Table for One
Four days, seventeen hours, and thirty-six minutes ago (but who’s counting), I did the unthinkable. Despite the naysayers who said I couldn’t, I did it: I deleted the Facebook Mobile application from my phone.
I am the product of a generation raised on social media. As a twenty-something, I am among the youngest of those who will both remember using a typewriter and feel as if I were reared for iPhone fluency. I straddle “Big Brother” technological suspicion and complete technological reliance. But it was not my mixed relationship with Facebook that led me to remove it from my phone. I am not concerned with Facebook itself so much as I am concerned with when I have come to rely on it.
Four days ago, I was having coffee with a friend. When she left the table to collect our drinks, I instinctively pulled out my phone. Without missing a beat, I blankly scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, filling the thirty seconds until she returned. As soon as she sat down, I happily dropped my phone back into my purse, and our conversation resumed. An hour later, when I left to use the restroom, I noticed that she did the same. Neither of us was capable of being, or more so, appearing to be alone in public, even in one-minute increments. But my friend and I were not anomalies in the coffee shop; it took one glance to realize that we were sitting amongst a generation shackled by the fear of appearing socially isolated.
If we are not seen with friends in real life, we want it assumed that we are connecting with them virtually. We feel isolated, and vulnerable to being thought so, if not in constant contact. We think of ourselves as independent, but we fear tables for one. We busy ourselves in public to silently justify our time alone. If we stare at the Facebook newsfeed, if we learn what our cousins’ mothers’ interior designers had for dinner last night, no one will think that we are alone. We think that we are fooling the world, but we are, of course, fooling ourselves—if fooling anyone at all.
I called my father to brag about my ridding myself of this mobile burden. I called to restate my independence, to gloat about my bravery, to free myself from generational shackles. I will let myself be alone in public, I am not afraid, I told him. “Aren’t you going to miss keeping in touch with your friends?” he asked. As my father logically assumed that I had deleted my Facebook entirely, I could only respond with laughter (and some shame). Here is the paradox.
Four days ago, I deleted Facebook from my phone, but I did not delete my Facebook. I need it, I explained to my father. I began by pretending that I needed it for work, to follow events and campaigns, to stay up to date with photos of growing cousins and friends. But the truth is that I need it to be part of my generation. While I now may be the only table-for-one twenty-something in the coffee shop, I am not ready to give up being a twenty-something.
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