Why I quit Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

 
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Lots of people have already done this, so I’m late to the party. (And by the way, as of this writing I’m still on LinkedIn though I’m not sure why—it doesn’t seem to have the nasty rep the other platforms do, but I don’t use it so it’s probably next on the block.)

In any case, why did I quit? The following reasons aren’t comprehensive or in order of importance, but I’ll list a few that come to mind.

Social media is being used for nasty stuff
The first thing that spurred me on was that these platforms have been weaponized by propagandists and other assorted creatures. They’re using it to make the world a lousier place. And the people who run social media corporations don’t give a damn and they never did. It’s always and only been about making money, which they get by selling user data and advertising.

Straight-faced sad pumpkin assurances of efforts to reform their companies—delivered by executives forced to testify in front of clueless politicians—are good for a laugh if they’re good for anything at all. These platforms are hardwired to work the way they do—it’s the core of their business model and why they’re cash machines. I figure being part of the enterprise makes me a colluder, so enough was enough. I’m not so stupid as to think that my defection makes any difference whatsoever, but to use something from Robertson Davies: I just don’t need another reason to look in the mirror first thing in the morning and gag.

Time
There are other reasons too, some I noticed more after being off Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a while. The obvious time wasting factor is one. Most postings are bullshit: trivial, banal, often inane. Though I wasn’t a heavy user (see how the terminology tends to the lingo of substance abuse?), I found it disturbing how long I could look at this stuff regardless. Of course, this is what social media are designed for: to keep as many eyeballs as possible glued to the screen for as long as possible. That they’re based on an addiction model is a topic being discussed at length.

It turns out there’s something great about taking something mostly vapid and frivolous off one’s plate entirely.

News
I never got my news from social media, though, many people apparently do. I get my news from websites, large and small, that I select and pay for via subscription. (And you should too if you care about what’s left of democracy, sorry to sound overweening.)

The use of an advertising model as opposed to a subscription model is of course one of the big reasons things have turned out like they have. Social media companies understand human nature better than most of us and one of the things they know is that people are (a) cheap or poor, and (b) don’t bother to understand the implications of payment in forms that aren’t money.

People sound stupid, and maybe I do too
Also, I found that the artists and other members of the arts community I followed seemed given to saying that sounded banal, trivial, or downright stupid. I won’t name names, but I can’t count the number of times I thought, “I can’t believe the artist who made that, said that.” That didn’t stop me from liking their work—I’ve always believed that an artist’s work can be smarter than they are and that good work often is just that—but it was, well, demoralizing and depressing.

On the heels of this came the equally depressing thought that perhaps I too was one of those artists posting dumb shit. Yes, time to quit.

Social and public vs privacy and solitude
Social media—obviously—encourages and inclines us to a way of life that’s more social and public than private and solitudinous. I find, even more so as I age, that I need privacy and solitude, not only for my work but also my personal wellbeing. Socially, I also find that it’s more satisfying to engage with others who are similarly inclined. Now, this may be nothing more than my cup of tea and not yours, though, I suspect that if people gave more thought to this—particularly to how important solitude is to doing a deep dive into anything—it might raise more doubts.

On the matter of “professional suicide”
More than once, the comment was made to me that by quitting social media I was committing “professional suicide.” And to be fair, I did get a number of opportunities, including some very interesting ones, via contacts I made on Facebook and Twitter. But posting regularly—and that seems to be part of doing the professional hustle—is just too much of a fluffy grind. Maybe I’m just not ambitious enough, or stoic enough, to endure that for my career.

A note on Instagram
Some people have explained to me how Instagram is different and, at first, I liked the fact that it was image driven. But maybe that was just the novelty effect; I tired of it quickly. Anyway, it’s part of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg—the man who called people willing to give up their data for free, aka FB users, “dumb as fuck,”—et al have done enough damage to merit desertion not support.

Google
About Google: yes, they’re just as bad though perhaps a little harder to divorce. Like the others, they are, as one pundit put it, an advertising company telling everyone they’re a technology company.

So here I am
There are so many articles and studies on the myriad ways social media are pernicious that I won’t bother to list any of them here. Will I ever go back? Never is a long time, but since I quit, I do feel more mentally hygienic and certainly better for not wasting my time on something that never felt valuable in the first place.

I’m experimenting with Medium, a writing platform that works on a subscription basis and is much more content focused. And like I said, I’ll probably kill my LinkedIn page sometime soon unless someone convinces me otherwise.

We’ll see how it goes. But hey, it’s been months now and I haven’t missed the Big Three one bit.

 
Frank Rodick