The night before Inauguration Day, I decided it was time to deactivate my Facebook account. I don’t know if this will be a permanent change or something more fleeting, but if nothing else, it will be an interesting experiment. Why?
Deactivating Facebook is something that every angry teenager and many adults have done dozens of times and at least once, respectively. Most of the time, it’s the modern equivalent of running away. I had many reasons:
- I’d become dissatisfied with the site itself and its increasingly invasive tracking.
- I was weary of irrelevant content.
- I was constantly curating my feed, scraping out and hiding all of the blatant clickbait posts claiming outrageous facts to cater to one angle or another.
- I was sickened by the emotion-based rhetoric that threw facts and logic out the window and praised itself for its own liberation from the tyranny of education and critical thinking.
I was trying to explain this to a coworker, but I wasn’t really getting the message across. This is how I finally explained my biggest reasons:
I have no interest in simply consuming media shared by others on a platform that monetizes my habits. I’d much prefer to go to the primary reports, humor sites, or whatever, and let the original creators make the money.
Facebook can have one of two primary purposes. It can primarily be a platform for you to share your thoughts and ideas with others, or it can primarily be a place where you consume the thoughts and ideas of others. I feel that it has moved firmly into the second camp, where algorithms dictate what you actually see and read. Inevitably, those algorithms will ensure that you only see material that you already agree with.
The vast data the site gathers on all of us (whether or not you have an account) is a treasure trove for any ill-minded person who has access to it. The U.S. Government has carte blanche access, because of terrorism and child predators and whatever other crisis is being used to scare us into peddling our rights away.
I firmly believe that the current administration will not be able to resist the temptation to use this data for ill purpose and I simply refuse to be a willing partner. If the government wants to violate the 4th amendment and my civil rights by collecting data and surveillance on my habits without a warrant, I’m at least going to try to make it hard for them to do so, rather than making it all publicly available.
Besides that, the very agencies that are overseeing the illegal collection have repeatedly and loudly complained that they are drowning in a firehose of data that makes it nearly impossible to pick out legitimate signals of threat. I’m doing my patriotic duty as a good American to reduce their burden by 0.00000000033%.
I left because there’s no point in using Facebook share my ideas and thoughts. This is the real reason. The first two were just bonuses. We should use Facebook to express our thoughts and engage with one another rather than consume media (see #2 above.) This is how I explained it to the co-worker:
“The people who already agree with me don’t need to hear my words. The people who don’t agree with me don’t respect me enough to listen to what I have to say in the first place.”
After being told to “shut the fuck up!” and “quit throwing facts in my face” by people I’d once held some regard for, it was easy to come to that conclusion. That wasn’t even a charged conversation; but in the blink of an eye, my comment clarifying a position unleashed a diatribe.
I thought a lot about whether or not it’s truly possible to have real discussion online, or offline, as the above conversation was held. I came to the conclusion that it’s a fool’s errand for me to even engage anymore.
To those who feel it’s important to keep talking in the face of closed eyes, covered ears, unbridled rage, and faithful ignorance, you have my endless respect. I have neither the temperament nor the stomach for it.
If you’re one of the few who do, I will support you until the end of time.