July 30, 2013 by mattwilcoxen
I deleted my Facebook account about five days ago. Permanently deleted it. I am now waiting somewhat anxiously for the two week cooling-off period to pass so that it’s gone once and for all. I am leaving Facebook and my personal Twitter accounts behind for a number of reasons.
In the first place, I have just been mentally exhausted for a long time. I have always been a generally curious person. Facebook makes it too easy to sate my curiosity about the world by scrolling through a “newsfeed” that simulates real events. I find that this mode of engaging my concern for the world is tiring, since the events are rapidly changing. And worse there is little or no emotional or mental return for learning of the events that course through the newsfeed. The cliche saying “you get what you pay for” applies to your Facebook newsfeed: it’s full of cheap slogans, half-formed thoughts, and emotional vomit. People write things on Facebook to promote themselves or to satisfy a need for self-expression (but without reciprocal encounter). I would rather engage my curiosity in more lasting and substantial objects than what a collection of 700 acquaintances have to say. Such focused engagements leave me refreshed rather than worn out.
I have also known myself to be mildly obsessive. While this has not translated into long periods of time on social networking sites, I have found that the happenings on Facebook and Twitter stay with me beyond the thirty second spurts I spend looking through my newsfeed and “liking” items. I turn the phone off and turn to my friend sitting across from me at the cafe, but my mind is thinking about a response to your response to my recent post about walking my dog. Or maybe I just put up something I think is funny–I often find myself thinking about who may have found it funny and “liked” it. Why? I don’t know–that’s just how I am. I’m inclined to think others are like me, but maybe it’s just me.
Because Facebook wears me out and sates my social curiosity, I find myself less-inclined to seek out real encounters. I find myself less likely to call my family and ask them about their lives because I get the false impression that I know about their lives in that I know what they put on Facebook. What a farce. I have been a pretty transparent Facebooker and you wouldn’t know the things that I shed tears over by what’s on my “Timeline”. I want to be present to the people that matter to me, and present in a way that is authentic.
Another thing I hate about Facebook is the constant act of comparing myself to other people that I knew at one point in my life. With 700 acquaintances on my Facebook–and many people have more than this–it is not difficult to find someone who puts my meagre achievements in the shade. Someone who has outdone me in their finances, their family life, their career, etc. I just don’t need to do that to myself any more. I want to experience my life without seeing the pictures of your wedding, your new house, or your vacation in Hawaii. And I certainly want to stop thinking of my experiences as opportunities to post photos for my acquaintances to see.
Leaving Facebook (and to some extent Twitter) is part of a general attempt somehow to minimize internet use more generally. I am still trying to work this out though. See, I have a hunch that the internet more broadly in some way diminishes my creativity by instantly expelling stupidity. I am not a total Luddite and I especially do not want to project this judgment on to other people. However, I think it is true regarding me. The search engine becomes a tyrannical tool that short-circuits discovery. Before the ubiquity of Google I may have spent more than five seconds thinking about a question–even a simple question like, “how did I drive from my house to Cafe X”. The process was a process of remembrance, one that formed my mind to reality and history. Now, I have to look it up almost every time I go. What’s even worse, I have the false feeling that my thinking is being carried out before an ever-present tribunal. I can quickly find ways to run my ideas, theses, and thought-associations through a search engine to see what others have said on the topic. This steals the Quixotic–but oh so healthy–experience of thinking that I may be the only person who has ever thought of the problem or the solution in this way before. Study, writing things down, contemplation: it all seems just a bit gratuitous in light of the Almighty Google. And when something is thought or written, one can immediately feel the compulsion to express it so that it can be judged by the world. The immediacy of this tribunal creates a sense of apprehension that looms large.
Of course, the terrible irony of this post only proves my point: I still find myself compelled to express my thoughts on this to the outside world, to place myself somehow “out there”.