I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook for many years. On occasion, I’ve deactivated my account. I’ve practised abstinence. I’ve scheduled and limited my interaction. I’ve “only used it for work purposes”. But, now, we’re done. It’s over.
If I’m honest, we’ve been distant for awhile, Facebook and I. Despite the constant notifications and emails. Despite the daily attempts to get my attention. I’ve been unmoved and even cold in response. The thought of pressing on that little white ‘f’ on a blue background had come to fill me with dread. But dread has given way to dispassionate disdain.
Facebook is insidious and invasive. This is evident In the constant requirement to opt-out rather than opt-in. The failure to value privacy, and instead exploit it. The complicated process of permanently deleting your account in contrast to the more straightforward (and thereby preferred) method of deactivating it. The monitoring of all your online activity resulting in targeted ads for something you searched only seconds ago. All of these activities made me feel as though Facebook was controlling and manipulating my virtual life. And the impact on my virtual life translated into my actual life.
Facebook made me lazy. I was duped into thinking that because I’d seen a small snippet of someone’s life in my Facebook feed, and I’d clicked ‘like’, my relationships were growing. I believed that I knew what was going on in people’s lives. Instead, a faux connection had replaced face-to-face contact and genuine conversation. Consequently, through Facebook, I’ve managed to lose more friends than I’ve gained.
Convinced that I could be an ‘influencer’, and facilitate important conversations that would bring people together, I posted provocative ideas and content. But rather than civil discussion, people started to argue in unproductive and insulting ways. They would post and share things that shocked and embarrassed me. I started to lose respect for people and, no doubt, some people lost respect for me. And once I moved beyond my naive arrogance, I realised that Facebook is a terrible medium for common discourse. In fact, it’s akin to breaking up via text. It’s wonderful when everyone lives in an idealistic bubble of infatuation and agreement – the ‘likes’, and the ‘loves’ are constant and overwhelming. But when there’s a difference of opinion, it’s best to duck for cover. A possible solution is to ‘unfollow’ and draw your bubble even tighter. However, I was finding the bubble suffocating.
Experience tells me that some people will be offended by my decision. That somehow, this is a direct dig at them and their choices. It’s not. If Facebook works for you, fantastic. It’s just no longer working for me. And part of the reason I’m leaving is precisely because Facebook provokes a sense of outrage and personal attack. We are becoming more polarised and tribal, not less.
I recently helped a friend delete their Facebook account, and I felt personally liberated. I’m even more excited to complete the process myself.
I’m looking forward to being less angry. I increasingly rage at people’s comments and posts and then I vacillate about whether to reply or comment, or not. Type and delete. Type and delete. I craft and debate appropriate responses in my head. I curse the screen before me. This irrational activity can consume hours of my time, late into the evening. Rather than being enraged, I should be sound asleep and dreaming of Alaskan sashimi.1
I’m looking forward to wasting less time. More rest. More writing. More play. More time to dream about spiritual sashimi experiences. More focus on the people in my household and immediate vicinity.
I’m looking forward to enjoying the moment. Deeply. Without wondering whether I should post it on Facebook. Without painstakingly crafting something in such a way that people are impressed, moved or envious.
I’m looking forward to being more deliberate.
I’m looking forward to seeking people out (as opposed to stalking them).
I’m looking forward to creating opportunities for more human (face-to-face) interaction.
I’m looking forward to being less of a slave to ‘likes’ or algorithm controlled news feeds.
Having said all that, I’m not entirely ditching social media or my online existence. Yes, hypocrisy thy name is Aleem.
I am not decrying digital platforms or online engagement. We live in 2018. I’m not dropping out of society. However, I have recognised that Facebook has made me less human, not more. I’m trying to become better, not worse. And, for me, Facebook is causing regression rather than advancement.
As such, I will remain on LinkedIn for my professional network and work purposes. I will continue to blog. I will even maintain my Twitter handle (for now). But, if I replace Facebook with something else that detracts from my life – then I hope that I will be wise enough to address it.
Farewell Facebook. I’m opting out, for good.
- With apologies to my vegan friends, one of my most memorable food moments is eating sashimi at a restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska. To this day, I still dream about it and yearn to return. Apologies, and thanks, too to the fish who lost their lives for my eating pleasure. ↩︎