In early December I began the deletion of my social media presence. My Facebook, Flickr, Mastodon profiles are all now gone. My Instagram and Twitter accounts are on the endangered list. I kept them so far because Twitter is still a great way for me stay keep in touch with friends.
Back in November I read Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. Mr. Lanier’s book put into words feelings that I’ve talked about back in 2010. Since the time of the linked talk by me I’ve had an ambivalent outlook on social media:
- Social media brings together a broad network of loose connections. It’s a great way to keep up with people.
- Social media isolates and polarises.
- Social media operates on a negative feedback cycle. Over time it tends magnify and worsen any problems you have.
- The true customers of social media are anyone with the desire to change behaviour and the means to pay for it. Companies with a product to sell are only one among many.
That I built an social network of almost 100k users was a unique experience of the other side of things. One of my last projects in that job was to expand and personalise newsfeeds on a per-user basis. The only things that matter to social media are our “engagement”-our clicks and eyeballs and time. Click on a post, click on an advert too. Read a message, read a sponsored message after. Your happiness, your dignity, and your ability to connect in a meaningful manner with other humans are all irrelevant in such a context.
Last week one of my Twitter contacts tweeted out that they were sick of seeing the 2019 Golden Globes. Twitter decided they had to see it. Their tweet was the first and only mention I had of it in my own timeline. Social media balkanises us. There’s no common ground to find with other people without shared experience.
Separate to all this, I’ve been on a journey to rediscover myself, change the context of my life and build something new from the old. More and more, I felt like Facebook kept me locked into an unchanging negative newsfeed. It mandated how I interacted with people I hardly knew in the first place, let alone in the here and how. So I put up my phone and email and an explanation why I had to decided to leave. And I went.
While getting rid of Facebook wasn’t a panacea, it has left me feeling free in myself for the first time in years. The deletion removed a powerful sense of a lurking monolithic past that I had bring everywhere and make a part of my life. I don’t have to worry anymore about the thoughts and reactions of everyone who added me as a contact. I can be me.