It’s another New Year, an opportunity (hopefully) to do better than before. I’m taking the opportunity for new beginnings to do something I’ve thought about for a long time: leave Facebook. After nearly a decade on the medium (with the enormous amount of time to show for it) I’ve had enough. I’ll be leaving shortly. And I’m not alone either.
I like to take the long view of things, and that long view involves this site and its companions. I’ve been at this website thing for 21 years, had an internet presence long before the advent of social media or even the blogosphere. In the last decade that blogosphere reigned supreme, and although I was slow to adopt a real blogging platform I eventually did so. By that time social media was getting going and it has, tbh, eclipsed much of the activity of site such as this.
But deep down, I’ve always disliked the idea of being dependent upon someone else for expression. The internet, IMHO, was always supposed to be the place where ideas and knowledge could be disseminated openly, and being forced into a “gated community” like Facebook was never really to my taste. I always felt that, since it was their medium, they could control what went on it, and what you put on it one day could be altered or removed the next. But I was in the minority: the attitude was “this is great, what could go wrong?”
We now know what did go wrong: the medium was manipulated in many different ways, some with the connivance of Facebook, some without. And, of course, many on Facebook expressed their opinions which were, and are, contrary to the idea of the hegemons that control it. (Frankly I’m surprised they let it go on as long as they did, although this too contributed to their revenue stream.) The clampdown came, the people reacted in glee or horror, but the end result is that the growth of Facebook has stalled in this country and people’s trust in it across the political spectrum has diminished.
Much of that lack of trust as stemmed not only from the issue of manipulation but also from the data gathering problem. That too exposed peoples’ lack of sophistication. Anyone who has been online for any length of time and has thought about what is going one realises that anything to say or post on this medium–inside or outside the gated community–is is reality permanent and, like a police interrogation, can and will be used against you. I always tried to watch what I posted there, but it was still creepy when, while my wife attempted to make travel arrangements for our next trip, ads for hotels right where she was looking would pop up on Facebook. Obviously algorithms have outrun human caution.
As far as the experience, on the whole Facebook has been positive but time consuming. I’ve connected with many people, and those connections have lacked the acrimony (for the most part) others have experienced. As a medium to disseminate prayer requests and news, it has worked well. Two things stand out: one is my mother-in-law’s death over five years ago, where it’s easy to forget people who pass with so many miles (or kilometres) on the odometer. The other is my cousin’s trip to Jerusalem during the Temple Mount Rumble in 2017; she documented that event, complete with gunfire, while most reporters fled for safety. One thing that has become evident–and has driven my decision to depart–is that Facebook is limiting both what I look at from others and what others look at from me, and that defeats the whole purpose of the medium.
I’ll still be out there on social media; my Twitter feed is featured on this blog, and I’m also active on LinkedIn, to say nothing about this place and its companions. But with limited time and resources, I have to put them where they advance my objectives, and Facebook just doesn’t do that at this point. It’s been a good ride, but it’s time to move on.