Even my best days, when I’m optimistic, motivated and in love with the world, can be instantly ruined by a visit to Facebook. Like most of the internet, Facebook is filled with click-spam, sexist racist xenophobic trolls, ads, empty opinions, vapid congratulations, stupid gifs and memes, fake sentiments, heated arguments, millions of causes, fake news, numbered lists, celebrity ‘news’, big brother and worse. There aren’t many traces of humanity left. It’s a world thriving on consumerism and the opinions and sentiments of corporate agents that crave your money, your time, and your personal information. Click like if you agree, comment if you don’t.
The internet I fell in love with in the early nineties was a safe haven for geeks and weirdos. It was somewhere I went to be surrounded by interesting pagans, free thinkers, anarchists, and fellow nerds. An online freakshow, filled with taboo subjects and artists to be explored. Like the library, it was a hub of information and community sharing, and I could depend on it for hours of blissful distraction or assistance learning some new craft or cookery. Eventually CEOs found they could make heaps of money plastering informational sites with ads. It wasn’t enough to fill the existing sites with ads. They wanted more pages to fill with more ads to get more money, so they hired hack writers to pen stupid how-tos, question and answer sites, and purposefully one-sided articles with inflammatory titles with the singular goal of increasing their traffic and “SEO” so they could sell more adspace. From what I can gather, SEO means having half-hearted content sprinkled with enough keywords to lure your search engine away from real information and divert well-intentioned readers into consumer traps. 100 ways to drive people away from your website screaming.
In 2006, Michael Gundlach created a browser add-on called AdBlock that promised to strip the advertisements out of sites, leaving you with just the content. This was awesome, and I felt in control of my web experience a little more. Unfortunately, it couldn’t also remove the horrible chain letters and click spam and conspiracy crap that my less tech-savvy family and friends inevitably found on insane neo-conservative opinion sites and garbage sites like About, Answers, and Wikihow forwarded and tagged me in just to push my buttons. Unlike a reputable journalism institution, hardly anything on the internet seems to be factual, but everyone claims to have News. It’s gone from a useful resource to a fake-factoid minefield. No one is fact checking. News now means anything from Op-Ed to Guesses About What Might Happen or Hype About Nothing of Importance, meanwhile real news goes unprobed, unreported. It’s all about winning clicks and dollars from suckers, by any means necessary. Forward this to nine friends and purchase this fabulous porcelain cat to receive a special offer on gold bouillon from Rush Limbaugh!
I can’t remember the last meaningful interaction I had with someone over social media. Long conversations with friends have been replaced with Likes. Sharing a hug when you’re in the dumps and at your wits end have been replaced with Likes and “Oh noes“. Confessing your troubles to a friend over beers has been replaced with rants on Facebook and “That sucks“. Missing an old friend has turned into “Bob Poked You – Poke Back?“. You could easily have a more meaningful conversation with a chat bot. I feel sick when I think about the way I used to spill everything to friends over beers or sleepovers, and how that’s been replaced with one liners that downgrade every real sentiment and life drama into a politically correct, not-too-angry, overly-bubbly and palatable status update. Frank is now Following you.
The first time I decided to leave Facebook, I got dozens of sad/angry emails from friends who assumed I’d blocked them or unfriended them. I have no idea what it looks like from the other end when someone deactivates their account. Does it still let them tag me? Do they message me and it goes nowhere? Do they think I’m receiving but ignoring their cat photos and IndieGogo campaigns? Is the wall and photos and everything gone, or is it sitting there untended, accumulating Likes that pile up like dust in an unkempt house. Several guilt trips later about falling out of touch because it’s our only means of contact, and I had reinstated my account. They all felt compelled to tell me how super hurt they were that I’d no longer be around to Like all their posts and comment “good for you” every time they post another picture of their lunch/cat/kid/car/bike/consumer purchases, and I felt bullied into continuing to participate. Look at my pretty sandwich! LOL OMG WTF.
The second time I deactivated my account, all the websites that I previously had logged into with my Facebook account stopped letting me log in, since I no longer had an account. Touché Facebook, you won that round. Apparently I log into everything with either Facebook, Twitter, or Google, and that would be a lot of new accounts to make if I were to jump ship from social media – so of course I turned the account back on the next day. Welcome Back, Tabitha!
This time, I’m going to suck it up and create new accounts where necessary in order to escape Facebook. All those butthurt friends who feel neglected or deprived of my presence will have to make an actual attempt to forge a real life relationship with me or opt out of my life. I’m not a celebrity, I owe nothing to anyone when it comes to self reporting my life. I’m out. Hopefully. Unless Facebook finds some way to trick me into coming back again. Until then: Hello, free time. Hello, more optimistic days. Hello, not getting tricked into surfing trash for hours when I only intended to check and update my event invitation. Hello real world of meaningful experiences with actual people. Goodbye Facebook!
Hmmmm, I wonder what the dark web is like…