Pop Culture

[Cultural Attachment]

Regaining control: Could one simple step wean me off Facebook?

Illustration: Jon Estrada
Smith Galtney

Louis CK recently appeared on Conan, talking about how he’s quit the Internet. He gave his phone to one of his daughters and told her to put in a restriction code so he couldn’t get online without her permission. “It’s supposed to be the other way around,” he joked. “It’s supposed to be a parental code to keep your kid off the Internet.” He’s lasted a month offline so far, and anyone who’s been online knows that’s a mighty long time.

For me, the Internet basically means Facebook, and I’ve tussled for years over how to redirect my spare time away from the social-media vortex. I’ve set limits (half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening) … and immediately ignored them. I’ve tried going cold turkey—for a whole week, well, a work week, since I didn’t quite make it through the weekend. My editor suggested I merely turn off phone notifications, but we’re obviously wired differently, because to my ears that sounded like, “Just put your heroin on top of the fridge, where it’ll be harder to reach.”

I finally might be making actual progress, however, thanks to one simple step: deleting Facebook from my phone. “Oooo, that’s Grindr behavior!” one friend told me, referring to the gay hookup app and its countless users who live in a constant loop of de- and re-activating their profiles, in a futile effort to break free. But shortly after that blue “F” disappeared from my home screen, I did something I hadn’t done in eons. I went to a coffee shop and read an actual book. Louis CK told Conan going web-less led him to Pride and Prejudice. My newfound quality time began with American Psycho. To each his own.

I expected reduced Facebook exposure to affect my life outside the house, but I’m surprised by how much it has influenced my inside life, too. Now, when I walk away from the computer, I can lay on the couch and watch an entire movie without disruption. And I can go hours without getting pissed off by random, insignificant things. The other week, a Facebook friend shared an article called “Here Are the Worst Reactions to Prince’s Death on Conservative Social Media.” Why did Occupydemocrats.com put that together, and why would someone share it? More importantly, why the hell did I have to click on it?

As refreshing as the past few weeks have been, I know I’m treading a thin line. Even as Louis CK proclaimed, “I’ve quit the Internet,” he quickly added, “for now.” In the digital age, we’re all wrestling a very slippery beast. Thanks to an unrelated Google search yesterday, I remembered I can still access Facebook on my phone through Safari. I guess I’ll have to delete that soon, too.

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