I am leaving Facebook.
Well, not yet. I mean, I have every intention of taking a hiatus from Facebook just as soon as I’ve backed up all of my photos from my photo albums. There are a lot! I can bulk download the photos themselves, but without the accompanying comments, which help me situate them in time and space, and I need those. I have been archiving photos on Facebook for over a decade now, and so there are a lot of items to go through. I am backing them all up with the vague hope of some day putting them in to hard-copy photobooks that I can then have on some coffee table in the theoretical future. Anyway, it will probably take me a few more days before I’m really gone for good.
I joined Facebook back in spring 2006; it used to kind of just be a place to stick your photos of you and your friends. And it was so very neat to look up people you had gone to kindergarten with and friend them and reconnect after years apart. But there wasn’t a whole lot more than that; it was you, your friends, your quotes, your pics… eventually your groups and larger networks, but those came later. It was a small world that was just sliiiiightly larger than the small world that irl connections afforded you, and what’s more is that you could control what came in and out of this world fairly easily. IIRC, the Facebook timeline was updates or photos from your friends and that was it.
Skip forward thirteen years and the friggin’ thing has a messenger with READ RECEIPTS so you can’t escape the watchful eye of whoever is on the other end*, an algorithm that insists on pushing its garbage ads, scrambling the temporal continuum to show content that is much older or newer depending on whether you have “seen” it or not, did I mention the incredibly intrusive ads?, bots that weaponize political rhetoric, article-sharing functionality, inane and irrelevant ads, amoral moderation policies, and a business model predicated on harvesting and selling the personal data of its users.
Not to mention that Facebook Inc. owns WhatsApp and Instagram in addition to its own Messenger and a plethora of other things, slowly revealing its final form as some Cthulhu-like conglomerate with its tentacles in every aspect of our social lives. I sound like a cranky crackpot to even myself, so perhaps that may be reason enough to get off of Facebook in the first place. I blame the inflamed rhetoric that is blown out of proportion by social media. Etc. Etc.
Since moving out here to Alberta, Facebook has been my main method of connecting with my friends back in Ontario and across Canada, and staying in touch with my overseas acquaintances, which is the main reason it’s been so hard for me to rip off the metaphorical bandage. But I’ve come to realize that connection doesn’t equal community. I’m skimping out on doing the hard work of staying in touch with friends and family over email and phone, or hanging out physically with my friends here, and using the excuse of being connected to them on Facebook. Likes do not a relationship make.
I mean, I’m also doing my PhD and I have one year of funding left so I really need to get down to business to
defeat the Huns write my thesis. I spend far, far too much time scrolling mindlessly through my feed, or writing ill-thought-out opinion posts, or commenting on others’ posts and articles. Also, I personally believe that we’re all in for an extremely terrible and unpleasant future due to climate change, even IF politicians in the global North manage to pull their collective heads out of the sand and face reality for long enough to implement carbon capture targets in line with the Paris agreement** – and bear with me, I have a point. In eucatastrophic fashion, I think the main thing that will keep us going in the future is our close connections to our friends and family. Not how big our networks are, or how well we’ve managed to monetize our social presence. I don’t want to be a virtual Prometheus selling my regrown data liver to the hungry social media vultures day after day.
Maybe I’ll come back to Facebook after a while, to track down this or that old friend or this or that old article. But for now, I need to detox.
*I don’t like feeling that my friends are panoptic surveillance agents. Gives me all kinds of anxiety.