After a period of self-directed tough-love and personal introspection on the nature of happiness and the brevity of life, I decided that my Facebook feed had to die the True Death. There is the obvious reason why someone would want to cut back on his Facebook usage, namely that it is a perpetual black hole for one’s time and attention. Facebook is a productivity vacuum, and while that fact seems to be lost on millennials, it is clear to me that my fellow gen-Y and gen-X’ers are well aware of it.
However, I believe there are deeper and more troubling reasons why we should seek to eliminate or mitigate our use of mass-social media platforms like Facebook: namely, that Facebook is a dehumanizing, emasculating, left-liberal-politically-correct-groupthink-Orwellian-nightmare. Here’s why:
I was musing about Facebook with a close friend over a nice Thai food lunch. “You, know there’s something troubling about Facebook,” I said. “What’s that? He asked.”
“Well… it’s something very subtle. It creeps up on you. But before you know it, Facebook becomes your real life. It’s like if you didn’t post it, it didn’t happen. It’s like what Howard Beale said in the movie Network. Just replace his comments about television with Facebook, the fantasy is real life and your own life is somehow unreal. You find yourself constantly comparing what happens to you in your real life with Facebook… Facebook becomes your unconscious ‘mental basecamp’ of what your real life is.”
“Yeah exactly,” he said.
“I was at a party with some friends,” I told him, “and he had this really cute dog there, so I must have spend a few hours playing with the dog, dog-lover that I am. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking that it lacked some form of validity… it didn’t really happen until I somehow proved it to the world by posting a picture of it on Facebook. So I did, in the hopes that I would get ‘likes’ – but seeking likes is the same as seeking emotional validation from other people.”
A person who continually seeks emotional validation from others is called a codependent. Meaning, when we use Facebook and try to get “likes,” our sense of emotional validity is no longer our own, it no longer comes from inside us. Facebook is dehumanizing because, as in my personal example with the dog, enjoying the dog and my friends that were presently there wasn’t enough for me.
Experience can never be archived, preserved, or duplicated. Emotions cannot be conveyed digitally. On Facebook, we replace any true emotional connection with others in the form of “likes.” This is eerily reminiscent of Orwell’s system of Newspeak. “Double-plus good,” in Nineteen Eighty-four, was an attempt to quantify and roboticize the unquantifiability of man’s spiritual and emotional nature.
It’s hideously reductive.
Zero likes and my emotional experience was not validated. Two likes and I might feel a little more validated. Twenty likes and I am super-duper popular and allow myself to feel validated (as if I had to earn it). No machine can quantify the archaic, sensual, and deeply emotional nature of a human being, but somehow we find a system that attempts to do so comforting and relaxing. If we were to focus on the fleeting nature of life’s moments and savor them for what they are, this would be a frightening experience for us. Life’s emotions are personal and our moments are wholly unique and temporary – that’s being human, and that’s too frightening of a mystical and spiritual truth cope with, so we get to work documenting things and seeking emotional validation from the other prisoners of The Matrix.
It’s A Perpetual Left-Liberal Groupthink Tank
Another downside is that we see what our friends’ political beliefs and value systems look like. Social media: the home-turf of left-liberal and feminist mob psychology. Your friends can’t help but post and repost the latest left-leaning news article about feminism or the “scientific infallibility” of vaccine safety or global warming. Most people don’t think – they react and get angry. If you disagree, you might find yourself friendless, jobless or worse.
Just look at the case of the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer – a man who had his career destroyed and his reputation ruined because his hunting behavior offended a morally ruthless and self-righteous digital mob. Killing a lion (who was gifted with the anthropomorphic name “Cecil”) in an area where lions were not an endangered species launched an explosion of sentimentalist outrage.
I’m a libertarian in the strictest sense of the word, however if I wish to enjoy the company of other people, I have found it necessary to enjoy others for who they are, and find other points of common interest upon which to form an equitable relationship. This is especially true with my left-leaning family members. I think this is a fine stance to take – we might not agree on political or philosophical issues, but we can still enjoy each others’ companionship on a multitude of other levels.
My philosophy of “mutual respect on all matters political when with friends and family” is not always returned in-kind. At what was intended to be a nice outing for burgers and beer, a friend (let’s call him “Bob the Liberal”), flung himself in to the restaurant and squashed his body into our booth in a sullen fury, cell-phone in hand. He didn’t waste any time meeting or greeting the rest of us with smiles, hellos or small-talk.
“[Friend X] is a fucking psycho! He’s a fucking fucker! I can’t deal with psychos. I’m gonna fucking block him,” said Bob.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s my fucking friend [Friend X], he’s a former military guy. Figures. He’s saying it’s no big deal that Cecil the Lion got killed?! Look here.”
Bob thrusts his iPhone under my face. Bob’s “evil military friend,” whom I have dubbed [Friend X], wrote a comment on Facebook in response to a post about Cecil the Lion. He stated something that was similar to what I would have said, although he didn’t get the details quite right. Essentially, he said that if lion hunting were more legal, the conservation authorities would step up breeding to accommodate the demand and lion populations would increase.
Bob felt differently. He then pointed an accusatory finger at me, “EVEN YOU have got to agree with me on this one.” He took a moment to take a bite of a huge, greasy, medium-rare cheeseburger that he had ordered.
“You know, there are people who would tell you the same thing about the cow you indirectly killed to eat that burger,” I said.
“Oh they’re crazy. There are people who are crazy on both sides, obviously,” he responded. How conveniently the moral-absolutism of the left twists and slips about to suit one’s personal tastes. Facebook gives another wide-reaching platform for these logically inconsistent thoughts.
Now I’ve digressed from my initial point. Facebook is a forum that encourages us to act the part of Big Brother. Bob’s friendship with [Friend X] was probably a fruitful relationship, until every thought and sensibility that [Friend X] had was on display for everyone to see. Because Facebook is home-base for a left-leaning political correctness, [Friend X] risked being “un-friended” (that’s a bit newspeak-sounding, isn’t it?), “un-followed” or otherwise distanced by my other “friend.”
Did you say something in jest once that someone could have construed as “racist,” “misogynistic” or “insensitive?” Did #HeforShe make you feel undermined, targeted and downright icky as a man? Best to not say anything…
Perhaps Orwell was wrong about one thing. It is not that “Big Brother” is watching us, well the NSA certainly is in that capacity, but perhaps the bigger danger is the leftist-collectivist mob that are now empowered by technology and play the part of “Big Brother” on a communal basis, by calling-out and black-balling anybody that offends their tastes.
Facebook makes it difficult for you to tell who your friends really are because it forces us to judge people based on quantifiable data. [Friend X] who suggested that lion-hunting was a-ok has now blackballed himself as a “horrible person,” but in real life, he’s probably a great guy. The feelings that someone gives you can’t be transmitted via this medium, so we have only a digital resume, of sorts. Remember that your “Facebook friendship” is now the primary indicator of what your “real friendship” is. Real life is secondary in validity to your digital life, at least that’s the way Facebook would like it to be.
If the digital resume offends us, we might question our friendships – this might be a good thing or a bad thing, but I hate the idea that Facebook is driving these decisions instead of in-person, human-to-human interactions. It is obvious that Zuckerberg and the folks at Facebook are aware of this, and thus we have the function of “lists.” Here’s an example: You would like to validate your relationship with your wife by broadcasting a photo of you sharing a kiss with her while on your Alaskan cruise. The problem is that you don’t want your in-laws seeing the photo because you secretly hate them.
A super-smart usability expert over at Facebook managed to take note of this “user story” (that’s what they’re really called in the web industry) and implement a feature to take care if it: specialized posting lists. All you have to do is categorize your family as “family” (people you only share Christmas shit with), and friends as “close friends” (cool people who are just as addicted to FB as you are), and some “acquaintances” that you don’t want to insult by “un-friending” but otherwise don’t care if they lived or died.
As Facebook’s popularity rose to the point of becoming the digital home-base and validation-station for first-world life, Facebook users demanded that the digital platform be capable of managing the complexities of human interaction. Oops. Now the super-simple platform was growing more and more complicated by the day. “There are things that I want some people to see but not others.” “Oh fuck,” says the female college student, “I posted something to the wrong list and now my mom knows that I wore a slutty Halloween costume!” “Oh fuck,” says the skateboarder, “The cops read my post about trading a dime bag of weed for a hit of ecstasy in the park and they arrested me!”
Telescreens, anyone? Facebook knows your face. It picks you out in photographs you didn’t even take or post. It knows where you’ve been. It probably knows where you are at this moment. It’s fucking creepy. But hey, everybody’s doing it!
Due to the fact that you will have different types of relationships with people, you must commit a fair amount of your Matrix time to managing the Matrix itself, because the Matrix can cause real social and even legal consequences for you. It’s not a harmless toy anymore. Your real life is your Matrix life, and you work for it. The events of your life did not really happen unless they are archived in the Matrix. Your thoughts are continually referencing how and when and what experiences and emotions should be posted, boasted, vented and validated on the Matrix. The Matrix has you.
What would Conan the Barbarian do? I would imagine that he would take an axe to an iPad or two. Sheryl Sandberg made a video about how men need to do the dishes equally alongside women, and your Facebook feed made sure you saw it, or at least heard about it via in-stream ads and reposts. Gay marriage is federalized (yay, more federal control over relationships!) and your buddies start adding rainbow-colored filters to their selfie-pics. Are you a homophobic bigot for not jumping on the bandwagon? Did you fear that your friends might perceive you that way? Hillary is running for president, and it just so happens that you’re seeing lots and lots of propaganda about the “gender income inequality gap.”
Do your Facebook pseudo-friends know that this is a statistical red-herring, and that women do, (give or take about $1) earn as much as men in the same careers, but that women pick different careers than men? You might want to ask this in a Facebook post, but you might lose a few friends in the process, so pick your poison. Stick by your principles or sit by in frustrated passivity?
A Philosophy for the Use of Technology
Yes, I believe that Facebook is a blight to mankind and a festering stinkhole of nihilism and social decay. It is a bullhorn for propaganda and encourages leftist groupthink. Social media is used by governments and law enforcement personnel to help them spread propaganda and route-out dissenters and entrap those that commit victimless crimes.
Does Facebook have any redeeming qualities? I believe that it does. This brings me to my point about technology and its place in society in general. We are currently living in a period that I like to call Digital Fetishism. This basically means that we are tickled with ourselves over the many ways that digital gadgets are finding new ways to infect our lives for the sake of convenience. An anti-industrialist would say that, “technology is always bad.” A Digital Fetishist would say that “technology is always good.” Anti-industrialists see technology as too engrossing and dangerous, while digital fetishists are dismissive of that danger and enrapture themselves in the latest digital goodies without questioning technology’s worth or intrusiveness.
I have had a few friends that, sharing my dissatisfaction with Facebook, have deleted their accounts in heroic attempts to eradicate the blight and reclaim their flesh-and-blood lives. As soon as they do, they are met with the unintended consequences of digital-ostracism. In our culture today, we don’t call our friends one-by-one to invite them to a party, we create an event on Facebook. We don’t email so much anymore, we text or IM on Facebook. Facebook reminds us of when our friends’ birthdays are so that we don’t miss them.
Has society gone completely mad? Well yes, in some ways it has, but I can’t escape the fact that Facebook is a huge step forward when it comes to managing our social lives in the real world. It is a lot easier to create a Facebook event and invite everyone you know with a few clicks than call people one-by-one or send one of those annoying email chain letters. In this day and age, firing Facebook entirely is much like saying “I don’t believe in having a cell phone.” The cell phone does carry the risk of distraction, but it sure is convenient, and having one will do wonders for your social and dating life.
Our dance with technology is one of those cases where a balanced approach is the correct approach. Facebook is a double-edged sword: it has the power to be damaging and helpful all in the same package. The idea that we should recognize the inherent dangers of technology and moderate and manage its usage is a novel concept in an era of Digital Fetishism.
After reviewing the pros and cons of Facebook, we will see that the majority of problems that Facebook creates are centered around The Feed – let’s call it “TFF” (The Fucking Feed) – either you posting to IT or IT rubbing shit in your face that you’d rather not see. If not for the poisonously addicting and captivating effect of TFF, Facebook would be little more than an events-management tool, digital contact book and email system – which is precisely what we’re going to use it for.
Dealing with TFF strategy 1: “Control it”
Firstly I’d like to disclose to you that I tried this “kinder and gentler” method and it did not work for me. Essentially this “soft core” strategy is to focus your feed more toward the items of personal interest to you by unfollowing damn-near everybody, except for maybe one or two people: a spouse or significant other, perhaps. This leaves you to do interesting things with TFF, such as using it as a news source. The big problem with this “control the feed” method is that, due to how Facebook works, TFF is only partially under your control. FB injects annoying ads, trending news and other nonsense directly in to your feed, so it’s guaranteed to distract and upset you.
Dealing with TFF strategy 2: “Kill it”
The only way to ensure that Facebook works for you instead of against you is to kill TFF entirely. This will eliminate your desire to “check it” constantly to see what new things are going on, and get ensnared by an ad here or a “Bernie for President” news flash there.
Switch to Google Chrome as your primary browser and install one of these Feed-blocking extensions:
I installed the first one called “Kill News Feed.” Honestly, I don’t know how I lived without it, as it changes the entire character of Facebook and how I interact with it.
My home page now looks like this:
Awesome. Just awesome. Was it worth switching my entire browser for one silly Chrome extension? You bet your ass it was. I can’t imagine how many wasted hours I’ve spent “just checking” Facebook, which then turned in to full-on binges and arguments with my economically-illiterate friends.
Now, as a double-bonus challenge: delete the Facebook app from your phone or tablet. Unfortunately the mobile apps won’t accept extensions like the Chrome browser does, so the mobile apps will keep pushing the feed just as Facebook intended. Delete the apps. If you absolutely have to check FB on your phone, the mobile site works just fine. But what about checking events and addresses while on the go? Most calendars, such as iCal, allow you to add your FB events to your regular digital calendar, so your events and even your FB birthdays can appear on your regular calendar! How about that?
As a softer option, you could simply move the FB app to the last page on your phone or tablet app screens, so that it’s more difficult to get to. This also creates the sense that using the app is not a priority. You will find the temptation to zone out at the feed will have you back to your old ways in no time, so my advice is to eliminate any sources of pain that you can’t control – the apps need to go.
Now for some lifestyle adjustments: quit posting casual shit and come back to life – unless it’s a page that you manage for a cause you believe in. Take my buddy’s approach and accept the fleeting, impermanent, Zen-like nature of life. Feel the good emotions of enjoying life in the present moment and let that be your own validation. Tell people about what’s going on in your life when you see them in person – it creates great conversation by adding a bit of mystery to your social interactions. Increase the quality and usefulness of your political opinions by writing a blog article, switching your efforts to a Facebook page for a cause or business, making a short film or giving a speech about a topic you care about to an interested audience, as opposed to contradicting and beating up on your friends (or getting beat up by them).
Why do I contradict myself about Facebook pages? Because Facebook can be just another outlet to get an audience for your own thoughts, creations and ideas – and that’s a positive use of the medium. What I’m trying to do away with is our need to validate our daily lives by posting what we did or ate on Facebook – to learn to connect with our emotions and love life instead of tallying up double-plus-good “likes.” As Alex Jones says (referring directly to social media), “sometimes you have to go in to The Matrix to get people out of The Matrix.”
Make sure The Matrix works for you!
The Subtle, Critical Difference
How has my experience with Facebook changed? My friends are still there. I can still see their feeds and what they’re posting. The critical difference is that I must seek out this information manually, and I do so when I choose to. This flips the equation of how FB is designed to operate: the information gathering process is a conscious, active choice, versus a “passive-forced-feeding” that contains all sorts of useless information. I still like and follow pages for products and Libertarian news sources that I like, and I check those sources when I want to. The “globe” icon counter lets me know when events have changed or when I’m invited to something, which is exactly what I want to focus on. Also, my Facebook home page is no longer what is bookmarked, but my events page. Bookmark this instead: https://www.facebook.com/events/upcoming?action_history=null
The next time you’re out with friends or family, keep your phone in your pocket and emotionally connect with other people. Take your time and taste the food instead of documenting it for the people who aren’t there. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you rescue your manhood from The Matrix.