Who cares about Costco, anyway?
04 - FFS: facebook flow state
I still log into Facebook every once in a blue moon. There were years in my life where I couldn’t be torn away from the platform though. Circa 2013, as a newly self-employed WFH designer I hadn’t yet developed the coping strategies you need to have for the loneliness that comes from working almost exclusively by yourself. Facebook, a way more interesting place back then, served as pretty good water cooler banter. Plus, by then that was how you found out what events were happening that weekend. Gig poster culture was getting wrecked by Facebook event listings, and don’t even get me started on when you could just look at a fresh copy of your city’s alt weekly to plan your weekend. Thinking back, in 2013 I know felt a real sense belonging just by participating on my Facebook feed.
I logged in to Facebook the other day for the first time in at least a month. It’s 2022 now and I don’t know why I still check Facebook at all, there is never anything on there. I think I just have the pattern burned into my soul and brain connections at this point. I’ve been opening a new tab, typing “f-a-c” into the browser’s address bar, letting it autocomplete, and pressing enter multiple times a day for well over a decade. Like some sort of strange digital prayer, almost a ritual. My relationship with Facebook is well over ten years long, and a decade is several millennia when it comes to a Web 2.0 tech platform. Honest questions: why the fuck isn’t Facebook dead yet? How many tens of thousands of times have I logged in? Let’s not even start on how much time I’ve spent in Facebook’s blue and white digital halls, stumping it out in the comments like it’s a chatroom circa 1998. We probably could have solved world hunger by now. Instead I (and a lot of other people) chose to rot our brains on likes and comments. This is a sentence tinged with true regret: I tried to quit so many times, I really did.
So back to the other day: it’s a familiar scene. Within fifteen seconds of absentmindedly logging in I was sucked into a comment thread that popped up on my news feed. This one was on the pros/cons of a Costco membership. Old habits die hard, and I found myself weighing in. *For the record, it’s a hard pass for me and Costco. It’s a suburban cult, people! I have a blood pact with my spouse: 1) no wristbanded resort vacations 2) no cruises 3) no Costco memberships. The end.
The web 2.0 internet has a way of suddenly and unexpectedly making me a crazy person, and the barrier-free impulsiveness of interacting online can easily bring out an extremely opinionated side of my personality. I’m not yelling, I’m Polish, as the tshirt saying goes. Suddenly and unexpectedly swept away, I turn from Jekyll to Hyde. I write an anti-Costco, shop-local reply in the comments, that I end with the classic /end rant, because honestly I knew I was getting sorta crazy over nothing - omg let the people shop where they want to shop, Vikki! Instead of deleting the damn comment before posting it, I edit it three times, add an extra point, post it, exhale, and log out. All told, ten minutes had passed. Back to my Jekyll-state, back to real life, walking downstairs to start cooking dinner, and it suddenly hits me: WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT COSTCO? Why did I just spend ten minutes of my life engaging on this? And even better: why did 100+ other comments show up on this status update, posting and replying multiple times about the virtues of fucking *Costco*?
Do we actually have nothing better to do with our lives than to inquire about and extoll the virtues of a huge corporate grocery store on the corporate internet? Especially in a forum where we don’t even know 99% of the people involved in the “debate”?
Well: the reality is, it’s not us, it’s Facebook. Social media is engineered to make us all really desire to interact with it. I was in what I am starting to think of as a Facebook Flow State. (Creatives will be very familiar with the idea of the flow state - for the rest of you: here).
The little red notifications when someone engages with your post (and they are all red, the colour of poisonous berries in the natural world, a colour you pay close attention to because your ancestors had to), those notifications give you a dopamine boost, like a drug you then get addicted to. In an excerpt from his new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention in the Guardian, psychologist Johann Hari tells us about taking his social media addicted teen nephew to Graceland, trying to take three months away from the internet entirely, and flow states. He speaks to multiple experts about how to try to heal his own attention gap:
Prof Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said “your brain can only produce one or two thoughts” in your conscious mind at once. That’s it. “We’re very, very single-minded.” We have “very limited cognitive capacity”. But we have fallen for an enormous delusion. The average teenager now believes they can follow six forms of media at the same time.
Tech thinker Sinead Bovell recently posted her morning routine on IG. It involves having your phone in airplane mode, walking to get a coffee, and only turning on your phone when you get to your work desk. Imagine, your first hour+ of your day entirely uninterrupted by digital devices. I like this method a lot, and I might even try it out. But it still places blame at your feet. You must put your phone on airplane mode, you digital weakling!
So now I just try to treat myself with compassion: it’s not your fault if you can’t hold yourself to these rules you literally have to make up for yourself around social media and tech. The fact the onus is on you to block out the noise, rather than say, Facebook being shut down between 10pm-8am, is neoliberal garbage. The system is telling you that you’re the problem, that you’re not strong enough, while constantly pouring more points of entry into the system all around you. Shinier phones, more notifications. And let me tell ya, after ten years of trying to adjust how I exist on internet platforms I willingly signed up for to only moderate success, I call BS. I am sure the dedicated shoppers of Costco, waiting 45 minutes in line for cheaper gas further away from home, can find it in their hearts to agree.
Maripedia - a digital collection of many of Marimekko’s incredible prints