I can’t remember exactly when I left Facebook. I’ve been off it for a few years now, and I don’t miss it – but it sometimes feels strange, knowing there is a whole social world that I’m not part of. But, even while I’m social-distancing I am not going back.
- Social media breaks my concentration – even if I’m not actively engaging with it. I’m not disciplined enough to resist an engine designed to distract and addict me.
- There are severe ethical problems with social media. Facebook’s convenience is at the cost of allowing dangerous and divisive misinformation to be transmitted. While this has been bad in the UK and US, it has proved lethal in some countries.
- Large social media companies end up enforcing ‘community standards’ in terms of art, acceptable speech, identity and anonymity. These are sometimes patrolled by machine learning which is a rather blunt tool.
- Some social media uses algorithmically-ordered timelines, which sort posts according to various metrics, including their ‘engagement’. In practise, this means commercial goals can override social needs, with some friends and updates being hidden for being insufficiently enticing. It’s the Situationist nightmare, with the spectacle taking over social relations (“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images“).
- While Facebook makes it easy to stay in contact with hundreds of people, I think this is at the cost of short-circuiting deeper, direct interactions. Facebook is convenient but it does not offer proper human contact.
It feels a little strange to cut myself off from something that is important to so many people. I do feel that my quality of life is better without being on Facebook. Many of my views here were inspired by Cal Newport’s recent books on social media, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism.
I do occasionally miss events and announcements, and it’s certainly harder to promote things when few people seem to stray outside of walled gardens like Facebook. Overall, though, I am far happier not being on Facebook.