I’ve grown increasing concerned over the way big social media networks have been manipulating large swaths of the population. Many of them compete with, and are actively aggressive to, smaller independent platforms. I rarely ventured onto the large platforms except to promote my own material. Yet, the growing audacity of these networks and their blatant manipulations of human thought and perception, has led me to the point where I feel I can no longer ethically use them. I decided that even using them passively for promotion was no longer morally acceptable. In February of 2021, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’ve potentially cut myself off from a large number of acquaintances I’ve know throughout my life, yet I’ve always had my own presence on the web which I control and promote. The people who truly matter, will always be able to find me.
Back in the late-2000s, I was having lunch with some friends who were discussing a comment I had written on Facebook. One mentioned that I was now on Facebook. The other responded that I had been on Facebook for years, to which the first said, “but now he’s actually commenting and posting stuff. Welcome to Facebook.”
I never liked MySpace, Facebook or what would eventually grow to be known as social media. I’ve had various websites for much longer than any social media accounts. When I was younger, I even had a friend tell me that my personal website was on the list of sites he visited daily. Long form posts began to die around the time people started deleting their LiveJournals, as many found their public entries to be too personal for the world.
I spent the past decade of my life living in many different cities around the world. Over the course of four years, I literally, yet slowly, circumnavigated the planet. There were a lot of people I’ve met and befriended who I could only contact via Facebook Messenger. Losing contact with people I’ve met on my journeys, as well as people from my hometown, was one of the reasons I was hesitant to delete Facebook entirely. It was one of the limited use cases I still had for the service.
Focus on everything better today
All that I needed I never could say
Hold on to people, they're slipping away
Hold on to this while it's slipping away
A friend once mentioned how I put more effort into keeping up with others than most. I hadn’t realized how rare this trait was when I was younger. Friends can grow apart for many different reasons. Some people drift apart when they start families, move to new cities, change their ideological leanings or just due to forgetting to stay in touch. Even with everyone just a simple call or text away, we all only have so much capacity to remember and keep in touch with others. The Dunbar Number suggests this limit may be around 150 people, far under the limit of acquaintances one may have on any given social media platform.
The age of social media has meant that some people are only a search query away. Within moments we can see photos and fragments of a long forgotten person’s life, without having to put in the effort to actually ask how they are doing; to let them know someone is wondering about them. Occasionally such searches may reveal a relatively blank canvas. Everyone has seen accounts where the only photos are those tagged by friends, and personal posts are non-existent for months or even years. Other accounts reveal lives where every moment is documented, projecting a weaved narrative onto the world. In both situations, have we lost something by not having to put in the effort to communicate? We no longer pick up the phone, send a postcard, draft an e-mail or even tap out a short text message. The voyeuristic gaze into the lives of others may give us a sense of keeping up with friends, when really all we are seeing are projections of people, without the real consequence of showing that we care.
I first learned about Twitter from people in the web marketing team at work. It was before the very first iPhone was released, and smart phones consisted of devices like the Palm Treo. I joined Twitter in 2008, and mostly used the SMS feature as a group chat with several friends of mine from University. Although I was one of the early adopters, I never got a massive amount of followers, or actively engaged with more famous voices once Twitter grew. I remember the days of the Fail Whale and constant downtime as Twitter struggled to keep up with the surge in its popularity.
Twitter has provided some fascinating videos and news, especially during the summer riots, but most of the Twitter videos I found and downloaded were from links people had posted on other platforms like Mastodon. I rarely venture onto Twitter unless directed there from another site. I rarely participate on the platform, and it seems as if it’s morphed into a way for famous and influential people to push down a narrative to regular users, rather than a means for everyone to really communicate.
I thought about deleting Twitter after they locked my account for a decade old tweet, but I kept it around, only to promote my blog posts. However, every time I went to the site to make a promotional post, I was inundated by posts from some of the few people I followed from the early days, even politicians whose campaigns I worked on, all parroting some of the most insane rhetoric that’s promoted by our current media echo chamber. I never responded, and eventually just rage quit the platform.
Don’t Say Goodbye
“Never say goodbye. If you don’t say goodbye, then you aren’t really gone, you just, aren’t here right now.” -Agent Carolina, Red vs Blue
On Facebook, I mentioned the pages for my websites would be going away soon and encouraged people to sign up for my mailing list. However, I didn’t give any public indications I’d be leaving the platform entirely. I privately contacted friends to ask for alternative messaging options or updated phone numbers. I didn’t want to make a show of it, for whatever Internet points or signaled virtue such pretentious announcements would grant. If you are going to leave Facebook or other social networking platforms, I’d recommend not announcing it. Let people you actually talk to know, if you have no other means of communicating with them.
Be sure to backup your data before deleting your social media accounts. Almost all services allow this, but they don’t include everything in their backups. Be sure to verify the zip files you download have everything you want to preserve. It’s your data after all. Even if you don’t particularly care to hold onto it, the platform will likely hold onto all the parts they are legally allowed to forever. So you might as well keep a copy for yourself.
The advent of social media has changed the way many of us think. People growing up in the age of constant connection might allow themselves to be wired into a world where every action, every thought, can be seen as something to be broadcast. We take photos in terms of how they will look projected out to everyone else, rather than taking them for ourselves. Social media has also been a saving grace in the face on an onslaught of propaganda. In the past, the powerful sought to control the limited bandwidth of platforms such as newspapers and radio, reducing mediums that once experienced an explosion of growth into narrow, one-directional tools. Despite the wide scale onslaught of corporate censorship, the bandwidth of the Internet is much wider than any previous communication tool. Some nations have been able to suppress free thought using State network control and great firewalls. In countries with the freedom to speak, the truth finds a way to spread, despite government propaganda painting alternative views as conspiracy theories.
You Will Find Me
We’ve all lost people. Some by choice, others by fate. Keeping up with everyone who has ever mattered to us, in ways great and small, is impractical; a fool’s journey. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Yet, we should never be afraid to acknowledge there are people who made a differences in our lives that we may never see again before we die. One of the hardest lessons learned, imparted by those who relinquish fellowship, or trade love for tea and sympathy, is simply to let go; to walk away when there is simply nothing left to say.
“I’ll be waiting for you… If you come here, you’ll find me. I promise.” -Squall, Final Fantasy VIII
I’ve been writing, journaling, blogging, for nearly a quarter of a century. There are several public methods for contacting me, and my American phone number hasn’t changed in over two decades. I’ll always be exploring new platforms, with a preference towards smaller federated technologies that encourage individuals with the skills to actively participate in hosting and controlling their own data and messaging. For those who search, you will likely be able to find me. I’ll be here, until I succumb to that inevitability all living systems will one day see; that eventuality we know as entropy.