Why I Quit FacebookPosted: June 21, 2012
I decided to leave Facebook. I suppose that’s hardly worth writing about, but just in case anyone is interested in my thoughts about it, I’ll post them here. This commentary doesn’t apply across-the-board for everyone who uses Facebook, and particularly not to most of my real-world friends who use the website; it’s just a list of my observations on what has become standard practice. I’m not trying to convince you that Facebook is this horrible thing, but I think it’s worth contemplating the value of practices that become social norms in our culture. Sorry it’s all ramble-y and opinionated.
The most obvious (but maybe least important) reason for leaving is the volume of irrelevant information and advertising that shows up in the “News Feed.” Maybe there are ways to limit the overload, but it’s much simpler to just quit. It’s nice to see an occasional photo of an old friend, especially since I live far away from anyone I met before 2010. However, in many ways, I suppose that it will be more interesting to run into old friends in a post-Facebook world.
10 years ago it would have probably been totally weird of you to call up everyone you’ve ever talked to and share with them your global coordinates and a picture of your dinner. The daily over-sharing of the most inconsequential details of our lives (with complete strangers, no less), attenuates the value of sharing the more meaningful or interesting events. As a result, we will probably become a generation of bad story-tellers.
The ubiquitous little blue “Like” button which now adorns a large portion of content on the internet is ruining everything. I think it diminishes the way that we assign value to the things that we share with each other.
As a form of digital word-of-mouth, it’s a relatively neat idea – a user stumbles across an interesting band or article that they enjoyed and so they “Like” it. In turn, the user’s Friends see this, and are therefore more inclined to check it out themselves, and the pattern cascades. That said, it’s much more meaningful for an audience to actually write something about why they like some particular thing, which happens far less often.
The “Like” feature also has the subtle effect of influencing our own self-worth. I think that artists, in particular (including me) place too much value in the thought of whether any number of people “Like” what they make. For example, it is somewhat exciting when 10 people “Like” a song that I create and share, and it’s also a bummer when no one does. In either case, my gut tells me that none of this should really matter very much. It would be unfortunate for an artist to suppress or doubt their creative drive over the reception they receive in the form of “Likes,” and yet I’m sure it happens all the time. Accordingly, I don’t think people should feel overly excited in the case that lots of people “Like” their work. It is much more important to just make stuff you find interesting and then share it with people you think will appreciate it. Forget the button.
Not to diverge too much from a stupid list of reasons for leaving Facebook, but perhaps the “Like” button exists in part as a result of the fact that we’ve been raised to have the expectation that we should be evaluated (and in many cases rewarded) for everything we produce (and, on the other hand, apply a rating to everything we experience). With few exceptions, everything we ever spent time working on in school as children received a grade. Of course, there are several good reasons for blanket evaluations such as “grades” in various circumstances, but certainly not to the extent that the system exists today. A student who receives consistently excellent grades on every endeavor throughout elementary school may, as a result, come to expect that minimal effort is required to “succeed” in real-life situations, or develop the false notion that “success” in life is predicated by some quantity of positive evaluation from peers or authorities. Likewise, a child who receives negative evaluations without any constructive feedback may come to expect that they are incapable of learning a certain subject or simply poor at “test-taking,” or “bad at math.” Rather than employing a balanced approach of constructive criticism and encouragement to practice the skills that we are naturally driven to improve, our systems of evaluation too often simply tell us that we’re exceptionally gifted, lest we feel like total failures.
In any case, our culture seems to be increasingly permeated with a need to see how many other people “Like” what we do, what we say, and how we look, rather than a desire to make and share things with each other simply because we enjoy the company of other people, and it makes us happy for a while.
4.) It is a real distraction.
I read recently that humans spend a total of 700 billion minutes browsing Facebook every month. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million man-years a month. I imagine that never before in history have we unknowingly wasted so much of our short time in this world. Imagine if a similar amount of collective time was spent focusing on something more worthwhile (you name it).
Perhaps the more specific problem is that Facebook is an activity that tends fragment our productive time, causing us to lose focus on things that take more than several hours to complete.
Additionally, Facebook is a service that enables our cultural stimulus to be fed to us in dozens of small blurbs each day. As a result, we’ve come to expect to receive and interpret our information in as few words and as little depth as possible. It seems reasonable to assume that such a constant trickling of disjointed information conditions us to develop shorter attention spans, and therefore causes us to have less patience to learn about the world in more detail. As a result, we may be less capable of working with sufficient perseverance to address problems which require deeper levels of contemplation or extended periods of focus on any one single thing.
There isn’t any need to go into much detail here, but I will say that is exhausting to see self-plugs from the same bands every day, notifications of “new profile pictures,” concerts, repeated Kickstarter requests, new band photos; etc. There is nothing wrong with being excited about your new album or Kickstarter project, it’s just that people tend to way over-do it. No one likes to have something shoved in their face all the time, no matter how great it might be. I’m more likely to check something out if you tell me about it once than if you tell me how great it is every day.
I know I’m going to seem like a total jerk on this one, but I wish Instagram would go away. Why is it especially prevalent among my Facebook Friends who actually went to art school? The fact people are making their digital snapshots “look cool” by ruining them with a cell phone app says something about our standards for “look cool.” Photo-ruining aside, in general, we should strive to share fewer, better photos.
Anyway, that’s the end of my long-winded rant! Thanks for hearing out my thoughts.