Internet Time Machine

Social Media Is Like the Weirdest House Party Ever

If Facebook is a club, Twitter is a dive bar

Photo: Pexels

This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.

AsAs a writer, I often go to house parties. These parties take place at the homes of some guys I know. You’ve probably heard of them: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. They’re alright people most of the time.

House parties are a bad idea for writers like me. When I’m at them and I don’t talk, I feel like I’m not supposed to be there. When I’m at them and I do talk, I feel like an idiot. Parties for me are like existential dread with other people. All the same, I still go to all the parties. I don’t know why. Call it idea generation, self-abuse, addiction; all are and have been true.

I don’t remember exactly how I met Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook — I think it was a friend-of-a-friend introduction kind of a deal — but they have the biggest houses so it makes sense that we’re always hanging out there. And I mean, everybody goes to these parties that they host. Seriously, everybody. They attract all kinds of people from all walks of life.

The parties are interesting, sure, but recently I’ve been unsure if I really want to go to them anymore.

Let me explain.

The other day I was at one of Twitter’s parties when I had this moment. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Twitter’s parties. Sometimes they’re really great; I’ll stumble across enlightened conversation with people I respect, or discover inspiring art, or watch a joke climb to new heights of hilarity as people riff on it over the course of the evening. But then I’ll excuse myself to go the bathroom and suddenly I’m being assaulted by complaints about the Japanese immigration system or debates about Nazi-punching etiquette. Sometimes I’ll walk into rooms full of ugly political shouting contests. It’s weird; everyone says they hate each other, but they all kind of want to be there, too.

Comrades in hate. I don’t really get it.

Anyway, about my moment. I was at the party, and I got lost. (This happens to me a lot at Twitter’s parties.) I ended up in a basement fight club for people indignant about the new Pokemon game. I think some Pokemon were being abandoned or something. I don’t know. You’d think Pokemon fans would settle things through old-fashioned video games, but these guys were slinging real hate around. All because some people made a game and the fans didn’t like the way it was made. I tried to understand it, but it all felt real petty. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t stand it, actually. It was heavy. Ugly. Depressing. But the thing is, I stayed there and I kept watching. I watched them all bathe in their shared hate and fight and shout and kick and scream and I wondered if we were all the same human beings.

It was like, Is this who we are? Really?

Anyway, on my way out I found that goat that sings the Game of Thrones theme and some people tried to make me care about Taylor Swift, but I couldn’t really get into it. I just left the party and went home.

That’s kind of how a lot of Twitter’s parties feel, you know?

SSo, I started hanging out more at Instagram’s parties. They’re fun. At Instagram’s parties, it’s like they just keep giving you what you want, forever. Endlessly. I used to like them a lot because I didn’t much like my apartment and the parties were my escape. Then this one time I saw this Korean bodybuilder and I was like, How does someone even get that big? and so I followed him around. I watched some of his pose routines and dance moves. Guy even knew how to do the robot. It was wild. But what happened was, for the next couple of months, I couldn’t seem to go to one of Instagram’s parties without them introducing me to all these hulking dudes who always wore nice jeans but seemed to forget their shirts. I guess they thought I was interested because of that first bodybuilder dude, but I wasn’t really into it.

At Instagram’s parties, it’s like they just keep giving you what you want, forever. Endlessly.

So I went the other way. Every time I went to one of Instagram’s parties, I ignored the bodybuilders and hung out in the rooms with the beautiful half-naked women and the cats. The bodybuilders started to leave me alone, and for a time, things were great.

Then I had another moment.

I realized I wasn’t actually hanging out with beautiful half-naked women and cats. I was just hiding behind a couch or a potted plant, watching beautiful women and cats. It’s a subtle difference, but I can assure you: One sucks way more than the other. Also, I still lived in a little apartment, didn’t know any beautiful half-naked women, and did not have a cat. And none of my stories were being written because I was always at parties instead of working.

It was kind of a problem.

So I stopped going to so many of Instagram’s parties for a while. It was nice. I still go sometimes, but now I try to make sure it’s a more balanced experience. I hang with some jiu-jitsu people, listen to portable synthesizer experiments, and look at art.

And yeah, okay, sometimes I still visit the rooms with the beautiful half-naked women, the cats, and that one Korean bodybuilder. It’s a party, man. Give me a break.

TThere are some people I know and like who only ever go to Facebook’s parties. They’re the entire reason I go to those. (And if I’m being honest, I kind of like that I never see these people at the other parties, you know what I mean?)

The thing about Facebook’s parties is… well, we don’t really talk about Facebook’s parties. They have the biggest house (it’s a mansion) and they’re always doing the most stuff, but also their parties are almost entirely attended by people I don’t hang out with anymore, or people from high school I don’t care about but still have to listen to.

I don’t care. I can’t even. That’s the problem.

Also, it’s like every time I go to a party, Facebook asks me to look at photos of my ex-girlfriend. (“Hey man, good to see you! You remember this from five years ago?”) Or they surprise me by wrapping up my old photos and memories in little presentations and putting them to a soundtrack of generic electronica.

And look, I know they’re trying to be nice, and maybe they don’t know any better, but the whole thing makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Facebook doesn’t even know me, you know? Why do they pretend to care so much? At Facebook’s parties, you end up hanging out with those people you know who have kids now, but still want to act like they’re the same as before. (Short answer: They’re not.) And you wish they’d embrace who they are, but they won’t, and you’re never really sure how to tell them that. Also, everybody talks about Facebook secretly having cameras all over the house? And they sell the footage?

Also, it’s like every time I go to a party, Facebook asks me to look at photos of my ex-girlfriend.

Oh. Wait. Maybe Facebook really does know me.

There are a lot of secrets hidden in that mansion, you know? It’s disconcerting.

So anyway, when I’m at one of Facebook’s parties, I usually find a quiet spot to talk with the friends I don’t see anywhere else. And then I sneak a copy of my book onto a bookshelf somewhere and go home.

ToTo be fair, these are not the only guys who are throwing parties. Discord is supposed to throw a mean party, but if you’re not invited the doors are always locked, and sometimes even when I’m invited I still don’t know how to get in. Medium does great parties too, but I always get ushered quietly into a cramped, dusty attic space because I’m a fiction writer. Being a fiction writer at one of Medium’s parties is like being an Asian-American actor in Hollywood; they want you to be there because they want to be inclusive, but they don’t actually want you to star in anything. I hear TikTok does great house parties these days too, but I’ll be honest, they make me feel real old.

In any case, is it any surprise I started getting burned out on the partygoing lifestyle?

Here’s what it came down to, in the end: All the parties were interesting and thought-provoking, but I just wasn’t having a good time at them anymore. People kept inviting me, but I stopped going. I was like, “Nah, I think I’ll try out real life for a while,” and people were like, “Are you out of your mind?”

And I’ll admit, I was scared. Real life? Do people even do that anymore?

A funny thing happened while I was reading and doing other real-life things; I realized I didn’t need to go to all the parties.

But it turns out the outside world — and life in general — is really interesting. When you stop going to parties, you suddenly have all of this time. It’s amazing. There’s so much of it! So much you don’t even know what to do with all of it. And I mean, wow, have you ever read a book? My god, they’re incredible. It’s like sex, but with words on paper, and for your brain. If you haven’t read one, let me tell you, you’re missing out.

And a funny thing happened while I was reading and doing other real-life things; I realized I didn’t need to go to all the parties. People don’t even listen to me when I do go. I wasn’t missing out on anything most of the time.

That freedom? That time? I liked that.

I liked it a lot.

Hmm.

I feel like now that I’ve brought you to this point in the story, I’m supposed to tell you that I’ve moved to a cabin in the mountains and I hunt my own food and grow my own rice or whatever, but we both know that’s not true.

How would I write stories without real people to watch, you know?

So no, I don’t live a party-free lifestyle. I kind of think that in this world, you can never truly be free of the parties anyway. They’re too entwined with our culture, society, and identity. They’re part of how we express ourselves now. How we communicate and how we live.

It’s a weird world, man.

I guess if there’s any kind of lesson here, it’s simply that these days I’m happy to let the parties be a part of my lifestyle, but I don’t want them to be my lifestyle. Social media parties are fun, but social media hangovers?

They’re kind of the worst.

Keep exploring the Internet Time Machine.

Fragments of the everyday in Tokyo, as written by Hengtee Lim.

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