I would be lying if I said I don’t have a Facebook account at all. At this point, it exists 80% because of a family group chat, and 20% because I haven’t finished backing up my pictures. But I can’t access facebook, and don’t have a facebook page, personal or otherwise; it’s been deactivated for weeks now. So, what happened, exactly? Was it the time suck? Some sort of dramatic exit? Did I feel my personal freedoms were at risk in some way? What made me make the final call?
The answer is incredibly simple, and one worth considering if you find yourself wrestling with whether or not to cut out a social media channel from your life.
While I’ve struggled with the time suck aspect in the past, I have always found deleting the app and accessing it strictly through the website a fairly effective way to deal with that issue.
What I could not seem to remedy, however, was the absolute crushing weight I felt every time I saw negative comments, arguments, words written in haste and recorded for posterity for however long this corner of the digital realm stands. Responses read to glean what grains could be used to plant the next rebuttal. Hackles raised, respect lowered. In a time where we have for the past year been more physically distant from the people around us than ever before, people spent more time than ever gathering online. And unfortunately, conflict = clicks and comments, and thusly, the algorithm favours it, intentionally or not. It’s way more likely to pop up in the stream than the cat video that everyone clicks “like” on and scrolls on past.
Peace doesn’t generate clicks, my friends. It doesn’t get as many comments. The algorithms aren’t programmed to enrich your life – they’re geared towards attracting your attention. Read more, read 472 other comments. Like, dislike. Tap, tap, tap. Every tap tells the algorithm that this is what keeps you engaged and scrolling past those ads.
I’m not suggesting the system is evil. The system makes sense bearing mind its goal to keep people scrolling and getting that good good ad revenue. Pay attention to what garners the most clicks, and show that to more people. Anything with 72 comments underneath it is going to keep making the rounds. Five years ago, this may have primarily been cute cat videos and articles about dry-drowning. Right now, it isn’t, and I am not personally in a place mentally where spending five minutes on facebook doesn’t leave me with a dark, roiling ball in the pit of my stomach.
I’ve been asked, but how is Instagram any different? I don’t necessarily have the answers. In my feed, personally, I don’t generally see more than two comments so if there’s arguments happening I generally miss them.
I don’t only follow people who have the same viewpoint as myself. I follow some people with views that I downright disagree with. Differing opinions isn’t what I’m talking about here; I’m talking about good ol’fashioned rolling in the mud, thinly veiled insults, blatant insults, accusations thrown, and responses typed like there’s an 8th grade teacher with a stopwatch and a paper blocking your view of your fingertips.
I don’t have a good answer as to why this works differently (for me, at least) on Instagram than on Facebook; all I can tell you is that I can go more than five minutes without seeing paragraphs of heated debate on one platform but not the other.
This blog post is not to suggest that you go forth and delete any of your social media, but to recommend that you pay attention to yourself when you log in and when you log out. If any social media platform makes you feel more negatively when you log off, consistently, it’s time to troubleshoot. For me, that troubleshooting looked like deleting my facebook account. It’s been at least a few weeks now since I went from primarily avoiding it to outright deactivating my account, and quite frankly, it’s been great. If you’re thinking about doing it, just do it. Don’t make an announcement; if you do, it will vanish when you deactivate your account anyways. If you think friends will be concerned, don’t worry… they either won’t notice at all, or they’ll touch base with you elsewhere.
Social media is like a dandelion, it can be a flower or a weed, depending on how you feel about where it’s sitting. If it’s not enriching your life, don’t let it leech a single thing out of your soil. Pull it out by the roots.