Well, I’ve been threatening to do it for quite some time and yesterday, I finally did it. Yes, I cut myself off from my ‘friends’, (some real, some less real), and from the Facebook information trawl, targeted advertising and ‘like’ junkies and all the rest of the irrelevant information invading my life. Why? Well, I’ve already hinted at a few of the irritations, but basically I found it made me feel more alienated from most of my friends rather than closer to them. I found myself getting increasingly irritated by the level of confirmation bias and lack of intellegent debate and discussion, the amount of opinionated self-righteousness and of course the mundane trivia I was being bombarded with every time I bothered to look, which was becoming less and less often. Of course, some of it was interesting and it did keep me in touch with a few people that I rarely see, but on the whole, the people I feel closest to, do not use Facebook much, if at all.
So, although of course, some things were interesting and even inspiring, on balance I was finding most of the time I spent scrolling down the news feed was at best a dull waste of time, and at worst, irritating. Then there was the whole thing about knowing everything you ever put on the site is stored on the internet forever, and easily accessible to anyone who should want to find out about you, googled by future employers, pryed into by police, government, secret services etc.. People have been locked up just for making suggestions on Facebook, or just because of who they seem to know, although Facebook ‘friends’ are often not even acquaintances. People with radical ideas or involved in political protest are easier than ever to keep an eye on and political groups are definitely monitored, as they always have been.
And yet, even with all these reservations, it is still difficult psychologically to deactivate an account and Facebook know this. They deliberately make it more difficult by asking you if you are sure you want to do it. They show you pictures of your friends with their names and say ‘John will miss you’, ‘Sarah will miss you’, ‘Tom will miss you’ etc. and you think, well nobody seems very interested in what I put up there, but I might miss them. And then you think, ‘I hope they don’t take it personally’. Then you realise you actually are insulting them all directly. You are saying, ‘I’m not that interested in you, or at least not in the things about you that you think are so important that you have to share them with the whole world on Facebook’. Finally it can seem like an act of aggression to leave the social network and this virtual suicide is not that different from real, physical suicide. It is aggressive and hurts the people you leave behind…..maybe. But not if I make more effort to seek out the ones that do matter and meet up with them more in the flesh and share more real stuff with them, personal stuff, things that cannot be shared with all and sundry, things that do not turn me into a piece of data for targeted advertising based on my interests, age, gender, affiliations etc. We can have meaningful discussions person to person and see each other as whole people, rather than projections of how we want to be seen by our friends and the world, or businesses promoting our products. Hopefully, we can even challenge each other and debate things rather than just communicating with people who share all our points of view as dictated by whatever dogma or fashion they/we follow. Ultimately all the colours of Facebook and other social media help to create a monochrome world where opinions are black and white and the world is divided into us and them. I tried to put posts up to encourage a common humanity to understand the psychology of different opinions, to see where beliefs come from no matter how different from our own, no matter how bizarre or even loathsome they might seem, even to attempt to find some underlying truth in them which we can all share, because we can all develop, progress and change better from a point of open-mindedness than from a narrow-minded fixed viewpoint, however superior it may seem.
Ironically there is a Facebook share button just below this post! Feel free to share if you feel so inclined!