About 18 months ago I left Facebook. It was getting in the way of my study, and, frankly, I was beginning to dislike its tentacles creeping through every aspect of my life.
Today I reflect on what it has been like living without a ubiquitous, and, some might say, compulsory social media requirement of the modern world.
For the first few weeks it was awful. I missed hearing about my friends’ events and special moments, and I missed the nonsensical cat gifs and funny stories and news about art events. I missed being part of an FB tribe that literally seemed to know EVERYTHING. It is still hard sometimes to not feel that sense of community, even though it was ephemeral at best.
But I could breathe. My life was mine again. And I lost much of that compulsive desire to SHARE. Not that I don’t like sharing. But really, do I need to show you my awesome lunch?
The sad aspects of leaving Facebook (and I left cold turkey, without any fanfare at all), is that when I have something really good to share, such as my long-sought-after Doctorhood, I can’t. Well, my DH can post about it, but I can’t. And yet, even now I’ve finished my PhD and I have no known impediments to rejoining FB (it takes a small reactivation as I’ve not deleted my account), I don’t think I’ll rejoin.
Every few weeks I read about FB having a stranglehold on our social media interactions and information – the things we share, like, want, desire. They can link to websites you’ve been and target ads to you that they think you might want – I know it’s an algorithm but get out of my cache! I’m not really interested in being a consumer like that. If I want something I’ll buy it, I know when I’m being manipulated, and I’m okay with that. But I don’t need every known website to have my address, DOB, likes, dislikes and private or personal information. Actually, I hate it.
And it’s not changing any time soon. I’ve had to sprinkle important information right across the web. Such an invasion of privacy. Why do websites – with the exception of financial institutions looking after my money – require my DOB? Any website in which this information is purely and obviously for their market research, I give them a false DOB. Often I’m 22 or 102. I have ADBLOCK plus on all my devices that support it (bless you Adblock people), and I regularly clear my cache. Distressingly, though, the email account I’ve had for 10 years is linked to an internet search engine that is clearly moving into the “you want too much information” behemoth. I love this account. I love the ease of having an online mail account I can access anywhere in the world. But I dislike the tentacles that are again creeping out at me.
Yet, here I am, exposing my thoughts to all the world, and I don’t mind this. Why? Because it’s my CHOICE. And obviously algorithms and Big Brother aren’t that clever that they can link my blog to my other social media stuff. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have other social media stuff. But I do. I have Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and an ongoing online presence. But somehow it hasn’t caught up with me yet. Or maybe it has…
I think the most distressing aspect of all this is that to FB I am only a consumer, not a commentator. For example, I would like a decent dialogue about my transgender daughter, but that will not happen with these big companies. What does it get them? Sweet FA. They are actually not interested in the social interaction possible and the way humans work with other humans. They actively diminish posts from people who rarely post, and INCREASE posts from people who post multiple times per day. Isn’t that a little bit wrong? A bit skewiff?
Anyway, if I want to know what’s happening to my friends (those who are on FB but with whom I interact outside FB) I call them. On that new-fangled device – the telephone. And that, in the end, is why I chose to leave FB. Because no matter how many FB friends I might have, the people who are most precious to me are those whose phone numbers are in my address book. If I have your phone number, you matter to me.