One thing I have is a lot of opinions (as you may have guessed). And as a columnist for 20 to 25 years, I could express those opinions on a regular basis, 3 times a week, sometimes as often as five times a week in the early days. But as I grew older, and moved away from daily journalism, I found that I was missing that little shot of adrenaline you received every time a column bearing your name appeared in print or online.
Not to mention I was a lot busier now. I didn’t have a full-time journalism job anymore and so I found work in other places. At that time, those jobs did not permit me to create and regularly update my own website. Besides, I found I had little appetite at that time for the 600- to 800-word daily opus ground out by columnists everywhere.
And that’s when I found Facebook.
Here was a way I could express my opinions in a public forum to a relatively large group of people in a very quick fashion. I had about 500 friends and acquaintances that I could reach through Facebook and I was happy expressing my opinions to them. I knew they frequently passed them onto a larger audience. I joined a Facebook group devoted to political conversation. My views got me kicked off once but my fellow group members made such a racket the moderators were forced to return me to the group. I truly was very humbled by their actions.
Even better, Facebook was allowing me to have those little jolts of satisfaction that I used to get from column writing.
Facebook was really the only form of social media I used. I had abandoned Twitter several years ago because to me Twitter is just a place where idiots go to sound stupid. If everybody could use twitter like Alex Ocasio-Cortez, I might feel differently. Alas, people don’t use it that way, as is shown by the drivel produced by our president on a daily basis. Besides, I had more to say then you could put into 140 or now 280 characters.
I loved the way Facebook allowed me to reach out and touch my friends and other family members in faraway places. I reconnected with many people I had not seen or heard from in decades. I enjoyed the news articles posted on Facebook by media organizations of all stripes.
So why did I quit?
Facebook is like a drug. And the people that operate Facebook lie to you, use you for their own purposes, and they say they’ll do things differently in the future when they don’t. Not to mention what a particular danger to democracy Facebook has turned out to be.
And Zuckerberg, well, all he really cares about is the Benjamins. He can appear in front of Congress, do a little dance, baffle them with bullshit, and move on without really changing anything. Oh sure, Facebook made a few cosmetic changes, perhaps a few less Russian trolls will be able to use Facebook. But what about what they’re doing with all your private information, the way they are using it, the way they’re selling it, often in ways they told you that they wouldn’t?
I’m not a Luddite I had my first Internet account in 1992. I put the first newspaper on the web in Canada in 1993/94. I helped build the original website of the Christian Science Monitor in 1995/96. I was the executive director of the Online News Association for several years. I won an award for my contributions to the development of online media.
I love technology. I just don’t love it when it’s used in the wrong ways.
As the trickle of negative stories about Facebook became a tsunami, I found myself increasingly uneasy about using it. Like a person who smokes too much, several times I told myself, well, I’ll stop soon. But just like any drug addict, I kept right on going.
Then one day, in the midst of a Facebook post, I stopped and thought “What the hell am I doing? I think these Facebook people are scum. Why am I supporting these sleazy, lying creeps?”
And that was it. The dam was broken. I informed my Facebook friends that I was leaving, collected email addresses from those folks I want to stay in touch with, announced a date for my departure. And when that date arrived, I left.
It’s been just over a month. I won’t lie, there are days when I see a story that tweaks my interest and I wish I could just jump online and expound about it at length. When I told one of my friends that I was leaving she said “Oh you’ll be back. I don’t know anybody who has left who hasn’t come back.”
Maybe. But there will have to be new ownership. And have much more rigorous protections around privacy. It’ll have to be run by a group of people care more about democracy than care about profit. I just don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever
In the meanwhile, I’m doing this. I know I don’t have the same number of people reading this as I did reading my daily Facebook posts but I really don’t care. I realized in the end that I was just doing it for myself anyways. And you’d be surprised how much free time you have when you are no longer doing Facebook, constantly checking it, constantly posting comments and stories.
I feel pretty good about walking away from Facebook. This must be what it feels like when someone kicks cigarettes or some other drug habit. A tiny sense of regret, a large dose of relief.