My dissatisfaction with Facebook has been growing for a few years now. It’s time to make another step in my gradual retreat from the service.
In case you don’t know, I have a Facebook page called Alex Roddie: Words – Mountains – Imagination. It has 588 ‘likes’. I originally set it up as a platform for promoting myself as a fiction author, but over the course of 2014-15 it morphed into my official Facebook presence as an outdoor writer.
For the last year or so, I have used it almost exclusively for posting links to my blog, or occasionally sharing links from elsewhere. I don’t link my Instagram account to it any more and I rarely post pictures directly to the page.
Interaction is very low, and I’ve started to wonder if the page is a waste of time. I hate the way Facebook exists only to serve itself – I certainly get very little out of it (more on this below). The only thing preventing me from nuking it entirely is that some readers aren’t on Twitter, don’t use RSS, and still prefer to access my blog through Facebook.
I’m putting the page into full-auto mode:
- Any new blog posts on this site will automatically propagate to the page thanks to the magic of IFTTT. I had this switched on for a while but eventually started posting links manually again because I sometimes wanted to add a comment with the link.
- The page will no longer accept messages. (Actually it will, but if anyone tries to message the page they will be greeted with a polite automated response requesting them to contact me through this website instead.)
- I will no longer post any content manually or look at the page at all. It’ll simply drop off my radar but continue to function for readers who prefer to access my blog that way.
A digression on social media
Warning: mild rant ahead
Part of my job involves social media management, so getting away from it entirely is impossible. But in terms of my personal use I’ve been cutting back.
Every time I stop using some form of social media, I feel better for it. Over the last year I have deleted my accounts with Medium, Flickr, Reddit and 500px; I’ve stopped using Google Plus, massively cut down on Facebook, and spend less than ten minutes a day on Instagram.
Instagram is my favourite social network right now and the one I find the most positive. The only service I still spend a lot of time on is Twitter, but I have plans to scale my personal use back there too. Twitter is becoming a scary, polarised and combative place, and the only way I can stand to use it at all is with a heavily curated Tweetdeck setup and dozens of mute filters. Dipping in to the unfiltered timeline feels like jumping into a whirlpool of chaos.
Of course, I keep all notifications off, and have done for years. I find smartphone notifications intolerable.
Social media can be a force for good – without it my job would be very difficult, and keeping up with friends would take more effort too. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe in making these things so easy their value is diluted.
I genuinely believe social media is making the world worse in a hundred tiny, perhaps unmeasurable ways. I believe the insane state of global politics can be directly traced to the explosion in social media use worldwide (despite its important role in democratising information). I believe future generations will come to see the humble ‘like’ as a dangerous, addictive digital drug, capable of draining thousands of lifespan hours down a black hole with very little to show for it.
Nobody goes to their grave thinking, ‘Ah, but at least I had 10,000 followers on Twitter.’
I go through phases of withdrawing from social media as much as I can, and phases of more frequent involvement as the tidal pull of the algorithm drags me back in. I delete social apps from my phone for months at a time and don’t miss them, but then my resolve will weaken and I’ll find Twitter and Instagram back on my home screen, eating into my time again. I go through phases of forgetting that social networks exist to mine data and attention, not provide a service for their users.
I’m improving; I’m learning how to quarantine social media to certain timeslots during the day, using it for specific, measurable tasks rather than being sucked into the vortex.
The only comfort is that we’re not in control of our own behaviour here. Our psychology is being hijacked by tech companies who have invested billions in perfecting systems that monetise our attention.
I don’t want to return to a world before social media, because it can be useful and powerful. Even if I did wish to shut it all off, it’s far too late now. But I wish it weren’t such a wild, rampant, raging force over the planet – I wish it were designed with conscience and humanity, so that it could be used intentionally.