I have been thinking a long time about what I could do to make the world a better place. What sacrifice could I make in pursuit of making America a better place? Pretty sure I’m not willing to die, or heck even honestly, get tear-gassed.
I have had Facebook deactivated for a very long time now. My life has dramatically improved. I have now decided to delete my account completely.
I am doing this because this platform is killing our democracy. Thanks to algorithms that are optimized for slicing us into highly marketable, very finely-grained categories, the natural human tendency to seek out others like us is enabled and amplified to prevent us from ever being exposed to a different point of view. The system is designed, in fact, to amplify the most extreme points of view, leading to a never-ending arms race of spittle and unhinged lunacy. We self-select and self-select and self-select again into ever more extreme positions. Biology, psychology, and technology have combined to turn this into a science.
It took me a long time to come to this decision. Easily a year, maybe two. I had a few arguments with myself along the way.
Me to me: “It’s just a tool, it’s how you use it that matters.” Me back: Bullshit. The tool is using you. If you aren’t paying for a product, you are the product. Every click, every tap, is worth money. Your attention span? For sale.
“I have people I like to keep up with.” Lovely. When was the last time you invested any more energy in that person than a single tap to like something? When was the last time you even commented? You don’t even have to type “Happy birthday!” any more- the birthday is presented to you to click and have a small script type 15 characters on your behalf. It makes the once a year “Merry Christmas” group texts from relatives seem like a goddamn moon launch of effort and creativity. What lazy fucks we have become.
“All of my photos are there! And I like the nostalgia of seeing my children from years ago!” Thanks to some ball-busting by the European Union, Facebook now allows me to download all of my data, including photos and posts, even if I will realistically never use them or have them backed up to another service.
“I have to use it for business/work/community groups!” Then only have one account, and only use it for that purpose. Even better, use it from a dedicated machine, and do nothing else on that machine. Facebook makes money from you even when you are not on Facebook.
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I have been in the online world of virtual communications since 1993. I am no stranger to anonymous social interactions, or developing friendships online. I deeply believe technology has the power to make the world a better place. When I started on Facebook in 2006, it really seemed perfect. I found old friends, old girlfriends, and people I hated in high school and who I could now take great joy in knowing that they didn’t win at life as much as I had. I found people who I hated in high school who I could safely continue to hate because they were recipients of unearned success and still obviously bastards. When the elections rolled around I did what I thought was my civic duty and sought out my friends and neighbors with different political viewpoints and tried to engage in thoughtful debate as my spirit animal Socrates might have once done. I discovered that, much like Socrates, the result was ingestion of large amounts of Hemlock for my soul. Most perplexing, the very same people who I most detested online were my neighbors and friends in real life, and we could actually co-exist in person, and even talk politics without very much spittle at all.
I’m not perfect. I still have a fairly unhealthy relationship with Reddit. Finding lame memes to send to my family from Imgur has become something of a Sunday morning ritual. I’m a white middle aged man with a bad back, a fear of heights, and an extremely low threshold for pain. I’m angry about what’s going on, and I’m going to use my whiteness and maleness to try to make the systems that govern us better. And I’m going to start here.
I hope you join me.