For many reasons, I’m leaving Facebook — at least temporarily.
I don’t like drama queens on Facebook who make a big deal of deleting their accounts, but I also don’t want to just disappear without explanation.
I’d like to just delete my account entirely, but I fear I might regret that at some point, so I’m taking a small step toward that eventual goal. At some point, I’ll re-evaluate things and decide whether to move on to de-activating or even deleting the entire account. For now, though, I’ve deleted both Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my iPhone and closed the browser tab in Safari on my MacBook.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I joined Facebook only because an ex-girlfriend wanted me to about 10 or 12 years ago. I didn’t really see the point of it. I eventually understood the point, but I don’t like the effect my use of Facebook is having on me.
Facebook has proven itself time and time again to be a company that doesn’t care about the privacy of its users. Listening to company reactions every time it’s caught doing something illegal or unethical makes it clear that its decision-makers simply don’t have the same values that I do.
Even if the company didn’t regularly prove how little it cares about its users, I don’t like the psychological effects Facebook has had on me. Many of those effects are the same with any form of social media, and I have strong reservations about every one of them. I’m just not ready to go so far as to ditch them all.
I use Twitter so sparingly that I’m not giving that one up yet. I do think Twitter is a toxic environment for a lot of people, but I follow fewer than 300 people there and aggressively block anybody who seems toxic. So for now, I might still appear on Twitter. But let’s be honest. How often does anything I have to talk about fit into a tweet?
For now, I’ll still be using Instagram, too, even though it’s owned by Facebook and has been making changes lately that I’m not happy about. Fortunately, the way I use Instagram — posting pictures of cats and dogs on one account and mostly nature on another account — doesn’t lend itself to the sort of toxic interactions which I want to get away from.
I tried to change my use of Facebook in ways that might have made it less toxic and I did make quite a bit of progress. I slashed my list of “friends” from 5,000 (the limit) to the current 692. As it stands now, I have more “followers” than actual connections, but this change still hasn’t been enough.
It’s hard to say whether my problems with Facebook are inherent to the service or they’re just flaws in me. I just know that I’ve ended up spending far too much time and energy on something which has a remarkably small positive return for me.
In a lot of ways, I suspect we were all better off before we knew the constant random thoughts of other people. In the past, we could have assumed most other people were like us — at least deep down — in their reasoning, their values and their temperament. For me, Facebook has made it impossible to maintain that fiction.
Seeing the raw and unfiltered thoughts of so many people — and coming face to face with evidence of such strong dysfunction in humanity — has been too much for me. When I stick with my own life and the lives of the people I know, that’s a scale I can emotionally deal with. When I’m hit with the tidal wave of what appears insanity in the public, it’s overwhelming.
For me, that creates an existential crisis. When I see the unfiltered nonsense which I see, it makes me feel despair that nothing can change — and that leads to inaction on my part. I want to narrow my focus to the things I can change.
There are some people with whom I never interact except on Facebook and I’ll miss some of those folks. But everything in life is a tradeoff — and the tradeoff I’m making now isn’t worth the effects it has on me. And it’s not as though nobody can get in touch with me. My real-world contact information is easy to find for anyone who’s interested.
I’m not under the delusion that “you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.” I’m not mad at anybody and I don’t feel unappreciated or any of the things the drama queens cite when they leave. I just need to retake some control over my life that I’ve given to social media — and this is a first step.
For now, I’m not deactivating the account. I’m changing my profile picture to make it clear what I’m doing and I’m posting a link to this article. One of the reasons I’m not immediately deactivating is that doing so caused some people to think I’d unfriended them when I did it for a couple of months about four years ago.
Media have played a huge role in my life in the past. I still love traditional print media, but they’re dying. I have almost no interest in consuming any form of broadcast media anymore, although I don’t rule out producing some form of media — mostly online — in the future.
I believe social media are destructive for our culture, but they’re just one element of a toxic brew that is making modern culture so ugly — and getting worse. More importantly for myself, I need my time and attention for other things which can help change my own life.
My articles here will continue to automatically publish to Facebook, but I won’t be posting anything else — and I won’t be reading anything that’s posted there.
If you need to get in touch with me, email to email@example.com is the easiest way. And if you actually know me, you can always do something really old fashioned and pick up the phone to call.