- After more than a decade of using Facebook and Twitter, I’m done. I’ve deactivated my accounts.
- Forget about “curating a social-media presence” – I’m just wasting time.
- My sentiment is far from unique. There’s an ongoing backlash to social media that’s a product of modern internet culture.
- It’s time to consider stopping.
There I am again, waking up 10 minutes later from a self-induced Twitter fugue. What was I even reading? Why am I so angry?What was the point?
Turns out there never was one. I’m done with social media. I’ve deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I don’t intend to go back.
If you’ve spent any time using Twitter or Facebook in the past decade, you know exactly the experience I’m talking about.
You open Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram/etc. on your device of choice, start idly scrolling, and something strikes you. Maybe it’s a politically charged conversation between friends or an ongoing argument among people who are just famous enough to be highlighted on social media, but not enough to be doing something more important with their time. You dig in.
If it’s a particularly entertaining argument, maybe you pseudo-participate by adding an animated GIF of Michael Jackson eating popcorn. Or perhaps you prefer the one of Stephen Colbert? I prefer Michael.
Either way, you’re “involved” – until, of course, you realise you’re not, and that none of this is important or even really entertaining. What was the argument even about? Who cares?
This is the reality of using social media in 2018. Congratulations! You played yourself.
Rather, you’ve been played just as I have been so many times by social media, persuaded by emotions to react to something that almost certainly has no real effect on your life. It’s intrinsic to how the whole system operates, from the foundational level of people wanting their posts to be seen. “I better make this post interesting and engaging, lest no one likes it!”
What you’re really saying, of course, is “Pay attention to me.” (I should know – it’s what my whole career is based on.)
That you were taken in is not a coincidence. If you were just passively scrolling, finding little of interest, social-media feeds would be of little value. You might bounce off them and move onto something else (like reading Business Insider!).
Instead, they’re designed to draw you in and keep you interested.
Twitter’s move to a less chronological timeline is a perfect example – the service is less useful as a result.
Twitter’s chronological timeline was an excellent way of presenting the world as an ongoing stream of mass consciousness. Was it messy? Sure! Was it occasionally hard to navigate? Absolutely.
But changing the feed wasn’t intended to fix those things, but to surface content to keep you more interested and make you less likely to bounce off and check a different app. Never mind that it undercuts the entire premise of Twitter – what matters is that you’re staying longer. That the experience is worse is beside the point.
Facebook also changed its algorithm recently in an attempt to “encourage meaningful interactions between people.” The change? “Less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in January. Instead, you’re more likely to see popular posts and photos from friends and family.
Sounds pretty good! Fewer brands, more actual people!
But it seems that posts from friends and family with the most comments are the ones surfaced most frequently by the Facebook algorithm.
And what gets a lot of comments on Facebook? Arguments! Posting a strong opinion is a great way to stay at the top of my News Feed, as other people issue their own strong responses.
In other words, Facebook’s attempt to breed “meaningful interaction” among its users has resulted in a more argumentative platform.
What about self-control?
Have you ever opened a new tab in your favourite internet browser and, without thinking, started typing in a social-media website? Or pulled out your phone out for a specific purpose, only to have that overshadowed by your muscle memory as it guides you to Twitter once again?
I often find myself putting away my phone, not having done what I set out to do, only to realise that I haven’t completed my task. I pull out the phone again and get distracted by a new Facebook notification (or whatever it may be).
And then I sigh, refocus, and consider for the hundredth time whether I should just delete my social-media accounts.
Did I even learn anything from that brief social-media aside? The answer is never yes. It was always a distraction, and it most likely made me feel something I didn’t want to feel: anger or sadness or frustration or, just as likely, disappointment in myself for being unable to focus on one task at a time.
And worse, the more I’m distracted by social media now, the more likely I am to be distracted by it in the future. I’ve had to repeatedly fight the urge to open a new tab and check my Twitter replies while writing this. Seriously!
That’s not just because I’m a flawed person, but because human beings repeat learned habits. It’s hard to not check social media because I’ve done it thousands of times before.
The good news is that there’s a simple solution to this problem: stop using social media.
Don’t just put your accounts on hiatus. Close them.
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