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Why I quit Facebook

22 Mar

 

Why I quit facebook

By L. Stewart Marsden

Like a storm at sea, it’s been gathering for quite a while. I’ve seen friends on Facebook experience some of the same agonies I have, and leave or disconnect from their Facebook accounts for a bit, only to return. Those are the people, like me, who have/had a love/hate experience with the social media array of ways to connect while not really connecting.

Retired, it was easier for me to give up LinkedIn and Twitter. The algorithms of those platforms continually sent me reasons to update my profile, or to check out what was going on with one of the dozens of people I followed, or who followed me. Yeah, I know … dozens. Not very impressive. Missing the whole point, right? But those are networking platforms, and I don’t care to network at this point in my life.

I was a holdout on Facebook. At one point, after a long dearth of writing on this website, I convinced myself that basically posting on Facebook was tantamount to blogging, and was an acceptable substitute for the daily regimen of working on a poem, or an opinion piece, or one of the many stories and other fiction projects laying fallow in my fields of imagination.

I found myself binging in reaction to what others had posted. Swooping down from cliffs of grammar correctness to attack a misspelling or erroneous usage of a word or phrase. I was like Ralphie’s teacher armed with a red pen, slashing his masterpiece “What I Want for Christmas!” and leaving him in the smoke of my “writeous•” fury. I was like a Stephen King horror unleashed on the social media world.

Deep inside, I knew this couldn’t continue. But I was chained to my addiction, and each time I tried to break away, the effort only redoubled my Facebook dependencies.

You’ve heard it before: it’s not the alcohol, it’s the alcoholic. I’d been through and successfully escaped one addiction –– smoking. That effort, twice over a period of about fifteen years, was trying enough. One factor with cigarettes that does not exist with Facebook is the motivation of cost. When I was a kid, you could get a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine for a quarter. Now you need an equity loan to keep yourself in smokes. Also, the Federal Government and all other health-binging entities worked to nearly squash the tobacco industry.

Facebook? No such incentives. It’s free. And is without the negative pressures the big tobacco companies faced, such as huge money settlements, fines, and regulatory parameters. Public reaction today among most Americans towards tobacco? Boo, hiss!

There is no danger of second-hand Facebook exposure. No rising per-session cost. No sanctions to speak of when you react negatively to someone’s unkind and oppositional criticism of your post.

And with every passing month, week, day, hour and second, there is a plethora of new ways to use (and abuse) your social media connection.

Ah, said a marketing person. Look at all of the valuable data we have regarding our users (not customers, because that would infer a reason to please the customer). I wonder if some enterprising companies could mine these resources for their own benefit, and –– gosh –– PAY us for access to this information?

Remember decades ago when the high-tech industry was booming, but with no tangible means of turning the popularity of things like Facebook and Twitter and others into profits?

Pssst: they found a way.

First, benign. Based on number of hits.

Then, the release of overall market profiles for advertisers. Just like radio and television has operated for years selling and placing ads to cover its costs and growth.

Those pesky pop-ups. Those moving text bars at the bottom of your computer/cellphone screen. Just part of the evolution.

Then, rumors of other countries using and manipulating various social media platforms in attempts to influence the mindsets of the users.

Is this one big metaphor for the drug industry, or what?

Users? Original intent? Addiction? Manipulation? Money? Power? (The sex part is assumed).

Then last week the media pounced upon a story that would shake up my world: Facebook, the Trump Campaign think tank, user data, user manipulation. Never mind Trump was not the first politician to think of and use these tactics, although ex-Obama aides claimed they did it the correct way (according to The Washington Post).

It’s a small leap from seeing nuclear power as a resource, to using it for power and destruction.

The tobacco companies: “We did not know the addictive and health-damaging properties of cigarette smoking.”

Mark Zuckerberg: I wasn’t aware of this abuse of Facebook’s tremendous data capabilities. Fire that guy down there. No, not him –– the one next to him.

The I’m sorry Zuckerberg finally expressed was one of those spins we get from the politicians.

“I’m really sorry this happened.” Sorry WHAT happened? That no due-diligence was in place to protect user information? That the whole event was leaked? That you got caught with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar? That the stock market reacted quickly, reducing your paper value by $50 billion in a day?

That was the straw for me. It’s like the Emporor’s New Clothes. You know what’s going on. You see it. But you don’t want to admit it’s happening, or that you might be contributing to it.

Well, golly! He ain’t got no clothes on!

There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media. Like the telephone. Whoever thought when Edison said “Mr. Watson –– come here –– I want to see you,” to actually seeing the person you’ve called on your cellphone? Or seeing up someone’s dress in the supermarket with your phone?

It’s not the tool, (I am not pitching the NRA, by the way), it’s the tool user.

But I hold Zuckerberg accountable. For what happened, for it being possible to happen, and for his apparent smugness in responding. “I’m really sorry this happened.” Huh.

So I turned it off. My Facebook account. Which is not as easy as it sounds, and is a very confusing process. Then I deleted the app from my iPad as well as my cellphone.

Again, I’ve done this before –– temporarily disconnecting from Facebook. But not for these reasons. Perhaps I wanted to live in the deluded social world I had occupied for so long without thinking “how the hell is Facebook making any money?”

Not from my usage.

Or was it?

• I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this word, so I’ll take no credit for it. The irony is that it would make a helluva meme for Facebook!
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