Monday, April 08, 2013

Et tu, Facebook?

Another follow-up to recent postings:  I am getting tired of Facebook.  Now, I can already see you yawning, because lots of people say this and threaten to leave Facebook and then don’t, etc., etc., etc.  But the boring thing that most people say when they discuss this is, “I’m tired of seeing the trivia of others’ lives!  I don’t care what you had for breakfast!”

My reason for getting tired of Facebook is just the opposite.  I don't see enough of people posting authentically about their lives!  I love my friends, and enjoyed, once upon a time, gaining real glimpses into their actual experiences.

But now, two things have happened.  One is that too many people have been hypnotized into chanting that refrain, that they don't want to hear the "boring" details of their friends' lives. And the second is that too many people have thereby gotten the message that that's not what you are supposed to be doing, and thus have been intimidated and no longer will say anything real, original, or authentic.  Instead, most people have become programmed to do little more than share memes.  Instead of writing their own thoughts, people more and more just “share” the other things they see on Facebook.

Now, these memes can be clever, even thought-provoking.  Of course some are controversial and get our blood boiling.  Many are sensational.  Many are charmingly cute.  For a while, I watched my news feed with avid interest, dazzled by it all, wondering who creates these and how they get them going.  I tried to post my own original clever postings and hoped they would at least circulate among my friends, but they never garnered even one "share," and only small handfuls of “likes.”  I had slightly better success if I “shared” already existing memes -- at least people seemed to see these -- a few more people, anyway.

Gradually it has dawned on me that Facebook is not really about us and our friends; it’s not really about our sharing what’s happening in our lives.  It’s a meme replication system.  I’m overstating things a bit:  there is some real and good sharing (just enough that it kept me coming back).  But I’m now noticing that my experience lately is watching more and more of my friends fall into well-worn patterns of opinion that someone else seems to have carved into sharp and cutting oppositional shapes.

So much on Facebook is now quite painful.  Because I have a diverse array of friends representing a wide spread of the political spectrum, I cannot read my news feed without finding that some of my friends have posted mean, angry memes dissing people like me.  And sometimes my so-called friends attack me viciously for things I have said, even though I did not think that what I was saying was offensive, as such -- maybe debatable, maybe naively optimistic, maybe even wrong (I am always open to being proved wrong), but not offensive.  Yet, I am attacked instead of debated.  For a while I tried to engage in ways that I hoped would turn it into respectful dialogue across differences of points of view, seeking common ground, resolution, or the emergence of new patterns of thought that synthesize the best insights from diverse perspectives.  But most of the time, people seem rigidly entrenched in their views and do not engage in genuine dialogue, but instead resort to fallacious reasoning.  It gets frustrating and discouraging.

So I have decided I need a break.  I’m not deactivating my account, but I think I will refrain from looking at Facebook for a week, and just see what effect that has on my life.

1 comment:

  1. Report: I did feel much better not being on Facebook! I felt liberated, free! But there were times when I was tempted to go back on to take a quick peek. Should I post a link to my upcoming concert? (I didn't.) Was anyone trying to contact me through Facebook? (No.) What were my friends up to -- anything outstandingly new? (Not really -- or, if so, I found out in real life anyway!) It was surprisingly not that hard to resist these temptations.

    Meanwhile, Facebook itself seemed to miss me, in its own sort of way -- I got three or four "look what you are missing!" e-mails from Facebook (no details -- just a listing that some named friends had posted status updates.

    When I did go back today because my week was up, I did so with more than a little trepidation. I found 52 pending notifications, no personal messages, and no postings to my timeline. No one missed me. I had not announced there that I would take a break, so I do not take this personally. It was a little overwhelming trying to "catch up," until I realized I didn't really have to. Then I simply logged out.

    So, I think what I will do now is just check in briefly once every couple of days, and see how that goes.