Why I quit Facebook

This is yet another addition to a long list of existing blog posts about the reasons people are quitting Facebook. I've been off for only a couple of hours now, and I'm a little twitchy, and little freaked out about the whole thing. But I'm happy I've done this. It's something I've increasingly wanted to do for a while now.

People think it's strange that I, a digital media scholar and artist, have become so anti-Facebook, but it is in fact my engagement with digital media that has driven this decision. I'll do this in listicle fashion, because why not?

1) I've become kind of a junky.

There is some disagreement about whether Internet Addiction Disorder is a real thing or not, but I know that I check FB first thing in the morning, constantly throughout the day on my phone, and right before I go to bed. It's difficult for me to focus on writing or other tasks that require consistent focus and concentration for an extended period of time because I am constantly either checking FB or wanting to check it.

It does seem to be the case that the reward center of the brain is involved with our desire to constantly check in with social media. Each time you check FB, you actually get a hit of dopamine which adds to an addictive compulsion. The same part of the brain that is affected by drugs is affected here.

Here’s a link to an infographic that really spells this whole addiction thing out pretty clearly.

2) I feel like I'm losing my ability to focus and concentrate.

Like I mentioned above, I've noticed a distinct diminishment in my ability to concentrate. There seems to be a growing consensus that this is in fact happening. This is from Nicholas Carr's recent book The Shallows:

“[Patricia Greenfield] concluded that “every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others.” Our growing use of the Net and other screen-based technologies has led to the “widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills.” We can, for example, rotate objects in our minds better than we used to be able to. But our “new strengths in visual-spatial intelligence” go hand in hand with a weakening of our capacities for the kind of “deep processing” that underpins “mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.”

One can argue that perhaps this isn't bad, it's just different. N. Katherine Hayles talks about the ways in which humans develop along with technology, in her book How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. She argues (along with many others) that we are changing, at the neurological level, because of our relationship to technology, and one way to deal with these changes is to accept them – to allow the way we do what we do to change. She advocates, for example, embracing “hyper reading” that is, reading shallowly and across multiple texts, in addition to “close reading,” – you know what close reading is. I agree that this is necessary, but I also, based upon my own experience, agree with Carr, who says:

“In the quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book, people made their own associations, drew their own inferences and analogies, fostered their own ideas. They thought deeply as they read deeply.”

I feel myself losing the ability to read and focus attentively as hyper reading (hyper attention) becomes my default thinking mode.

3) We are all providing free labor to Facebook.

Every post you post, every item you like, every video you watch, every bit of personal information you add to your profile is Facebook labor. The company couldn’t function if you didn’t work for them. And many of us work hours every day for them. You are making the product that the company sells – you. You are the laborer who makes the product they sell, you are the product they sell (to advertisers) and you are the customer who buys what the advertisers sell. If I’m going to spend this much time working for a publicly traded company worth billions, I want to be paid for it.

4) People become terrible on Facebook.

Even people I really like. Everyone knows that people perform their selves on Facebook. Your profile and everything you do on the site is a performance for the benefit of your friends. The problem is, everyone starts to appear to lack so much nuance, so much of the beautiful complexity that makes them who they are, that they all seem like uninteresting creeps.

I remember, years ago, back when I was an actor, I realized that trying to make the audience like you was a sure strategy for failure. In order to really connect with another perosn, you need to be, not show.

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