In my previous post here I discussed why I was quitting Facebook, from the perspective of my objections to the site’s business practices and privacy concerns. These are external concerns that you either agree with or disagree with.
Today I want to talk about my personal reasons, which have nothing to do with Facebook itself and have everything to do with me and issues with social media.
It is hard to roll this up into a convenient sentence to display in bold below, but I feel as if I have to, and that right there is part of the problem.
If time and attention are the most valuable things in life, social media is the biggest threat to both.
Your time and attention are valuable commodities. It has always been true that you need to spend them in order to accomplish what you want, but in the connected information age it has actually become something commodified. Advertisers will pay to capture your attention, and as a result our daily lives are constantly under assault by competitors vying for your eyes and ears.
Naturally, you don’t actually get the money they’re spending for those things. The intermediary does – and that’s Facebook. You aren’t the customer, you are the product they sell to their real customers, the marketers.
In the industry people talk about making a site or a service “sticky”. To be more ugly about it every web site and social media service is trying to be a roach motel for your attention – you check in, but you never leave. They pander…I mean “personalize” to try to be more attractive to you.
So we end up firing up Facebook first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and keep it open or continually check it throughout the day. It is not addictive by accident. And you can tell if it is addictive if it ends up being the first thing you do when you have a free moment and you’re bored. Or you start to feel FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – something is going on out there that you aren’t in on.
That isn’t an accident. That’s the “business plan”.
Now add in the near real-time nature of Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever. It isn’t just important that you know, it becomes critical that you know right now!!!
But what is so important that you have to be in the loop and constantly up to the minute?
- Your friend got a new puppy.
- A politician said something stupid.
- Somebody won an award.
- Outrage! Get your outrage here!
- Look at this cat/stupid human/music video.
This is symptomatic of a larger problem in society. At least that first thing on the list is personal and you might actually care. If they’re actually somebody you’re friends with. But even then, would knowing tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week really make much of a difference?
I don’t have a terribly good argument or answer here, but I have read more than one article about someone who gave up on Facebook and they rarely had something negative to say about it. If you are using that as a communication vehicle with your friends and family, there are other options that are more private (even if less convenient or timely).
However I can elucidate two benefits I hope to realize. First, I want to wean myself off Facebook as a pacifier when I have free time and nothing to do. By eliminating this distraction I have more time to devote to the things I’ve been putting off for so long because I’m too tired or don’t have the free time or whatever other excuse I can come up with. Second, I want to devote my time to things that reward the investment – reading long form journalism rather than meme photos, or even just spending a minute in line just being bored standing there in the real world.
I want to be clear that my reasons here are my own – they say more about me and my personality than they do about the merits or deficiencies of Facebook itself. I also recognize that Facebook in particular is of value for many people. I don’t argue that against it.
What I suggest is that you take a long hard look at Facebook – what you put in and the value you get out of it – and decide for yourself if it is worthy of your time and attention.
A Better Argument
Cal Newport explains it much more eloquently. Then again, that is his job.
Quit Social Media