Published on: Blog
If you clicked on this because of that dumb teaser headline, that’s why I’m leaving Facebook.
It’s not totally because the privacy concerns. Yes, they are annoying, particularly when the company keeps nibbling away at both its promises and your ability to choose what to make public. When we signed up for social media, we all agreed to sell ourselves a little in the bargain, but Facebook keeps rewriting the contracts to steal a few more ounces of flesh. I expected the company to get greedy. That’s what companies tend to do. That’s not why I’m leaving.
It’s that it got stupid. I thought Facebook was going to be all about the people I like. In the beginning, it was a place where I found out about their new jobs, their kids, their triumphs, and their stumbles. It was like I was there for them, except I wasn’t. A few years ago, I wrote about Facebook’s original gift to society: the act of “passive affection.” It was a great period.
That’s over. Now my stream is a logjam of blurting bullshit.
Facebook is no longer about keeping friends abreast. It’s a coloring book for grown-ups. Its primary purpose seems to be to sell me on political outrage or a movie or TV show someone watched, and generally to make me feel like my life is perpetually incomplete thanks to something I didn’t know about until 10 minutes ago. It’s a gush of intentionally provocative, time-wasting, poke-in-the-eye blathering click bait that never fails to leave me wondering why everyone thinks I wouldn’t have something better to do. Ever-changing algorithms (which always fail to understand what we really want) now elbow aside earnest status updates by genuine friends and ram my time full of a nattering Peanut Gallery of obsessive posters, many of whom I have never met. The original purpose of Facebook has been buried by its thirst for targeted content.
I mostly see things that, had they come to me by the Post Office, would be considered junk mail. I am barraged by endless attempts to stoke my emotions at some incident or cause, pet videos, junk quizzes, terrifying and badly skewed study results, dispatches from the fringes of the Culture War, snide commented potshots that bring out the worst in us, hyperbolic declarations that the universe is falling apart, glib rat-a-tat-tat efforts to rack up Likes with snarky one-liners, humblebraggish photos that present a cultivated image of happiness, and goddamned duck-faced selfies.
The only personal things I see there now are complaints—usually about the weather, transportation, or the service industry.
I don’t want to be that person. The nonsense is contagious, it’s unproductive, and it trains us to look outward for validation and stimulation. I frequently wake up after a tumble down a Facebook Hole and realized it contributed nothing to my life. Facebook, you were supposed to make me love my friends more. But your unquenchable thirst for post churn has turned friends into an unnecessary source of anxiety.
So a few months ago, I began backing away—or didn’t you notice in between the TBT posts and the “one thing you must watch today” reposts?
I feel like the smartest people stopped posting a while ago.
I think I know how this happened. People derive comfort from the inconsequential. But also, people don’t post many details about their lives anymore because they’re worn down about how Facebook markets them. I see fewer baby pictures and fewer announcements of life events. Instead, people rush to the keyboard to regurgitate and gargle the latest forgettable meme. The brightest minds now lurk.
Facebook is still good for finding people who think like you, for seeking out comfort in the wee hours, and for finding someone to buy your old sofa. Those benefits are not commensurate with the level of OCD it brings out in everyone. Facebook is a trigger of OCD that anyone can justify, but make no mistake: If it was a substance that had the same effect, it would be banned.
Yeah, okay, the privacy stuff is a whole other level of bullshit, and that matters. I refuse to migrate to Messenger just so Facebook can more conveniently penetrate my app collection, my smartphone’s contents, and thus sell my life. If anything, my vexation with Facebook’s creeping and disingenuous privacy infiltration simply primed me to view it critically, and once the scales fell from my eyes, I saw I don’t need it.
You can tell the whole privacy issue stinks by the way Facebook spins its changes. Anytime a power answers your objections with a line about how it’s good for you, you know something shady’s up and you face two choices: dig deeper or run away. Well, we all have dug into what underlies most social media companies’ thirst for your personal information, and it stinks. So I’m running.
Let Facebook market my every contact, photo, and written noun and in return, get the social equivalent of junk mail? No thanks.
My friends know where to find me if they’re my friends.
I still use Facebook for work and for my professional page. I’ll maintain a ghost account, like 90% of Twitter users, and pop in for messages, like a P.O. Box. As with mobile phones, you have to participate to a nominal degree if you want to be part of society.
But I’m not going to compulsively waste my time enabling others to waste their own. It’s not just about you, Facebook. It’s also about what you bring out in my friends.
Our relationship has gone sour, Facebook. I won’t let you sour my other relationships, too.
If and when I come back, it will be on my terms. Until then, you’re a drain, so you’ve got to go.
Categorised in: Blog