Why I Quit Social Media

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We’ve become distorted, homogenized, airbrushed, photoshopped, Instagrammed approximations of our ideal selves. Our real names and real pictures now stand in as avatars for a certain aesthetic. We’ve all become Human Highlight Films — and the better the highlights, the better the human.

This is not finding beauty in the boring. This is projecting beauty in the boring. This is not finding joy in the everyday, this is broadcasting joy in the everyday. Nobody is as happy as they appear. Nobody is as successful as they are for the five minutes out of the 24 hours each day at which they peak. That 483-like profile picture — the best of the 61 selfies we took in that ten-minute span, washed in filters and in just the right light — is vacuum-sealed validation. This is not a reflection, this is a distortion.

Our friend lists, photo albums and shared links are all carefully curated to represent and reflect ourselves at our most desirable, most likable, most True To Ourselves(TM).

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Twitter’s Great Depression

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I left Twitter on January 1st.

Yet, I am jonesing.

I’ve been on Twitter for over 10 years. I’ve met a ton of great people on there. And up until recently it’s been fun! (I wrote about my whole history with Twitter a while back.) It was often the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing I checked at night. It was like air. And then it wasn’t fun anymore. (Some would argue that for them, it was never fun. And that distinction was/is often based along gender and racial lines.) And now it’s gone from not being fun to being toxic.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve sent a tweet. The app’s still on my phone. (They say the best way to quit is with a pack still in your pocket.) The account’s still up for practical reasons. First off, I use it to log in to several things. Yeah, I can change that, but it’s a pain in the ass. More importantly, people still DM me once in a while, and some of those are business leads, which I don’t want to lose. Plus, I’ve got embedded tweets all over the place, and other folks have embedded my tweets in their own articles. So if I actually shut down the account things break. I don’t want things to break any more than they already have.

What happened when I made my students turn off their phones

<em>Photo Dick Thomas Johnson</em>

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Initially, 37 per cent of my 30 students – undergraduates at Boston University – were angry or annoyed about this experiment. While my previous policy leveraged public humiliation, it didn’t dictate what they did with their phones in class. For some, putting their phones into cases seemed akin to caging a pet, a clear denial of freedom. Yet by the end of the semester, only 14 per cent felt negatively about the pouches; 11 per cent were ‘pleasantly surprised’; 7 per cent were ‘relieved’; and 21 per cent felt ‘fine’ about them.

Workarounds emerged immediately. Students slid their phones into the pouches without locking them, but because they still couldn’t use their phones in class, this became a quiet act of rebellion, rather than a demonstration of defiance. Some of them used their computers, on which we often search databases and complete in-class exercises, to text or access social media. I’m not comfortable policing students’ computer screens – if they really want to use class time to access what YONDR denies them, that’s their choice. The pouches did stop students from going to the bathroom to use their phones. In previous semesters, some students would leave the room for 10 to 15 minutes and take their phones with them. With phones pouched, there were very few bathroom trips.

 

Going back to Facebook after four years is a sad and scary experience

Facebook now has 2 billion users around the world.

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I didn’t make a conscious decision to leave Facebook. It was similar to when I stopped smoking: every other time I’d made a song and dance about quitting I had failed, but when one day I realised that it didn’t make me feel good it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be missing out.

…So delving back into Facebook after a four-year break is a genuinely daunting experience. It’s like stepping off a plane and realising there’s a whole other world out there just carrying on without you. I am shocked to realise how much I have no clue about. The transformation of lives I once knew intimately. There are many babies I did not know existed. Last names changed with marriage. Sad death notifications. The shock of profile pages that are now memorial pages. These are things that in the past, even after moving away, one would hear about via text message or phone call or, even further back, through round robin emails and letters, but which now are collated on the internet’s noticeboard: Facebook. No need for any other town-crying.

My social media fast

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Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week… Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan to rural Vermont… Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it.

 

…Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

 

 

If You’re Going To “Quit Twitter,” Don’t Hang Around To Fave

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You know the guy. He is Over Twitter. He swears off Twitter because it’s full of shit opinions, breaking-news terrorism, and puns everyone thought of but no one wanted to be the one to actually say. In other words, it’s an agora full of fools. (Guess what, you and I are the fools.) We don’t get to choose who shows up, but we can try (very often in vain) to filter out what we see. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what we’ve got, and you know, I can’t wait till it’s gone either! Just to see what’s on the other side.

But he is NOT one of those fools. He will not suffer us gladly. This guy is better than, above, superior. He sees Twitter for what it is: an amplifier for humanity’s least charitable opinions on everything from sandwiches to Chrissy Teigen. You know what? This guy is pretty much right. People suck, they say bad things, and megaphones make everything more annoying. So why does he still hang around here?

I Deleted My Facebook Account and This is What I Found

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Facebook has become a swamp of crass and obnoxious street fights and post-election hysteria where people are judging and sentencing others on the spot. It is the mecca for confrontational sound bites, click traps, and associated public lynching’s where people are hung on the spot if they dare to have their own opinion.

Moving On

A few weeks before the election I had had enough. I posted my goodbyes and announced that anyone wishing to contact me that didn’t have my number to reach out. This act was met with fear and uncertainty as I contemplated the action…

Immediately I felt a sense of weight lifted from my shoulders. The air seemed cleaner and the world brighter. “What would I do with my non-Facebook time?” I was excited, I contemplated the things I could do. Read an extra news story, perhaps write an article or two. Although the time I spent on Facebook only amounted to 10–15 minutes spanning the whole day. It had become time wasted. It had become a weight, and source of anger and resentment that lasted much longer than the time I dedicated to the act. As Facebook has evolved to its current state, it no longer served me and actually had become a weight of toxic proportions. This realization was not clear until it was no longer in my life.

Today, about four weeks later, I no longer miss it. I enjoy the reading of that extra story, have had several normal conversations with the people that are close to me. I’ve even spoken to a friend, previously connected with on Facebook, at a coffeehouse; in person. It was a marvelous experience.