak with them. Or at least feel like I was speaking with them. What suddenly changed?
Some of it is planned and curated by the inventors of Facebook and other social networks. Sean Parker – Parker speaking at an Axios event, pulled back the curtain on Facebook’s early days saying it was designed to consume people. All the sharing and liking were used like a drug to get people hooked on checking Facebook non-stop. “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible,” said Parker, referring to Facebook’s earliest mission. “God only knows what it is doing to our children’s brains,” Parker said. *
Mystery solved. I was being played. This was all created to do just what it was doing. GENIUS. Kudos to them. But, now what do I do with this information? Do I continue on feeling just a little emptier? Do I continue on Facebook? Do I feel guilty by not “liking” a post or disappearing for a while? WHAT DO I DO now that I know what the foundation of Facebook was built on?
You know, since I read this, I rarely check Facebook anymore. There are times when I stare at that little app icon on my phone and I actually feel guilty that I am “letting my friends down” by no engaging. I am a grown man. Been married. Divorced. Up and down. Lived in NY, LA, SF and even quite a bit of time in London. I have traveled and toured and performed in front of thousands and thousands of people over the course of my life. I feel pretty knowledgeable and have gained some wisdom over the years and YET, even so, Facebook, FACEBOOK! makes me feel guilty and disconnected when I don’t check in. Having the knowledge that it is all part of a larger business plan and play by its inventors at least enlightens me to its basic function, but it still in the frontal cortex of my brain, creates a turmoil that I may never be able to eliminate.
*Ad Age – Garett Sloan - November 9, 2017.