Just thought I’d jump in with a couple reflections as I unplugged from Facebook almost 2 months ago now. My primary reasons for unplugging are somewhat different from the primary concerns here but they also tie in in some ways.
I had been a pretty avid facebook user for the last eight years or so and I had developed a nice little following and set of online friends and networks. I’m a writer and content creator, so it also really helped with getting the word out on my work. I can’t deny that facebook really helped me spread my own work further, and that I also had some great discussions and debates on that forum over the years and that those discussions and debates shaped and even sometimes changed my views on certain important topics.
But now that I have been off facebook for almost 2 months, I’m convinced that most of the connections I felt I had through that sphere were mostly ethereal and lacked substance in the deepest sense. That is also fine, btw. Sometimes online spaces are just good for more superficial discussion//debate or getting the word out on things. But I’m really starting to see that I put too much stock into some of those relationships, and that they became a substitute for closer connections in my immediate life, which I’m now spending a lot more time on.
I have definitely noticed that not having my personal page up now that I get less views on my youtube videos, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the trade off was worth it. At least at this point in my life. Going off fb also coincided with a larger decision to shift the focus of my career goals, so leaving fit with other life pursuits
One of my main concerns with online spaces like facebook is that I think they feed a sense that if you aren’t on them, you are missing out on all the action. I felt a lot of that fear when I was chosing to go off. I’m not a gullible person, but this had a huge impact on me. I didn’t want to miss the latest hot topic of discussion, the latest baby photo from a person I have no real connection to anyways, the recent drama or gossip about this or that politician. There was something so subtly ensnaring about the whole thing and about feeling like you would “drop out of the world” if you weren’t part of it. Since going off, I realize how stupid that thinking was. I don’t feel any less connected to what is going on in the world, and in fact I spend more time reading books and deep op ed pieces now that I’m spending less time on facebook.
The other concern I have about facebook is one that has been talked about by some others and that is that sharing articles, and talking about issues on facebook, often becomes a substitute for real action in the world. You share or like an article on Syria and feel you have done your civic duty. It’s a subtle thing but I think very deep. I noticed some of this even in myself after going off the thing and seeing some of those disconnects more clearly.
So it’s been an interesting and instructive experience. I won’t say whether facebook is ultimately bad or good for the world. That is too big of a question for little me to answer. I can say the tremendous benefits I’ve felt taking down my personal page (I still have a public page for uploading my youttube videos but no access to the fb stream and I spend at most 30 mins a week on the thing at this point just to upload videos and respond to a few comments on my public page videos).
All in all, I feel it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. But again, it came at a time in my life when I was really ready and moving in a certain direction. I can’t say when is the best timing for others.
Just my 2 cents