I deleted my Facebook account today. If you read my last post, then you should already be keyed into some of the reasons why I’ve become so disillusioned with social media as a whole, but if you havent, heres the link. There are the six main reasons that I’m quitting Facebook (or why I’m hopping on the #DeleteFacebook train, if you like hashtags):
I don’t care
Simply put, I just don’t care about what most of my friends on social media are doing. Note “friends on social media”. I’m in regular contact with a number of friends on platforms that aren’t Facebook. I’m exponentially more invested in what those friends are doing than what most people on my news feed are doing.
Once you read a bit into the dark psychology of Facebook, you begin to realize that it’s not your friends that you care about, but the steady dopamine drip that Facebook feeds you via notifications, likes, and comments. The addiction to social media isnt founded in building connections. Thats complete bullshit, and Facebook knows it. The addiction is to the platform, not the people.
The obligation of using social media
How often does someone ask you “Did you see what so and so put on Facebook?”. I hate that question. It assumes that everyone has a Facebook account and that they should have one as a participant in most conversations_. Whats left unspoken in the assumption of universal Facebook access is that everyone you know should throw away their privacy online in a vainglorious attempt to stay connected.
“Did you see what so and so put on Facebook?” is just shorthand for “Do you care so little about mental health and your privacy online that you willingly wastehours of your day to help other people jerk themselves off while advertisers track your every move online?”
Your parents, grandparents, and every generation of your elders grew up in a world without social media, and they got along just fine. Every set of your elders can easily rattle off the best friends and experiences that they had growing up. They are all proof positive that you can still make meaningful connections with people without being plugged into Facebooks dopamine drip.
Additionally, the obligation of using social media puts a weird twist on interacting with people. In dating and even platonic friendships, you’re encouraged to look each other up on Facebook beforehand or afterwards. The privacy implications of this are obvious, but what does everyone having to be on Facebook say about us? To me, it says “I know we haven’t had but one meal together, but I’d like you go look at this handcrafted version of myself online that doesn’t even begin to tell you about what kind of person I really am, and I’ll do the same for you, okay?”
When medical science gets sufficiently advanced enough, the first thing that I’m going to request be removed from my memory is every post by Occupy Democrats that I have ever had the misfortune of reading.
Bad political takes and social media go together like peanut butter and jelly. Its a simple science: Make the biggest, boldest, most idiotic claim possible and share that to your followers. Your followers will interact with it, driving the post into their news feeds. The algorithm will then expose your post to non-followers. Non-followers and haters will then interact with it, but that’s okay! As long as your post is generating traction and getting clicks, the algorithm is doing its job in increasing your reach on social media. Rinse and repeat.
Discourse, especially political discourse, has been reduced to sharing memes. Dialogue on tax policy has been boiled down to thumbs up reactions. Nobody outside of wannabe pundits actually care about these things anyway, but taking memes made by the idiots that run Occupy Democrats and God Emperor Trump as gospel is just lunacy. We all wish that something as complicated as healthcare, tax policy, or foreign policy could be as simple as memes and social media scratches that itch like a sunbather without aloe vera. But in doing so, social media encourages people to remain intellectual midgets, and not pick up something more balanced and verbose like a newspaper or a peer-reviewed study, or (God forbid) a book.
Social media is bad for us
Any user of social media will admit that they have an addiction to the platform after even the most gentle of probing. But why do we not only tolerate, but encourage the use of platforms that have been rigorously tested to foster addictions? We don’t tell people to smoke meth, even though we know that it’s been chemically perfected to get people hooked. Yet we push our friends and family members onto platforms that are designed from the ground-up to get people hooked.
And for the reasons stated above under “I don’t care”, it is a simple fact that people on social media are not addicted to being in contact with people. If people loved interacting with other people so much, then people would happily jump through the hoops of getting someone’s phone number and texting them constantly to learn every little thing that they have going on in their life. Instead, we’re addicted to the convenience of watching everyone cyber-masturbate on social media and are satisfied enough to call that interaction.
We click like to remind people that they exist, not to tell them that we enjoy something. We comment on things not to create a discussion, but to tell people that they’re a racist for thinking so and then we turn off notifications. We share things not to draw attention to them, but to spread outrage.
That last point deserves some more explaining. Think about all the things you get angry about while browsing through your social media feeds. When J.K. Rowling sparks a conversation about how racist hotel shampoos are, what is actually being accomplished? A bunch of people on Twitter will wax poetic about it for a few tweetstorms, Twitter will make a Moment out of it, and then what? Literally no one on the face of the Earth will care about it 72 hours after the fact.
Try this thought experiment yourself next time you get angry while reading something on Facebook. Make a note of it on your phone, and set an alarm to go off 72 hours after you make that note. If you’re still actively angry about that thing, then you might have a genuine concern. However, if, like 99% of the time as all other users of social media do, you havent given it a second thought since the original flash-in-the-pan outrage, then congratulations: you’re the latest victim of manufactured, artificial outrage.
If sex sells movies, then outrage sells social media. A relative that I will leave unnamed might be more guilty of this than any other person I have ever met in my entire life. Had President Trump had not been elected, then I am utterly convinced that this woman would have no reason to be on Facebook. Her entire social media presence has been reduced to posts about just how terrible the President is, and conspiracy theories forewarning us of his impending impeachment “Which is sure to happen any day now, just you watch!”
If social media is for sharing what’s going on in your life, then why do people willingly become fixated on everything that doesn’t have to do with their lives and things that make them mad? It’s simple: That’s what the algorithm was designed to do.
It used to be that I didn’t care what social media companies did with my data on their platforms. I was born with the extraordinary gift of knowing how to at least glance through a Terms & Conditions document, so at the ripe age of 16 I knew exactly what I was getting into by signing up for Facebook. I was giving up a modicum of privacy in exchange for the convenience of staying in touch with my friends from high school.
I still don’t care for the most part about what Facebook does with my data. I don’t care that firms like Cambridge Analytica used my data to “influence” the past presidential election. Anyone who thinks that companies like Facebook and Twitter are complicit in some grand Russian plot to steal the White House are not only idiots, but should take a quick look in the mirror. Facebook and Twitter did absolutely nothing with their user’s personal data that their users did not explicitly say they were cool with by agreeing to the Terms & Conditions. Data is the new oil, as some pundits say, and the oil wells wouldn’t run if people didn’t willingly hand over their data by the bucket to companies like Facebook.
However, being someone who loves using free and open source software and someone who knows to run a website with HTTPS, I have a practical and vested interest in privacy. Leaving Facebook will help me walk the walk more when advocating for greater privacy online. You can’t claim to be clean from pot if you admit to taking hit every now and then “just to check in”.
Mental health and focus
Lastly, social media, especially Facebook, is wreaking havoc on my productivity at work. As I mentioned in my last post about leaving Twitter, I have developed the bad habit of opening social media the second I have any complicated task loaded into my work queue. I do this to distract myself, and luckily for me, Facebook is happy to let me continue using their platform custom-made for distraction.
I feel guilty, and rightfully so, when I waste time on social media at work. Cutting the cord off of one of my biggest distractors will help me become more productive at work.
“Just use a site blocker”, I hear some people thinking as they read this. While a blocker might help mitigate the damage done, it’s better just to remove the source of the distraction entirely. When a limb goes gangrenous beyond salvation, you don’t take painkillers from 9 to 5 and then let it fester at home. Instead, you cut the limb off entirely and be done with it.
I really hope that you, the reader, have taken something away from all of my bellyaching about social media. I really, really hope that you’ll consider following in my footsteps by deleting your account too. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to look at what an addiction to social media has done to our society. The harm that it’s done to those around you should be reason enough to #DeleteFacebook, but I encourage you to do a little introspection as well.
If you can uncover the platform addiction that social media has developed in you, then please pull the plug. There’s an incredibly wide and interesting world out there to experience, and a million other healthy ways to experience it that don’t involve the use of social media.