• 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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  • Life

    Fan Pages For Their Kids

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    I’m noticing a weird trend on Facebook lately. At least, I think it’s weird. Maybe it’s just because my kids are older. It’s hard to be sure. But more and more over the last year or so, I’m seeing parents make fan pages for their kids.

    Weird, right?

    In 2020, maybe because of COVID, this seems to have taken off. If a kid has a favourite sport or hobby, something they spend a lot of time doing, then apparently there needs to be a fan page.

    This is done, clearly, because we all want to follow the primary hobby of every kid of every adult we know.

    Or maybe it’s so that there will be a specific record of the early days of a future world class tennis player, golfer, painter, pianist, or whatever.

    Probably, it’s both.

    And I don’t really get it.

    Yes, my kids are older, with the youngest approaching legal adulthood, but I don’t understand this parental quest for childhood micro-celebrity, often before the kids are even into double digits in age.

    I love my kids. They are amazing and incredible individuals. But you’ll notice I don’t post a whole lot about them and I never have. I don’t want to feed them into the machine that puts value on what people do by counting likes and reactions on social media posts. If one of them wants to be famous for something, I’ll do whatever I can to promote and help them. The same is true if they want to start a business or a charity or play a sport or have an artistic career.

    I want them to succeed. More importantly, I want them to find things that they love to do and to feel good and right about doing, regardless of social media thumbs up.

    Because, when it comes down to it, that kind of validation is mostly transient and irrelevant. How many likes you get on a post is essentially meaningless. Yes, they’re nice. Yes, sometimes they’re an indicator of whether or not your message, if you have one is reaching anyone. Sometimes they’re even a guide as to conversations you could be having. But they’re not really validation of anything by themselves.

    I like people to post what their kids are up to now and again. It’s nice to be able to see if they’re having a good childhood even in the midst of the global semi-apocalypse we’ve got going on. But I honestly don’t see the need for a parent-generated fan page for any one kid and their favourite activity unless it’s a private one for family and really close friends. Even then, is that really what’s needed? Post a picture now and then.

    But I’m getting a couple of invites per month. And sometimes those are repeat invites, which means the parent is just sending that invite to everyone on their Facebook friends list who hasn’t already liked the page. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to get me interested in what their kid is doing if I’m not already at least peripherally part of their life.

    You love your kids and are proud of them. I get it. I feel the same way about mine. We’re both right. But not necessarily for each other.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    Social Media Break

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    So, let’s start with one thing: I like social media as a concept. I loved Twitter for a long time, gradually falling away from it as it filled up with bots and closed-minded arguments. At different times, I’ve enjoyed half a dozen other services to varying degrees, but lately, I’ve found Facebook is travelling a similar route that caused me to more or less abandon Twitter.

    I haven’t exactly abandoned Facebook, and I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. It’s an important point of social contact for people to find me, I’m a member of a couple of closed groups that are very important to the martial arts part of my life, and several close friends and family members use messenger.

    But I can absolutely work to limit my time on the service and use that time for things I value more. Not that sharing funny memes and getting into sociopolitical arguments with strangers isn’t fun, but is it the right use of my time, the most limited currency I have?

    Much as the marketing folks at FB would weep to hear me say it, it’s not.

    I logged into FB tonight for the first time since Boxing Day. And I haven’t really been missing it. Probably because I’ve been filling that time with writing and reading.

    A little more time was needed than I might have liked to catch up. My birthday was in there and I had a number of messages to reply to. I’d also missed a couple of other people’s birthdays, so had to take care of that. Then I needed to catch up on a couple of posts in a closed group. I spent about five minutes scrolling and shared one meme.

    That’s all.

    I had a blog post to write, mushrooms to marinate, and a book to continue reading. And I’m good with all of that taking priority.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    Easing Back on Social Networking

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby featherSo I think I spend too much time on social networking.

    And, let’s be honest, most of that is on Facebook lately. I still enjoy Twitter, but I treat that primarily as an information source. I lurk a lot because I find it too difficult to have a nuanced discussion or argument with somebody 140 280 characters at a time. Facebook allows me more than just a snarky comment.

    I have an Instagram account, which gets a few photos here and there. Most of those are of my dog or my cats, sometimes of something I’ve seen outside somewhere. It’s not exciting, but it entertains me.

    I have a LinkedIn account which I didn’t touch for about four years, but I’ve recently decided to start updating a little bit. I started a few weeks ago, making the decision to update my work history. I haven’t gotten much farther.

    But Facebook, much as I enjoy it, is a time sink, and a lot of the time sunk into it really serves no purpose.

    It’s a great point of social contact, the daily reminders of people’s birthdays are nice, and the system lets you keep in touch with people without all that pesky phone conversation or letter writing, and makes sure you can never completely lose touch with old friends, so long as they’re on Facebook, too.

    But it’s very, very easy to get lost in the infinite scroll of cat photos and other memes, pseudo-articles and not-quite-advertising, pictures of places you’ll never go, and gross stupidity.

    Let’s be honest, you don’t really care what I had for breakfast. (In case you do, it was toast. It’s always toast.) Probably, you don’t much care what I did last night unless it was particularly interesting. I’m not going to answer any of your game requests and I will not like and share, nor will I copy and paste, and I will absolutely, positively not type amen. I may laugh if you post something I find funny, cry if it’s something worthy of tears, and like some of the accomplishments you put in your highlight reel.

    But there’s too much.

    Apparently, I have something close to 400 friends on Facebook. I don’t feel like I ever see posts from some of them, and there are people I’m surprised when I do see something. And, yes, there are people who I’ve hidden because I can’t stand the stuff they do post and discussions are either fruitless or not worth my time in the first place. I’ve had some great discussions and arguments on Facebook. Occasionally, hearts and minds of change. That’s never the objective, but it’s cool when it happens on either side.

    It’s still too much. It takes too much of my time.

    Frankly, it’s interfering with my life goals. And I’ve got a lot of those. I have things I want to do, places I want to go, sights I want to see, a world to make a better place. A lot of what I do on social networking isn’t helping me work towards any one of those.

    But that’s on me, not you. I’m the one using too much of my time scrolling.

    There’s a meme about how someone can’t go to bed because someone is wrong on the internet.

    Lovingly borrowed from XKCD.com

    Surprise, someone is wrong on the internet. Someone is always wrong on the internet. But unless they’re endangering other people or deliberately lying to them, is it worth a response? Or is it better to leave people in their own echo chambers? I often consider that silence can be taken as implied assent or agreement, so I frequently respond with a quick google search or a link. Sometimes it’s even worthy of a discussion.

    But I need to consider my own time, too, and whether the audience is even there to begin with. If no one is responding, is it worth the time and energy? Isn’t it better to leave the echo chamber as it is?

    Right now, every article, every link, every post gets considered before I click on it, react to it, or comment. Will this improve my life or those around me? If I can’t come up with a compelling agreement, then maybe I should just move on, or stop scrolling altogether.

    I enjoy seeing what you’re up to, what you’re doing with your kids, what you just accomplished, the cool place or thing you just saw. I want to talk about philosophy or politics or religion or major events to keep my brain working, and sometimes to keep my blood warm.

    But it’s too much. It’s taking too much of my time.

    I’m not going to finish my current writing project sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get farther than playing the C-Major scale on my saxophone sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to hike to the top about Mount Fuji sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to go back to school for the degree I actually want sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get back into the appropriate shape to run a marathon or complete a triathlon sitting in front of Facebook.

    There’s an old cliché about how no one in their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work. The same can be said about social media.

    I’m around, just a little less, and only on the things I think are truly important, or to remind people I remember they exist and appreciate that. And maybe to bring you a feel or two.

    Things to do, places to go, people to see. I may even post about it. And I may react when you do. We have to live, to experience, to exist aside from just reacting.

    Be well, everyone.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather