For the longest time, I’ve been avoiding Facebook.
I know there are plenty of people who love the app; I used to be one of them. But I’ve also had numerous unpleasant experiences with it. (These include being lied about behind my back, reported as spam because I told the truth about an ex, harassed by his family, and more).
Beyond that, Facebook is a massive time-sink. It’s purposely designed to be as catchy, appealing, and addictive as possible. It caters to individual social, economic, religious, and political tastes, to the exclusion of all others. It makes people more dependent on the opinion of others. It purports to increase empathy but often does exactly the opposite. It acts as a repository for questionable behavior, which may come back to haunt you at a later date — especially if an employer finds out. It fosters hate speech and bigotry, not because tech companies are racist/sexist/homophobic, but because hate is a great motivator to use the app.
Despite all of that, it’s also the dominant mode of keeping in touch with friends and family in our culture. And since I prefer not to live in a bubble of self-imposed isolation, I’ve been rethinking my Facebook policy. To that end, I decided to start using it again — literally yesterday — even though the very thought of it made me unhappy.
Then today I tried to log onto Facebook on my laptop. (Yes, I’m that old.) But when I got to the homepage, all I saw was nothing. Immediately I reloaded the page a few times, thinking there might be an issue with my ISP. But that did nothing. So I did a search for “Facebook down” and — lo and behold — I ended up with a boatload of search results.
As it turned out, there was some kind of internal DNS error at Facebook today. (That’s the official story at least. There’s also the possibility of insider sabotage.) This caused an error in the routing between computer and IP address, not only for me but for billions of people.
Fortunately I hadn’t been a Facebook user for the longest time, so I didn’t feel much of an effect. But it got me to thinking. How much time do people waste on Facebook every day because of their codependence? (Let’s face it, addiction is a more accurate term.) How often is the world painted to be a more threatening place than it is because of misinformation from unscrupulous third parties? And how often do people lash out or implode because of stress due to unrealistic expectations fostered by social media in general and Facebook in particular?
I don’t have all the answers for those questions. But they’re worth thinking about.
In the meantime, we should all be working to reduce the pernicious effects of Facebook in particular and social media in general. Limiting daily use, turning off notifications, setting phone to vibrate, or even deleting the app altogether are all things that can be done on an individual basis and may be helpful in some cases.
Beyond that, however, we need to be leveraging collective action to stop tech companies from taking our data, wasting our time, and pitting us against each other. We need to lobby our representatives to draft legislation that treats tech companies like Facebook as monopolies and then breaks them up accordingly. We need to create and support grassroots organizations that oppose the combined weight of social media in our lives.
Last but not least, we should be getting outside, enjoying nature, and reminding ourselves that the real world can never be contained within a box or device. It can only be experienced firsthand, in the flesh, with a mind and heart open to new possibilities.
So what are you waiting for?