Why I’m becoming anti-social

I deactivated my Facebook account a couple of months ago and yesterday I deactivated messenger and Instagram. I’m still on Twitter for the time being, because I have a particular need for it, but I’m hoping to be able to ditch that as well by year’s end. I’m keeping LinkedIn for professional reasons, at least for now.

Despite being a fairly early adopter of a lot of technology, I was one of the last to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. I was skeptical of the service and wondered why anyone would voluntarily put that much personal information out there for people to see. But, feeling like I was missing out, I joined. And was immediately sucked in. I posted pictures and statuses, hoping for the red like button to illuminate. I won’t say I was addicted by any clinical definition, because quitting wasn’t really that hard, but I was definitely a heavy user and loved getting the little hits of recognition (likes, comments).

After many years of indulging in various forms of social media, I came to realize that it was not having an overwhelming positive effect on my life. Indeed, I now believe that the positives did not outweigh the negatives.

So, here are some of the primary reasons, I decided to let go.

1 – It’s a time suck that prevents me from getting more meaningful things done. I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it, he makes the case that most of what we find useful about Social Media has legible ROI on our lives, and should be eliminated in favour of pursuing more worthy work (note: work doesn’t necessarily mean our employment. It could be a hobby, etc.). I also recommend his other books, particularly, *So Good They Can’t Ignore You*

2 – I’ve read some research that indicates were only meant to have a small number of close friends and despite the rise of social media, most of us only have 2 or so close friends. Social media gives us the illusion of being closer to others and knowing more about them, then maybe we really do. Long before social media came around, we lost the concept of an acquaintance. Merriam-Webster defines this as: a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend. We’re all supposed to be super friends, because we can share the most intimate (or close to it) parts of our lives online. It can be stressful to think you need to keep up with your feed, so you know what’s going on in other people lives. And, let’s face it, we all know social media is largely a lie. Or least, only a partial truth. We post the best of everything and rarely the worst. So, time to step away from it and get back to some reality.

Also, when I looked at my actually messaging, I realized that out of the 200-300 friends I have, I only message about 10 of them with any regularity. If I didn’t have their contact info, I sent them one last message asking for it. I can now phone, text, or email, when I feel I have something to say or ask, and not just because they pop up on my list and I think “Oh, I should message them, they’re online now”.

3 – I recently watched the movie Snowden and the documentary Citizen Four. Both recount the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden as he revealed the extent of the US Government’s surveillance programs. He also revealed details of the PRISM program, where it was revealed that the various spying agencies have virtually free access to the servers of multiple technology companies, including social media sites. So, my original unease with social media was correct, they really are watching us and more than perhaps we thought at first.

I’m not a paranoid person, I just believe in the rule of law and the concept of human rights. And while it is a common refrain to say, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”, I think that misses the point. The government has no moral right to our information without our informed consent. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing anything “wrong”, they shouldn’t be looking in the first place. (But, seriously, if you do nothing else, cover up your webcam).

Jesus had 12 apostles, not 300. We weren’t biologically designed to manage this level of relationship with as many people as social media would want us to. When I emailed my friends and told them, many of them expressed support and a desire to do the same thing. There’s something that keeps us there and I don’t think it’s healthy when it can be that hard for people to quit. FOMO is a real cultural phenomenon and should be heavily scrutinized.

I am aware that this has implication for this blog. I can’t just publish it to all the various for the world to see, but that’s okay. I write this for me and whoever finds it.

So, those are some of my primary reasons for ditching social media (or most of it). My friends are still my friends and we will still email or phone or meet in person or whatever. But, the world doesn’t need access to children’s photos, or my every thought (no one really cares). Plus, I’ve got this blog, so if you want to know what I think, just stay here and you’ll get more than 140 characters of thought. Hopefully, that’s more worth reading.

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