Why I Am Not On Facebook Anymore

Apr 10, 2017

Last week I mentioned not using Facebook. I’ve been away from the platform long enough now that I am ready to write about why I am taking a (temporary?) break.

I mentioned leaving in the context of ISPs being permitted to continue selling our data, so I should start by saying that protecting my personal data is not why I left the social media site.

Selling our data is a part of how Facebook makes money. This mission has, over time, made the website more clingy and less useful. But it’s not why I left. It sure as hell made it easier, but it’s not the main reason.

I’m perfectly ok with the fundamental proposition that Facebook offers: we’ll let you communicate with your “friends” (we’ll even redefine the word, so you have lots of them!) in return for remembering what you say to them and what you share with them.

Makes perfect sense, right?

This deal has become a little fuzzy, of course. If you don’t use an ad-blocker, you may have seen ads and “suggestions” on Facebook that relate to products you purchased or even just browsed on other sites. This is because that deal with Facebook has expanded beyond their borders.

The expansion of the deal is also why you should be using an ad-blocker. Sites have been complaining bitterly about their use “costing them revenue.” Well, until they figure out how to generate that revenue without sharing my every move on the web to every other site that uses ads, I’m going to keep using one. Hint: charge a small subscription and find out just how important your site is (not.)

The main reason I stopped using Facebook is that I was spending a lot of time on it while deriving almost no enjoyment.

If Facebook was a book, I would I have put it down. If it were a TV show, I would have stopped watching. If it were a movie, I would have left the theater.

And these are things I’ve been consciously doing over the past few years to regain time, so I can focus on the things I do enjoy.

So why not quit Facebook if it’s no fun?

When I asked myself that question, failed to answer it, and then found myself back on Facebook, I realized that some form of social media detox might be in order.

Almost every article about a “detox” bothered me in one way or another. I am not in love with that particular link, but it does cover how social media does provide us with positive reinforcement, and how it provides it to us on an intermittent schedule.

It’s a slot machine, and slot machines work. (Except in New Jersey, but that’s another story.)

60 Minutes is going to air a segment this weekend about how people can’t put down their cell phones. (Breaking news, right?) Even the teaser for the show mentions social media apps and uses the term “slot machine.”

Some people can dip into Facebook, look around for a few minutes, and then leave. I might not be one of those people, for the same reason that I’m not the person you should seat next to a quart of ice cream or plate of brownies.

But at the same time, Facebook is not a neutral tool. When someone keeps coming back or never leaves, Facebook has succeeded. Last year, the average user spent 50 minutes a day on the site (and/or in one of the phone apps.) That number comes from Facebook, on one of their earnings calls. It’s a metric they use as a measure of success.

It’s also almost a year old. Maybe we’ll soon hear that it’s gone up. If not, we’ll probably hear about a “bad earnings call.”

Their goal, keeping your attention so they can sell it to advertisers, is accomplished with a system that promotes, by accident or by design, relentless controversy and negativity. The site is something less than a neutral tool.

It’s been a little over two weeks since I suspended my account, and I don’t miss it.

I undoubtedly missed some deeply insightful opinions last week about the Gorsuch nomination, the attack in Syria and then on Syria, and of course, the weighty affair of the Pepsi commercial.

Or, I missed a lot of screaming, yelling, and confirmation bias. Much of which I likely would have participated in.

Depends on how you look at it, I guess.

I miss “seeing” friends, some of who I only have because of Facebook, but even doing that has become more and more difficult because that’s not the site is for. I miss a Facebook that existed for a brief period between when they opened the doors to people outside of college and started making money. It showed me what people shared in chronological order.

Am I going to delete my account? I doubt it. Things may change, and I want to use it again.

But at the same time, I’ve quietly done this a few times before and I know that I have already been “punished” by their algorithms. By not participating, the “importance” of my posts is diminished, and I will have to start posting regularly again before people start to see what I share again.

This is a contest I am not interested in.

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