Ideas & Short Essays
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Phazing Out Facebook

“I’m off the book,” says my friend Scott. We stand together on the porch of the Golden Saloon, drinking a few beers in the early evening. We’re a little buzzed, it’s a nice beer buzz without being completely swept away into intoxication.

“Off the book,” I repeat. I’d never heard it put quite like that.

“I like Facebook,” I say. “I really do. But I think I’m winding it down.”

I’m still connected to the Book, I tell Scott. My Facebook account is still active. I just haven’t been checking it very often. It’s gone from a daily scanning to a weekly review.

Jon-McCarthy 2016

McCarthy, Alaska 2016, outside the Golden Saloon http://mckinneymakesmedia.com/

When Facebook came onto the scene, I was an enthusiast. The platform was sort of a distillation of everything good and right that was happening on the Internet. It was everything that I was looking for, anyway, from a social media platform.

I cut my teeth on message board, like everyone else, in the late 90s and early 2000s. Message boards were standardized as a forum for discussion and debate, and they work pretty well for that purpose.

Then Myspace came onto the scene and suddenly a person could have their own individual blog-like creation, to tinker with as they chose. It was all still within one forum, though, so users could connect with each other to discuss and debate but still sort of personalize their little corner of the world.

At first I loved the personalization, but after a while, it just got messy and out of control. There was too much freedom, at least for folk like myself who lacked experience in graphic design. Myspace became too anarchistic to be really useful for dialog and discussion.

Facebook

Facebook: Not the final frontier

When Facebook came onto the scene, it sort of combined the best of a message board while providing the user their own personal space. The design was standardized but you could say what you want and post whatever pictures you wanted to post. And Facebook quickly exploded.

I loved it, and I even defended (and would still defend) the banal information that people share on social media. As I put it in this post: “From the little details we humans have always built stories, tales to entertain us and narratives to give us meaning and a sense of greater purpose in the world.” So, what we eat for breakfast might in truth be “trite” but it’s part of the story. As all good writers know, great stories can come from the most trite bits of information.

It was so good and yet got so fucked up by consumer capitalism that now, quite frankly, it’s working against us. And make no mistake, Facebook is seriously fucked up. It’s creepy. Think about it: Facebook is making its billions selling our intimate moments to the highest bidder. It’s a bit like prostitution, in my humble opinion.

Combine that with the fact that Facebook now controlls what kinds of information is displayed and when, which is a model that probably won’t last long in America. Whether right or left, conservative or liberal or nationalist or libertarian or socialist, we all value free speech. There aren’t many Americans who fancy letting a bunch of techies sit in their big square buildings in Silicon Valley determining the parameters of free speech.

Facebook

The Facebook phenomenon continues to fascinate me though. Facebook seems to me to be a clear example of what happens when wealth is centralized and everything is commodified. Eventually, commodification drains the joy out of life.

The interesting thing about Facebook is that it’s so easy to imagine alternatives. Building a business like McDonald’s, for example, required Ray Kroc to be a cut-throat capitalist, playing out all the angles to expand the franchise brand around the world. He even had to screw over the original McDonald brothers who were the true founders. But, once Kroc had built the franchise, it was would require decades to dethrone, and the McDonald’s corporation is still re-inventing itself and serving shitty food to billions. They can do this because they own physical property.

Facebook really only owns a software platform, so it’s easy to imagine alternatives

I discussed this a bit in my post, Regulate And Share The Wealth? I was prompted to write about Facebook, at that time, because even Chris Hughes, one of the group of plucky young Harvard students who founded Facebook was seeing the writing on the wall:

“One person’s data is worth little, but the collection of lots of people’s data is what fuels the insights that companies use to make more money or networks, like Facebook, that marketers are so attracted to…We have all pitched in to create a new commonwealth of information about ourselves that is bigger than any single participant, and we should all benefit from it….”

Exactly. Hughes articulates one of the key socialist maxims, even though Hughes is still a commited capitalist.

It’s not hard to imagine just taking over Facebook (and everything else), as I blogged about recently. Or one could simply develop a new, public version of Facebook run on democratic principles. It’s easy to imagine.

For the time being, I’m off the Book. There’s been an unexpected benefit: it’s freed up a good bit of time for blogging. Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed connecting more with fellow bloggers, and even though I’m cutting back on Facebook, I’m still finding that WordPress blogging fills the social media void.

Blogging also seems to be a space better suited for healthy discussion, imo. You get a lot of ranting and raving on Facebook. Anyone can say anything — just pound out all your frustrations and angst, send it all through the keyboard, then just hit the ENTER key, and BAM! You’ve become an Internet troll! Blogging tends to take a bit more time and a bit more expertise, so the quality of conversations tends to be a bit higher, at least in my observations.

So, I’m off the Book and back on the Blog. And maybe I should never have left. I can’t really say, but be that as it may, these are my adventures in virtual space, the final frontier.

8 Comments

  1. Right on! Facebook’s lack of privacy is why, in the main, I don’t use it. Also, yes, they have the ability to create the narrative they want users to hear. It’s not innocuous. Also, I found, too few people contributed content, but rather sat back and consumed my content. When they did contribute, it was stupid stuff, like, “who can name three cities that start with the letter A…” Please. I’ve not been on FB for years and years. However, I do have Instagram and now FB owns IG, so soon I will have to ween myself off of it too. The short story for me, I simply don’t trust FB and what they do with users data/information. Keep in mind it’s a “free” service and the company has a 32 BILLION dollar market cap, or some such shit. And you’re right, you have more time to develop your writing. Blogging takes some thought and writing is a process. Anybody can write, “Trump’s an ass!” and hit send. It takes more time and thought to articulate why Trump is an ass and I hold this opinion. Sadly, WordPress is not as popular because it does require reading and time, and not as many can hold attention to actually read a full blog post these days. So I write to the thinkers, those who can hold their attention, those who can read. Best of luck fully doing away with FB!

    Liked by 2 people

    • WordPress has improved, too, over the years, in terms of becoming more user-friendly to bloggers. They’ve learned a good bit from Facebook and other social media platforms. And I probably have, too, frankly. I think I’ve learned quite a bit about blogging via Facebook. So, in this new phase of blogging, I sort of approach it a little like I’m doing Facebook and a little like I’m blogging. It feels a bit like a hybrid experience for me, this go-round.

      WordPress has the smaller audience but it’s a far better experience, I think, all the way around.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Brother, I’m off the book too. I still have an account but I blew the app off my smart phone and don’t ever go on via the Web. I’m loving it. We are not the customer. Advertisers are. I’m also exploring alternatives to Google. They are just as bad or perhaps even worse.

    This is spot on: “Think about it: Facebook is making its billions selling our intimate moments to the highest bidder. It’s a bit like prostitution, in my humble opinion.”

    Be blessed!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My experience with Facebook was brief.

    It became popular with friends and family when I was in the middle of my divorce. I had skpped the Myspace thingy, actually, but I was blogging previous to that. However, I unloaded all my blogs then and just went into survival mode for a while.

    I had a couple friends who seemed insistent that I get on dating sites, and I gave the idea about 3 days worth of try. But I quickly got out of it too.

    But then all my family and friends were connecting on Facebook and urging me to do it. But I went back to school at that time too, and my instructors and career counselors were all saying CAUTION because no matter whether you say Republican or Democrat in some casual conversation, you will offend your boss or potential employer and it can just get waaaaaay too costly waaaaaay too easily.

    But I got on for a few months… maybe 6 or 9 months. I reconnected with old highschool friends. And we had a time for a few weeks, but then all kind of discovered how after the quick burst of excitement of being reunited, there wasn’t much more to say… and all this powerful chance to really be involved with each other just wasn’t doing much really. And then I embarrassed myself and liked somebody’s marijuana joke and found my life facing risk with clients and so forth, and it all seemed way too… not worth it.

    So I got off the Fb.

    I blogged a couple other blogs for a while since, but really didn’t have the enthusiasm for that either, really. But at the urging of a couple key friends I got back into it with the whole AGENT X pseudonym thing and devoted it to homeless/church stuff.

    I was publishing my own little street rag and distributing it to the homeless directly for a couple years. It had me in touch more with THEM at the time. Cost me a lot of time and money down at Kinkos, but I was enjoying it. And then I got a few volunteers who started doing all this covert op type guerilla pusblishing where we were sneaking the Fat Beggars rag into churches and planting them in songbooks, in collection plates, in bathroom stalls (in churches, bars, Walmart, bus stations etc), and then canvasing church parking lots with it, also sneaking them into 12 paks of beer I the liquor store (I can only imagine showing up at a beer bust with your buddies down at the lake and opening up your Dos XX and finding some religion and politics to talk about with your drunk friends). Anyway, I think you get the idea. It was circulating all the underground channels, most of which you could not trace back.

    However, I picked up a hitch hiking bum one day in a rain storm and after talking a few minutes he figured out who I was and started reciting some of the articles I had written to me! I knew it was connecting then.

    Now the blog attracts almost no homeless people and I have feedback from them like 3 times in three years. I appreciate the connections I have (you being one), but I really miss the action on the streets. However now my house is full of foster babies, and I have no spare money or time for the streets. This is almost my whole connection now, and it largely misses the core people I most want to connect with.

    But at least I get to say my mind, I guess…

    Anyway, that’s my Facebook experience.

    I certainly have lots of thoughts about all the data sales and breaches etc that have come to light in the news the last year or two. And it just compounds my reason for letting it all go.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very cool. I’d love to get together in person sometime and chat more about those street stories.

      You said: “But I went back to school at that time too, and my instructors and career counselors were all saying CAUTION because no matter whether you say Republican or Democrat in some casual conversation, you will offend your boss or potential employer and it can just get waaaaaay too costly waaaaaay too easily….”

      I’ve had sort of an opposite experience. My boss and I have always gone back and forth on politics: he’s a libertarian/AynRand capitalist enthusiast, and obviously I’m kinda the opposite. But this winter, my boss started really going at it with me on Facebook, and we had these really long debates on capitalism and socialism, debates that got really heated. Somehow we can have these intense discussion and it doesn’t hurt our professional relationship. Maybe it’s an Alaskan thing. I don’t know. Several people in our Alaskan bush community seemed to really enjoy following those discussions, so it turned out to be a really good exchange. I don’t imagine that such a thing is really very likely, though, for most of the rest of America.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah… would enjoy getting together in person, no doubt. And street stories? Yeah… I got’m.

        Glad to hear you had opposite experience with your boss.

        Your story there reminds me of my best college buddy. He was from Ukraine, Jewish heritage, at least in part, and immigrant who managed to stay here. Most of my best friends in college were foreign (African mostly), and even though I never traveled, I got a taste of the wide world through all that experience.

        So anyway, my buddy, the Ruskie, loved to argue. And apparently I did too. We would get ruthless at the drop of a hat over nearly anything. We took a lot of classes together and hijacked more than a few lectures with our arguments. Somehow all the disagreement translated into deep respect and enjoyment of one another, and there is no doubt that we shared opinions of a handful of foundational values and so forth too.

        We both attempted to get into law school, dreaming of litigation. Both of us failed our first attempt at the LSAT. However, I failed my second attempt too. He on the other hand, went on to Duke and now he is a big shot attorney in Cali and way too busy to argue with me anymore. So we don’t talk anymore. But I figure your experience and mine in that argument regard maybe two of a kind – a rare kind.

        X

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi, I am not on fb anymore, I do have Instagram set up mainly for sharing travel pics with family and ex work people, so wordpress is really my real social media. My husband recently joined MeWe which sounds like an ethical version of fb with lots of interesting sounding groups. I might try that, but really I have to protect my time for writing, there’s only so much time I can stand typing and looking at a screen, and anything on the internet can get very distracting very easily, from BBC news to cat videos on YouTube…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I hear that. I’m always looking for ways to reduce my screen time. My summer work is lots of screen time and writing is lots of screen time, so it’s an ongoing battle.

      I’ve recently started doing more writing with pen and paper. And I think not posting on Facebook helps a good bit. Being on WordPress feels a bit more healthy for the soul than Facebook. People here tend to be a bit more grounded. Thanks for being one of those people!

      Liked by 1 person

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