“I killed my Facebook page years ago because time clicking around is just dead time. Your brain isn’t resting and it isn’t doing. I think people have to get their heads around this thing. All this unmitigated input is hurting folks.” – Louis C.K.
It’s been over 2 years since I deleted (not deactivated, big difference) my Facebook account.
I had been a loyal and active member since 2006. I had posted thousands of photos, generated twice as many likes, had a business page for my photography, and met many, many incredible people from all over the place, some of whom I had never met in person until they let me crash on their couch when I visited their city. It seems a bit odd, considering all those connections, benefits, and likes, that I would just go ahead and make such a major decision like that.
So, what happened?
Facebook, when it started, was great. It was a simple news feed layout with status updates and the ability to upload and share photos — nothing more. Maybe there was a section where you could show us your favourite shows, music, and sports, but that was about it. It was fun, innocent, and a great way to keep in touch with old friends and family. Over the course of time Facebook began evolving, as most sites do — they began adding features like additional timeline content and games. Harmless stuff, other than those damn invites to join Farmville (I still hate you Farmville and I hope you burn in social media hell!). Even at that point, it was still a place to see what people were up to. Eventually I started spending too much time endlessly browsing my news feed and becoming more and more bothered about what I was reading. It was a sensory overload of everything you could imagine. People were fighting over nothing. Trolls were out spreading incredibly hurtful comments. People were using their high friend count as a way to push their opinions on others. I was seeing some very negative content coming from people who I had thought were genuinely kind. It was coming from all directions and it was too much to take. I tried the Facebook friend cleanse and deleted well into the hundreds. That seemed fine, but eventually I started blocking others who posted annoying posts/shares — I didn’t want to delete them, because well, a few of them were family, but their posts bothered me. It got to the point where logging in just wasn’t fun anymore, so I decided to pull the plug.
Imagine you’re sitting in a nice coffee shop. You have your hot beverage in one hand, a good book in the other, and suddenly, someone you may or may not know walks up to your table and shouts something like, “Trudeau is going to ruin our economy, IMHO!” or “All Muslims are terrorists!” directly at you. Now imagine being surrounded by more and more people standing around you and shouting random opinions. For me, that’s what Facebook felt like — a barrage of opinions that I never asked to hear in the first place from people that I only kind of knew. I added you as a Facebook friend to look at cool photos; I didn’t subscribe to your two cents on Syrian refugees or why gay marriage is right/wrong. It used to be said that if someone wanted the opinion of another, they would ask for it. Well, on Facebook, everyone seems to say “screw that, here’s my G*d d**n opinion whether you like it or not!”.
And the Award for Best Dramatic Facebook Post goes to…
Mary J. Blige once sang, “No more pain, no more drama” and it was a popular song, but oh how quickly we forget. Let’s face it, being a drama queen/king is the new car crash.
It’s horrible, but it gets 100% of our attention when we see it or hear it. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing famous sisters get into verbally abusive matches on TV over anything and everything. The same, you could say, happens in our social media lives. Some people use Facebook as a soapbox platform to say what’s on their mind, others use it as a passive-aggressive way to call out someone over something that may or may not have happened and, frankly, we don’t need to know about. It wasn’t very often that I did see it in my timeline, but when I did — stand back and give this person room — they’re about to blow and so is everything else in a 10 block radius. Most often, it was someone who was making a shout out to “all the haters” because of a certain lifestyle choice, or defending a deadbeat boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife that nobody liked. This, of course, would result in a long feud over something that would best be taken care of in private quarters between the people who are directly involved, but no, let’s take this shouting match out into the open. My life is miserable, so I’m taking you all with me. Now friends are involved. Family is involved. Grandma came back from the dead to chime in. Even Rex the neighbourhood dog is throwing in his kibbles and bits. The only person who seems to be left out of the conversation, oddly enough, is Jerry Springer.
Have you ever crossed one of these statuses? “I just donated blood today. What did you do?” This person here is obviously quite proud of the task that they just took upon themselves and felt the need to share it with the masses, but really, why the passive-aggressive approach? Will you be donating tomorrow? The day after? Next week? Not likely, so why am I being subjected to your guilt trip just because you chose to do something nice for once? How about instead of coming across as a condescending d***he bag, try writing this instead, “Today I went down to my local blood bank and donated some blood”. Nothing more and nothing less. I get the point and I feel good for you.
No Element of Surprise
I’ve been listening to a few podcasts as of late, mostly WTF with Marc Maron. I recently listened to his interview with American filmmaker Harmony Korine, the enfant-terrible behind the controversial 1995 film, Kids. It was a groundbreaking film about teenagers running wild in New York City, stealing, abusing hard drugs/alcohol and deflowering virgins along the way. The reckless and sexually active main character, Telly, is HIV positive and unaware of his condition. Early on in the film a young girl is told by a doctor that she has contacted AIDS after she had sex with Telly — her first and only sexual encounter. Now she is on a mission to find him and let him know before his next sexual conquest. Korine stated that the film could not have been made today because there would be no sense of mystery; today, her character would have simply texted or Facebooked Telly and told him the horrifying news. That would have been it, end of the movie. Go home.
Now, gone are the days of bumping into an old friend at the supermarket or video store (remember those?) and standing there for what seems to be hours — talking, reminiscing and discovering all of the new and exciting things they’ve done since you last crossed paths. Everything is now happening in real time in our newsfeed and it ruins any element of surprise. Nothing is a mystery anymore, not even committing crimes. I recently heard a story on the local radio: two men robbed two young ladies in downtown L.A.. One of the robbers thought one of the girls he was robbing was cute, so he asked for a selfie and tagged her in the photo. The cops had them in less than 10 minutes. On the other hand, if we can bait more criminals using Facebook, I’m all for it.
Social Media Context is the Worst Context
There’s a great sketch on Key & Peele in which two men are texting plans back and forth to each other. One guy is super chill and laid back in his texts, meanwhile, his uptight friend begins to take the texts out of context — he becomes aggressive in returning his texts, while his friend maintains his chill persona.
I laughed, but it also reminded me of so many instances that I had experienced personally or someone I knew had experienced. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’d scrolled down my feed only to stumble across a seemingly-average post, only to see what a sh*t-storm of a debate it’s stirred. Breezing through the comments it’s clear that those who are responding have completely taken the original post out of context and now it’s just a battle of words. No matter how many times the original poster tries explaining the context of their original posting, people just can’t seem to grasp what words are being said to them. It’s as if they just browsed through their news feed hoping to find something to get offended by and get into a fight over. Soon enough, more people have chimed in and everyone has forgotten what they were even talking about in the first place.
A Sense of Pointless Urgency
A couple of years back, I had the privilege of shooting portraits of the speakers who would be speaking at TEDx in Victoria. One of those speakers was Mike Vardy, the host of the popular podcast, Beyond The To-Do List. He’s a professional speaker who shares how to balance both life and work in today’s rapid economy. After I had my 10 minute portrait session with him, he stuck around and we had a great conversation about freelance work, time management and most memorably, letting your clients know that your time is your time. The gist of it was, messages can wait and, of course, use your own discretion when it comes to responding to an e-mail or a text. Some messages are obviously important — deadlines, emergencies, etc. But there are times in the day, when your life takes priority and you can set messages aside. Business was done like this 5 years ago. It was done like this 20 years ago.
This brings me to my final disliked feature on Facebook — the feature that allows someone to see that you had opened and read a private message that they had sent you. This is something that had got me in trouble in the past more than once. I’m out with friends, at a movie, in line at the bank, or some other errand and I get a message notification. I quickly open it to see what the message is, then I set it aside because I’m busy or on the go or I’ve simply left a wi-fi hot spot. I always plan to get back to that person, but you know what? Life happens and I can’t always respond. Now I get a follow-up message, “I know you’ve seen this message! Why aren’t you writing back??”
Now on top of having to respond to this person, there is an obligation to explain my delayed response and an apology. This begs the question, why did Facebook even feel the need to make this a feature? Are we so vain that we need some kind of confirmation that our pathetic little letter has been at least acknowledged? If anything, the feature will only cause anxiety in some people — “Oh my God, they read it! Why aren’t they writing back??” Imagine having to put words onto paper, seal it inside of some more paper, scribble their address on it and give it over to a complete stranger to hand deliver to the person you’re writing it to. Oh, wait! We did that, and none of us lost any sleep over whether they got it or not. Unless of course, it contained a lot of money or incriminating photos.
Life After Facebook
All of the above could have been avoided. Yeah, I agree, I could have been a little more diligent in filtering out the negativity and focusing on what was actually beneficial. But, when it comes down to it, if you hit a point where you’re constantly having to delete or block posts because they affect you or you see them affect someone else in a negative way, then what’s the point? Maintaining my news feed was a chore and I didn’t feel the need to continue to maintain it anymore. Since deleting Facebook, I have to say it’s been great. Really, really great in fact. When I see people that I haven’t seen in awhile, guess what? We have a long conversation because I have no idea what they’ve been up to. I don’t spend hours scrolling through a newsfeed riddled with fights, negative comments or those god-awful cute pictures with inspirational quotes.
In the 4 years that I’ve been on Instagram, I’ve probably only seen one post that created a fair bit of debate and even then, it was very, very petty. I think of Instagram as a pocket-sized art gallery. I choose the people I follow very carefully and I make sure they’re not posting anything negative and don’t use it as a place to voice their unwarranted opinions. Just people who enjoy photography and want to build a positive community of like-minded artists.
A good friend of mine would pester me constantly into signing up for Snapchat. I resisted because, in my mind, Snapchat was only for horny teenagers sending nudes of themselves. Ultimately, I caved. Since then, I’ve discovered it’s a far superior social media platform to not only Facebook, but also Twitter. There are zero time-lines and absolutely no annoying invites to play lame games. Just an occasional update with a photo or video attached of what it is they’ve done — and then, it’s gone. I can even watch really amazing short clips and read fascinating articles from Vice, CNN, Mashable, and National Geographic. I even get updates on sporting events and see clips filmed by people in the crowd! All of this and I’m not subjected to any pointless debates. No negative or hurtful comments. No urgency to write back. It’s brilliant.
And on top of that, I can also send nudes.
CASEY BENNETT is a human being currently residing in British Columbia. He has a beard. He works as a freelance designer and as a photographer, shooting with an old ancient medium called film. You can see his photography work here. Contrary to popular belief, he does not have Facebook.