Signal : Noise

Two weeks ago, I deleted my Facebook account.

It was a decision made slowly. It wasn’t a reaction to the Cambridge Analytica thing, but watching Facebook fumble their way through the damage control on that was certainly an aggravating factor in the decision. Facebook is an advertising platform, and its users are the product.

This is not to say that the service is useless. Far from it. Facebook enables communication, commerce, and surreptitious stalking of one’s ex-partners in ways previously unforeseen. It’s an effortless way to stay in touch with a thousand of your nearest and dearest. As Facebook will eagerly remind you, the service connects people, and connection is important. Right?

I say, “yes and no.”

Conscious, deliberate, and intentional connection is important. It’s how we relate to the world, and how we get data about who we are as people. It helps us feel less alone in the big, scary world. (Yes, the world is big and scary, even when you’re in your thirties. The monsters under the bed just have different names now.) Broadening and reinforcing your social circle can be helpful.

Passive and unintentional connection — the kind you get when you’re friending people you don’t really know — is less so. It’s clutter, and it’s noise. I don’t think it really serves anything, and the bandwidth required for even the most passive connections (accept friend request, unfollow “friend”) became more than I cared to spend, and that was before I factored in the endless noise of advertisements, or people reposting intellectually lazy jokes and slacktivist memes.

Time and energy are finite resources. I find I’m happier when I’m conscious of how I spend each and deliberate in how I choose to spend them. I’ve definitely caught myself glancing down at my phone when I’m bored, or when I’m lonely, to fill the empty moments with anything, even if it’s the intellectual equivalent of gruel. It’s learned behavior now. Technology has enabled us to never have an empty moment. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but I’m heavily skeptical.

While I’m glad to have muted the background din of Facebook, I am consciously aware of not being able to see what my friends are up to at any given moment. I still think connection is important, and I still want to connect with people. I simply want to do it my own way, and without an army of advertisers analyzing every interaction I have with the service. How much of your privacy do you want to give away, and what do you ask for it in return?

Hence, this blog.

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