I’m at a party.
It’s the biggest party I’ve ever seen, and friends from all over the world are here. More and more are pouring in through the doors. The room is vast, and it seems to grow with each new guest who comes in.
I look around. I’m not quite sure what the rules are. It’s different to other parties I’ve been to. I just wonder about and try and work out the game. I notice some people are pinning stuff on the walls, and I go over and read them. There are cute little notes about what they’re up to. I try it. It’s nice.
As I’m looking at the things on the wall, these little devices get handed out to everyone. I look at mine. I don’t really know what it is. Then all of a sudden I hear this booming voice coming out of giant speakers placed all around the room. We all turn and look. It’s one of my friends! And he’s speaking into the device. I realize it’s a microphone.
Wow! That’s cool. I try it. It really works!
I say something into the microphone, and everyone listens! And then some people come over say a few things about what I said in return, say whether they liked it or not. And I feel good! I said something, and I got attention! They go away again after a moment, and I feel a pang of loneliness. It was so nice to have their attention, to feel liked. But no matter, I just pull out the microphone again and say something else, people come back again and the loneliness goes away.
It’s amazing! I can say anything! I experiment. I talk about menial things, about my cat or TV. I say really honest things, sharing my true beliefs on topical matters.
Everyone’s getting the hang of it. I look around and watch. Some are shy about the microphone and seem to prefer just listening. Some are speaking almost constantly, and paying little attention to the people congregating around them. We all feel so connected. This is a party like no other!
I can say whatever I want, and everyone has to listen! It’s like we’re all on a collective stage, and everyone has their own podium! I marvel at the democracy of it.
But as we get more enthused, the noise level begins to climb. Everyone’s talking away in their microphones. People aren’t waiting until anyone else is done speaking, they just pull out their microphone and their voice booms through the speakers. It’s hard to hear what anyone is saying.
When I pull out my microphone again, it works fine, but no one hears what I say. No one comes over. Did I say the wrong thing? I feel alone again.
I look around again and I see someone across the other side, surrounded by people talking to them. How did they get so much attention? I feel jealous. So I follow them around to see what they do.
They’re saying stuff that’s edgy. It cuts through the growing din of microphone broadcasts. How clever!
I try it. I say something a bit edgy into my microphone. It works! I get people’s attention, and now they’ve come over again, and thankfully I don’t have to feel the loneliness anymore. And more than that, I get to see which people like me when I’m edgy, and which don’t. I’ve never got to play with this before!
And then this trend catches on too! Lots of people start getting edgier. Some people are even getting aggressive, and starting to fight with each other. No one’s in charge, there’s no host I realize! People are shouting in their microphones, trying to order the chaotic din.
I try not to fight with people, but it’s starting to turn into a shouting match.
I can’t make sense of what’s going on. It feels really uncomfortable. And I feel divided. One part wants to keep saying what I really think and fuck the haters. One part wants to just get some love and validation like I used to, have people like what I say. It confuses me.
The room is pulsating, the conversations moving faster and faster. People broadcasting into their microphones constantly, people coming over to aggressively agree or disagree with them.
People are saying nasty things to each other. They say nasty things to me. I try not to say nasty things back, but it slips in sometimes. I see it happening to my friends too.
I keep going. I keep speaking into my microphone. Sometimes loads of people gather around me and I feel great! Other times no one comes and I feel foolish and hope no one heard what I said.
And then I see some people leaving. Some are announcing it first into their little microphones. Some are just walking out without a word. I realize I’m struggling to remember what life was like before I arrived.
I begin to wonder what the hell I’m doing here. I look around, and I see few people having a good time. I realize I’m not having a good time.
So I leave too.
As soon as I leave I exhale. A breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. I feel lonely, but the kind of lonely where I can hear myself think again. I feel grateful that I don’t have to worry about the microphone. I don’t have to work out what to say, in just the right way, so people like it and I get attention.
Instead, I meet my friends outside, like we used to meet. We drink wine, coffee. It’s quiet, and I realize how much I was shouting to be heard. And how much I needed the other party goers to acknowledge that they heard me.
It’s nice out here. There are trees, and houses, and birds, and I can see the sun above the horizon. There are people sat quietly together, looking into each other’s eyes.
This was written six weeks after I stopped logging into Facebook.