A couple of years back I created my Facebook account as a means of finally staying in touch with real-world family and friends during my constant travels. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting to find, at that time, though I certainly wasn’t prepared for the kind of things I would encounter during my interactions on the world’s largest social network. Now, just over two years after joining, I’ve finally decided to call it a day and put an indefinite halt to all my Facebook activities.
There are a number of reasons for this, and it would certainly come as no surprise to many if I cited my persistent privacy concerns at the head of this list. But my Facebook account is safely tucked away on a virtual machine, with absolutely no way for Zuckerberg and company to plug themselves into my everyday life to the intrusive and frankly excessive degree they’re spying on everyone else. So although Facebook’s serial-misuse of its users’ data is a factor here, the primary reason for abandoning my profile is infinitely more simple.
Facebook is an Abyss of Torment and Misery.
Over the past couple of years I’ve encountered more hostile ignorance, opinionated idiocy, and deliberate, agenda-driven misinformation on Facebook than I have in all my other activities on the Internet put together.
And it’s not like I’m a stranger to social interaction online. I’ve been part of Google+ since just before it went live back in 2011¹, and over the past seven years I’ve communicted with literally tens of thousands of people there alone. And that’s without counting my activities in Google’s front-end support system, on Twitter, or anywhere else I’ve involved myself during this time, both online and in the real world.
And while discussions have of course become heated in other online venues, prompting me to ban/block more than a few people for being offensive, there’s one factor which sets Facebook head and shoulders above other social platforms when it comes to users gouging at one another and making each others’ lives an utter misery.
On Facebook, it’s PERSONAL!
If someone comes at me with disagreement, or with an ill-informed piece of personal lunacy on platforms like G+, Twitter, or at Google Webmaster Central, they’re likely to be a complete stranger, or at least not a real-life family-member or friend. As a result, I can either engage them with a view to initiate discussion, or simply say “Meh…” and hit the ban-button. Either way, any interaction (or lack thereof) is fairly dispassionate, because there’s no real-world connection involved, to the person I’m dealing with.
Facebook doesn’t work that way…
Zuck’s social network is designed, from the ground up, to keep alive, track, and profit from connections between folks who actually know each other in “real” life. As a result, when Uncle Durk posts, ranting about the evils of inter-coastal traffic being a direct result of Canada’s out-of-control refugee policy², I’m exposed to a bigoted relative venting his spleen about what he perceives to be the evils of mass migration, at the world in general.
The obvious action, in this instance, would of course be to simply unfollow Uncle Durk and leave it at that. Such an action would, however, gravely upset Aunt Brunhilda. And since Aunt Brunhilda basically raised me while my mother was busy vaporizing phosphorus for the local match factory to put food on our table, she’s not someone I’m in a hurry to alienate. So I simply try to overlook these immigrant related ravings, while going through my online life.
As I’m busily ignoring Uncle Durk, I find that fifteen of my real-world colleagues have nothing better to do each day, than hone their collective photography skills on lunchtime foodstuffs³. So now my stream is chock-full of a dozen or more ‘Culinary Masterpieces’, accompanied by such deeply profound comments as “Dun’t it look yummie?“
Here’s the thing… Unless you’re enjoying a Yak Steak with Fermented Mare’s Milk Sauce, atop Kangchenjunga or your dining partner is currently breathing his last due to inexpertly sliced Fugu, I REALLY have no use for, or interest in, what you’re eating.
However, were I to unfollow even one of these aspiring shutterbugs, all fifteen of them would most likely go on strike, and quite possibly arrange an “accident” for me on my way to the car after work.
Meanwhile, those Facebook users not ranting about Immigration Traffic, or busily Photographing their Sausages, have not been idle. Oh No! They are working hard to make themselves feel better about their existence by re-sharing the meaningless – and oftentimes misquoted – ‘Unspirational Mantras’ of countless other Facebookers whose lives also haven’t worked out as planned.
But despite the mindbogglingly overwhelming number of these philosophical gems, shared and re-shared on Facebook each day, Empty Platitudes alone are apparently no cure for the myriad Situations, Events, and People, which vex and peeve the Social Network’s users. Therefore, in among the Off-Balance Rants, Unspirational Quotes, and Panini Pictures, there’s a swelling torrent of truly hateful commentary, aimed at the vilification of one section of the population or another⁴.
And WOE BETIDE ANY who dare challenge these people’s viewpoints…
For instance, awhile back I pointed out to one person that I was “Pro-Choice, but Anti-Abortion“, only to be firmly told that “You can’t do that! You gotta pick one!” When I explained that I totally believed in a woman’s choice, but I really did not believe in “Abortion purely as Birth Control” since “Sex-Ed and Contraception should be made freely available to everyone” so as to prevent a massive number of terminations in the first place, I triggered a complete meltdown in the person I was talking to.
And while this is of course just a single incident, it’s representative of so many Facebook exchanges I’ve been part of and/or witnessed with ever increasing frequency. Over the past year, or so, I’ve noticed the number of hostile exchanges on Facebook grow with alarming frequency. It’s a social media trend which I personally see as directly representative of the general population’s overall frustration level with “real” life… but that is another story entirely.
Last but not least, there are the Blackmail MEMEs.
I’ve already covered these elsewhere some time ago, so I won’t revisit them here in any great detail. However, the blackmail aspect of posting/sharing on Facebook has grown to such a degree the I’ve been seeing six to ten such abominations per day in my notification stream. Interestingly enough, I hardly ever run across them on Google+.
With all this in mind, I’ve finally reached the point when enough is enough. So I’m taking an indefinite leave-of-absence from Facebook, and everything that goes with it.
A few days back someone sagely advised that I should “change my friends, if I didn’t like what they posted“, but that’s not really much of an online-option when the people involved are real-world family, colleagues, and acquaintances… is it?
¹ My first post was about Boobies.
² Name changed to protect the guilty… There is no Uncle Durk, or any Facebook rant about inter-coastal traffic. However, this example is based on a very similar incident.
³ Context changed to protect the Shutterbugs… I have no colleagues. I’ve been self-employed for two decades. However, I swear by all the Norse Gods, if I see just one more Panini Picture something bad’s gonna happen.
⁴ Before you automatically assume that the Right Wing holds the monopoly on hate speech, I should tell you that I’ve seen as much hate, if not more, emanate from Liberal Atheists as I have from Conservative Christians.