I chose midnight last Sunday as the time and day to deactivate my Facebook account. My personal Facebook account that is, if anything such as a personal Facebook account really exists. I’ve been asked “Why?” and been warned “Don’t” as though the issue of whether or not to have a FB account is a matter of life and death. Meanwhile the bliss of deleting the FB app from both my iPhone and the iPad was followed by a tiny semblance of withdrawal symptoms – would I be suddenly “out of the loop”?
Deactivation is not deletion. I still have the option to reactivate and log back in as though nothing ever happened. “We were on a break”. But why deactivate? I don’t have one reason. I have a series of unordered thoughts that have been running through my head for a while and here they are in no particular order (that’s the unordered bit).
1. The Not So Social Network
When Mr Mark Zuckerberg decided that Facebook should go public he added a letter to the IPO (initial public offering) application that he filed. In that letter he spoke in glowing terms of Facebook’s mission. Facebook is not a company he said. Facebook has a social mission, he said. The mission, he said, was to make the world more open and connected. Connections, change, networking. The long, long letter is full of this kind of vision. It was Google’s “Do no Evil” with an added bout of logorrhea. You would not be investing in a company but in a social mission. Zuckerberg did not tell us why Caritas, AA, the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontières – to mention a few – haven’t yet listed their social missions on some stock exchange.
But hey. This is the internet. The internet is now linked to financial bubbles and at 38 dollars a share buying a part of facebook just meant going along with the trend/myth of dot com investments. Kudos to Mr Zuckerberg for managing to sell his “social mission”. In one week facebook shares have plummeted and “16 million dollars have been shed in market capitalisation”. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I don’t care. I just find the idea that Facebook has any kind of social mission in mind very very risible.
The first thing I don’t like about Facebook is the way it is about anything other than your ability to control the spread of information about yourself. Sure, you choose what to put on Facebook but then again – do you? There is a huge gap between the promise of freedom of networking and the constant impulse of FB to get you to share, share, share.
The first thing I don’t like about Facebook is that it is sharing via force feeding.
2. The Sheep’R’Us
When you first registered on Facebook it was to be connected. Then we added and added friends. Then, at a time when Google Circles were still a pie in the sky we had no way to distinguish between your College Alumni, your Sport Friends and the freaks who post weird stuff on walls late at night. For a while it got interesting. Campaigns went viral on facebook, the like button provided instant gratification that had not been seen on the internet since the early days of Yahoo Categories and we just posted and posted. Faster internet meant more possibilities of “sharing” video, photo, apps. And the games? Do you remember the first time you opened Farmville, spent five minutes trying to grow some shit then wondering “what the fuck?”. Some people still use farmville.
Do you remember the pokes? They too seem to have fucked off to a worse dimension. We were left with walls, posts, and “threads” of absolute bull. Because whether five idiots meet on the street or whether they meet virtually their collective contribution to humanity is just about equal. It’s not like every chat on facebook has to be a Zizek-Hitchens debate but you could sense a collective dumbing down suddenly beginning to take shape. It was not even the “good morning I’m having toast” crowd that finally did it. It was the general feeling that having an opinion suddenly meant that once was right. And facebook reinforced that. Photos, opinions, videos merged into one miasma of a collective skip.
And you got lost in the crowd. The second thing I did not like about Facebook was that anything goes.
3. The Expression Lie
If I do reconnect to Facebook it will be to reconnect a blog to an audience. Unfortunately almost 80% of J’accuse traffic was sourced from Facebook. The worst part of that deal was that readers stopped commenting on the blog. They preferred the comment on Facebook. You tried to integrate the two but it never was the same. Once again you could sense the attention span of readers going berserk – like that of a pack of flies suddenly discovering the morning pile of dogs’ droppings on a suburban pavement. Facebook had created the skim reader. Twitter’s metre of 160 words had become the generally accepted limit for an attention span.
Does Facebook empower with information? Maybe. What we definitely do is form our input channels into a constant monotone dreg. We tend to network with like minds, like ideas and similar opinions. Collectively these little facebook packs will look for information they approve of and enjoy. Before long they will have moulded their own virtual world of inputs where all the news and all the opinion they read stops challenging them, stops provoking them. Their cerebrum has become an added appendix to the senses without any feedback. Colours, sounds and (if it could) tastes. Without the appreciation born of provocation.
Facebook the champion of expression. Fuck that. One big massive unlike.
I found it much easier to quit smoking than to quit facebook. Because facebook had become that distracted timefiller. An iphone app that vomits post after post of nonsense skipping from the 1,000 likes to save the orphan in Brobdingag to the viral video of the pope on a loo to the latest breaking news from parliament. Worse still it gave you a reality check. The ugliest quirks that people had managed to keep away from their social interaction were suddenly and inexplicably hung there for all to see. You suddenly had intimate photos – not of breasts or testicles – but of bedrooms and studies. What was previously one’s own sancta sanctorum was suddenly posted and bared for all to see. The weakest of individuals who were unable to master even the most basic rules of social interaction felt “empowered” when they shared their framed certificates in the bedroom, their corny poses by the sea and in some cases they even fought out their personal fights like some UFC Championship battle.
And for every “empowered” citizen struggling to grasp the concepts of basic PR there would be some ruthless, uninhibited facebook voyeur/stalker who would scour the walls for information to snigger at and make fun of. Bitchery too became an art. The packs of supposedly educated wolves were unleashed on the beginners and found it oh so easy to point out to the crude reality of their inexperience with real social interaction. It’s not like it was difficult, and I am guilty of having engaged in the ruthless behaviour myself. Stalkers unleashed on the unknowing victims were like foxes released in a chicken pen. There is no great intelligence required to pull a photo off the wall of some unsuspecting facebook user and to blog about the social shortcomings that have been so unabashedly and unwittingly put on display.
Insofar as politicians and their daily tomfoolery with the medium is concerned there would be no amount of wolves that would suffice to tear the arrogant peacocks to bits. For you’d expect a politician to be able to handle the dos and donts of simple social networking. Still. The time that facebook stole from us can never be recovered with 1,000 other initial public offerings. The fourth thing I do not like about facebook is the amount of time wasted on it before discovering that it is another cynical mirror of our society.
7. Not the full list
There’s more to this list. Much more. But there’s a limit to how long a post can be. I’ll be stopping here for now. Will elaborate later. Do not be surprised if my personal account is reactivated soon. In the meantime J’accuse still has a facebook page where you will find most updates.
I’d like to hear what you think about facebook, privacy and more. I doubt anyone will comment though. You’re probably all busy catching up on facebook.