Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer


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I was a uh-ohacebook addict

I was a Facebook addict.

For four months I pretty much ignored my cat, my dog, my business, my music, my poetry, my writings, my web site updates, and occasionally, my dear husband. For four months I suffered from “Facebook Depression”. The New Yorker Magazine posts and articles about it herenew window.

From that article: “John Eastwood postulates that what causes us to feel bored and, as a result, unhappy, is an absence of attention. When our attention is truly engaged, we aren’t bored; when we fail to engage, boredom sets in. As Eastwood’s work, along with recent researchnew window on media multitasking, have illustrated, the greater the number of things we have pulling at our attention, the less we are able to engage, and the more discontented and depressed we become.”

Some people go absolutely wonky in just a few minutes if they can’t access their smart-phone or tablet. Even at Starbuck's Coffee, with their friends huddled all around them, all of their devices are active and in front of them. Their obsession? Social media, most often Facebook.

Fortunately, my generation had to entertain itself! If we were depressed, we had either a chemical imbalance or a financial catastrophe, a breakup with some we loved or the death of a beloved pet. Obviously we’ve forgotten how to do spend time truly alone . . . just sitting and thinking. When I was a girl I’d spend hours day-dreaming. Nice day-dreams. And as an adult I made most of them come true.

I also spent thousands of hours alone at the piano. I was never lonely! The music was so exciting. It was wonderful to pretend that, to my right, there were several thousand people, all present just to hear ME! Many years later, this scenario was realized in real-time for me in countries all over the world.

Dreams do come true. But you have to have them first.

When I was born, no one had television. I think our first RCA rolled into the house when I was six or seven. But television hardly ever depressed us, except when Jack and Bobby and MLK were killed. Mostly, we watched “The Honeymooners”, “You Bet Your Life”, “I Love Lucy”, "It's Howdy-Doody Time", and "The Jack Benny Show". Happy, funny stuff. When my Daddy would watch the fights on Friday night, we’d all leave the room—my Mother to the kitchen and me to my room.

We’ve come a long way. Have we evolved?

Reading the mailto:jjw1948@gmail.coms section of any average newspaper or story posted at the NYTimes web site, I’d have to cast my vote for our devolution. But I know that this is subjective in nature . . . my experience only. We probably are evolving, but at a glacial rate, and our unfortunate prejudices and fears (usually expressed as hate) are plastered on every social media site for the world to see. On Facebook, the language is not filtered. Anything goes. Even among the women I met, there were times when all sorts of profanity would erupt. Once, I mildly expressed my disapproval, writing that we should all behave in a "lady-like, civil manner". Wow, was that a mistake!

After awhile, Facebook (FB as its denizens call it) tends to depress me. I’ve deleted my account, but I know that it will remain in storage at the FB server farm, available to the NSA, Amazon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the US Government Data Centers in Utah and elsewhere. Forever (our species has a very warped and inaccurate concept of time). That’s depressing in itself. We no longer own our lives. We have given up our privacy (and so many other rights) to be rendered “safer from terror or threat of invasion.”

I feel no safer for this. I feel exposed.

And don't forget, I happily signed up for this exposure. I did it to myself! I lost my mind one night and logged on to FB and, in a fit of irrationality that would last for four months, started posting things that I wouldn’t tell my Rabbi. And there’s the rub. At warm and fuzzy FB, we are lulled into a sense of release for awhile—“Why should I censor myself? My television watches me, my phone records my words even when I’m not using it, my Internet forays are recorded and tracked and saved “forever” in a big black Faraday Cage (just in case there’s an EMP or bad sunspots) out in the deserts of Utah.”

And I was hooked, like a fish on a line. Hook in mouth, I was manipulated by visuals, chatted up by “friends” (the subject of a whole other article that I’ll never write) and berated by some. Friends? I click a button and I’ve “friended you”. You click a button and you say “yes, you are a friend” and then what? Well, I can report that nothing good usually comes from the subsequent exchanges. That was my experience.

For four months I was a Zombie, an infected survivor of World War Z.

I have since quit the habit. I have tremors and I still have trouble sleeping, but it was a habit worth breaking. Already my head is filling with melodies, already I am fighting with my hosting company for more reliable uptime, already I am eating more. I have become a wife to my husband again. He knew I’d come around.

He's a patient man.

Facebook is a symptom of something deeply wrong in our society. We can only make real friends face to face. Our gestures, our pheromones, our facial expressions, the tones of our voice, and the smiles we share in reality create the bonds that we call "friendship".

FB isn’t real. It’s a poor imitation of life. And that’s depressing.

Jessica Williams - Monday, November 3, 2014 at 1:46:16 AM

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