Entertainment,  Life

Facebook on My Phone

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Or rather, Facebook not on my phone.

I took it off a week ago yesterday, barrelling past the various, “are you sure” questions and the reminders that it would be really easy to activate again if I wanted to. Yes, I’m sure. No, I don’t want to change my mind. I don’t really care if it’s easy to activate again. Get it off. Gone. Removed.

And I’ve got to tell you, it’s done wonders for my mood.

I’m on record as saying that social media has potential to be awesome, a great engagement tool, something to keep us in contact with people easily and build relationships with.

I’m also on record as saying that I think it’s failing at a lot of these things. Maybe all of them. Remember the old adage that if you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product? It’s to a platform’s benefit to keep you scrolling as much as possible. You see more ads and are more likely to click on one, increasing the platform’s revenue. Tie that to being more likely to engage with things that make you angry, and the algorithms learn that showing you things that annoy you will keep you around longer.

And so the algorithms develop to foster more division and anger.

And I’m good, thanks.

Over the last few months, I’ve really noticed those algorithms at work. Pages I’ve liked or groups I’m a member of, the notifications that come up are the ones that would make me angriest or argumentative or most likely to want to call someone out about something offensive/ignorant/wrong and the comments it picks to display under each post as I’m scrolling seems targeted to do the same. The more I resist those, the worse it gets. Look! See what someone said! How can you let such blatant evil stand?

It works hard on us subconsciously and it works because, and here’s the problem, at some very small level of popularity, there’s always someone who wants to stop by and piss in the cornflakes just for the sake of pissing in the cornflakes.

Yes, there have been times I’ve enjoyed the care and feeding of internet trolls, but typically only to help them draw attention to what giant assholes they are. I don’t argue with the troll to convince them, because that’s almost always not possible and their goal isn’t to have a rational discussion anyway, it’s for the people who might be looking on. Sometimes, silence implies agreement.

But at this point in time, the people even peripherally connected to my friends of friends lists who fit into the category of troll have weeded themselves out. Oh, I’ve blocked a few, and unfriended a few, along the way, and I know I’ve been blocked by one and unfriended by at least two during the same time, but I’ve also seen changes in behaviour. Whether those were the result of interactions we’ve had or not is irrelevant. Even if I just planted a seed of doubt somewhere, I’m satisfied. Be reasonable, point out the behaviour, ask questions. The nature of social media means that there’s nearly always someone watching who isn’t the person you’re trying to have a discussion with.

But those tactics work less with people you don’t have an existing relationship with, random strangers in public online spaces. Trying to effectively engage with those is pointless most of the time. However, there’s another old adage: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” Thank you, Elie Wiesel. Meaning, when something is wrong, speak up. But that doesn’t mean you have to argue with the trolls.

And I’m tired of even seeing the trolls. They’re not adding to my social media experience. I’d suggest they’re not adding to anyone’s social media experience, even their own.

Oh, I could take the time to curate things, to beat FB into submission so that it provides the social media experience I actually want instead of the one it wants me to have, and I’ve done a bit of this. I’ve divested myself of most of the pages and groups where the whining and trolling makes up any significant fraction of the content, and I’ve done it quickly, quietly, and fairly close to scorched earth level. Given enough time and effort, I could actually be successful in the short term. But the algorithms are still at work. It’s still more valuable to the platform to make me angry than to make me happy. And sooner or later, FB will make tweak to increase stay time and that will make the algorithm work even harder.

What does all of this have to do with removing the FB app from my phone? Mostly, it’s providing background reasoning, but it also brings us to changing how I interact with the platform. More importantly, taking it off my phone affects when I interact with it. Now I need a computer to check on social media. No more hate scrolling while watching something, waiting for something, standing in line, killing time in the car during a family member’s appointment. Instead, I have to read or listen to a podcast or write or do something constructive or just be alone with my thoughts.

And all of that is doing wonders for my mood.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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