Scenes from My Dysfunctional Relationship with the Information Age


Last week, for the first time since I joined in 2007, I deactivated my Facebook account on a whim. I didn't have concrete reasons for doing such a thing, though I probably could come up with some if I really tried. I didn't know how long I was going to last, but I was hoping for at least a week. Well, it took me about six days to go back. Good enough for the first try, I'd say. I'll probably deactivate and reactivate it several times before finally giving it up for good some years into the future.

On the second day of my experiment, I received quite an ironic gift from my dad - and not Alanis Morissette ironic either. It was a brand new, incredibly smart-looking Android phone: my initiation into the age of smartphones. I knew I was supposed to be over the moon, for the sake of Dad, if nothing else, who thought he was doing a huge thing for me. But the truth was that I felt strangely cold. I was more than happy with the cell phone I already had, which could make phone calls, send texts and wouldn't die for up to ten days even when I forgot to charge it - which I frequently did. I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for an Internet connection I had no interest in using, deal with the wonderful(ly unnecessary and complicated) technology of the touchscreen and, perhaps more importantly, become someone who waved her smartphone around all the time.

However, a gift is a gift, so I couldn't complain much without appearing ungrateful and plain weird. I took my phone home and went on Google to read up on operating systems and applications. Two miserable hours later, I was none the wiser about the workings of this wonderful piece of computer technology, but I had horrifying information on the alleged business atrocities of the company that produced the hardware. I now felt even worse about the technology, which was being wasted on me anyway. I also felt strangely postmodern (an adjective I love using, incidentally), in the worst sense of the word.

Don't get me wrong. I like the phone. I like it more now that I've had some time to get used to it. I like the way it stores all the texts from one person in the manner of Facebook chat, and I like being able to play Angry Birds, as wonderfully ridiculous as the game is. I like being able to check my e-mail using the school's Wi-Fi, though I still have reservations about the necessity of checking my e-mail all the time anyway. Actually, that's my main objection to all this. Of course it's fun to have a phone like this, to be able to play games and send texts with fancy graphics. I just can't help but question the point. I simply can't bring myself to believe that it's all a part of some revolution in communication. For all intents and purposes, the little box of wires and plastic currently sitting on my desk is a very expensive toy for grownups.

I went back on Facebook exactly five days after I left, just to test how this was done from my phone. Then I simply left my account active, got the new Timeline, hated it, considered deactivating my account again, then decided against it. My main reason was that I was simply bored, because that's why I go on Facebook in the first place, and that's why I don't mind having a smartphone anymore. It's fun. I can appreciate it for what it is: simple, mindless fun. That's the long and the short of it, as far as I'm concerned.

Frank Lloyd Wright said that television is chewing gum for the eyes. This is the way I look at social media and the smart operating systems that are invading our lives. Why try to assign a deeper meaning to it? Why pretend that it's a revolution? My relationships with people haven't changed because I interact with them more through social media; I still have the same interests and problems because I'm still the same person. Maybe I've got the whole concept wrong. Maybe someday I'll be convinced of the merits of this. Maybe one day I'll really believe that social change can happen through Twitter. Until then, I guess I'll just play with my Timeline, text friends I see every day anyway and go blast some of those damn pigs with angry-looking red birds. The only thing I know for sure is that I'll never download a little game called Doodle Jump. I hear that crack cocaine has nothing on it.