I quit Facebook completely in the Spring, leaving the account but locking down my profile so that even my FB “friends” can’t see my information. After several years on the platform I realized there was a reason why I’ve lost touch with most of the people I’ve known over the years, and those friendships that have stood the test of time don’t need software like Facebook to maintain them. Many of my friends are liberals who naively assume everyone on their friend list of hundreds thinks exactly as they do and will “like” their post on global warming, gun control or Hillary Clinton. They were then shocked when they learned that others didn’t subscribe to their philosophy, and the ensuing arguments that erupted in the threads usually when one friend of the poster who didn’t know the other friend of the poster, a complete stranger in other words, flamed him/her for daring to think differently, proving the medium is at best a near infinite number of virtual sandboxes with toddlers talking to themselves.
I’ve also shutdown my Twitter account. I never really liked the medium or really spent much time using it. I’ll admit I am old fashioned. One of the keys to good writing is thinking about what you are trying to say, then perfecting it in the editing process until it says what you intend clearly and concisely. Blogging challenged this methodology, but even here I am able to set a post aside and save as draft to come back to it, revise it after it’s been published or on rare occasions, pull it completely if I realize what I posted was a mistake.
Twitter is the antithesis of this process. It encourages people to share whatever thought crosses their mind no matter how half-baked, idiotic or rude. And let’s face it: there are few people out there whose thoughts are so important let alone interesting that they are worth reading. It seems that the best ones are when celebrities use Twitter to show how ignorant and clueless they are, such as when Playboy pinup Dani Mathers, who is famous for being blessed with a nice body, uses Twitter to show how ugly she is inside by mocking the body of an older woman. As a libertarian I’m also put off by a private company owning the medium and allowing it to be used by jihadis as a recruitment and communications tool, but banning conservative voices like Stacy McCain and Milo Yiannopoulos.
If you think you are not paying for the product, you are the product, and while I believe companies like Twitter and Facebook are free to do as they wish, I don’t want them to make money off of me. And for that reason I have completely avoided other social media sites like Snapchat, Photobucket or what have you. I collect photography as art and I have paid good money to own a photograph, so I don’t see why firms shouldn’t do the same. If a photo I take is in demand, then I should be compensated by something more than a “free” account. It’s the same reason I don’t fill out surveys at stores promising to enter me in a drawing to win a gift card. I value my time, and if a store wants my opinion on my “shopping experience” then they can pay for it with more than a contest entry.
The question comes up: Isn’t cutting oneself off from the social media stream isolating? There are few feelings as lonely as posting something on Facebook which is important to you that is completely ignored by everyone. It doesn’t matter whether your friendlist is in the double or triple digits, the “sandbox” nature of the media is revealed. You want to feel loved? Post a funny cat or baby video.
I got my first real PC in 1989. It came with a 2400 baud modem and I have been online ever since. I have found that being online is worthwhile, but it is not a substitute for human interaction. Skype, chats, emails – all of these help connect us to each other and are not bad. These interactions aren’t much different from a phone call. But Fb and Twitter aren’t meant to connect us to another person, they are meant to make money for their companies by pretending to give us an audience. And that’s how they differ from those older electronic mediums.
If you want an audience, become an actor. If you want human interaction, pick up the phone and call your best friend. But I’d recommend against wasting your time on social media.