It's time to stop shilly-shallying. It's been more than two months since I last posted my ruminations on what to do about Facebook. Since then, I haven't done a lot of active thinking about the problem, but my subconscious has pondered a lot.
There is value in Facebook.
There is also much frustration. The signal-to-noise ratio is poor, and more and more I've come to distrust Facebook's heavy-handedness in choosing what I see. I understand that standards of decency must be maintained on any platform, and acknowledge Facebook's right as a private entity to set its own standards. But it's become clear that Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, and no doubt many other social media platforms beyond my experience, in their efforts to eliminate posts that are dangerous, hateful, or untrue, have increasingly defined those terms primarily as posts expressing opinions and points of view that we disagree with or dislike.
Not that this is anything new; I'm sure it's nearly as old as the human race. Where it gets really dangerous is when this attitude coincides with power, and in recent years that has become more and more obviously the case. I'm tired of feeding that power.
Okay, that should be the high and noble reason for quitting Facebook and the rest of the Mob. But the truth is, I'm just tired of the assault on my mental health that social media encourages. Plus, I'm not principled enough, apparently, to quit altogether.
I'm staying on Facebook.
But here's the deal. Over the last two months I have made some changes. Primarily, I have "unfollowed" just about everyone. I have also put stronger limits on how often I check Facebook. Here are a few things you may want to know about that.
- I have not "unfriended" anyone, just stopped seeing them in my News Feed.
- There's no need for anyone to be offended by my unfollowing: the list includes some of my nearest and dearest friends. The point is to cut down drastically not only on negative and political posts (though that's a big part of it) but also to reduce the general onslaught of information I face when I open Facebook. Some of my very good friends post a lot of material, little of which is relevant to me, personally. I'm sure they think the same of many of my posts. That's just life. In person, we filter our words with our audience in mind: my friend who regularly posts about University of Connecticut sports scores is unlikely to bring up the subject with me in person. Facebook doesn't work that way.
- My Facebook friends can still read my posts and comments, and can themselves comment.
- I am notified whenever someone comments on something I've written—even when it's a comment on someone else's post. This enables me to check Facebook purposfully rather than randomly.
- I am also notified when I am tagged in someone's post. So if you post something you think would be of special interest to me, I'd appreciate it if you would take the extra effort to tag me in that post.
- I can still be reached through the e-mail address listed on Facebook (as well as my usual addresses).
- I can still be reached through Facebook's messaging, though I must reiterate that it's not the best way to reach me. In particular, I do not open links in messages: there's too much messaging spam to take that risk.
- For the present, I will still mirror most of my blog posts on Facebook. But you can always see them here.
- Here's an interesting thing I learned in this process. I haven't figured out how to make it work on my phone, and anyway I'm trying to limit my Facebook use to my laptop, where it works fine. This is how I set it up:
- Click on your name in the row of icons at the top.
- In the menu on the left-hand side, click on "Friend Lists." (I had to expand "See More" first.)
- From there you can create various lists of friends and give them appropriate names. After you've done that, clicking on those links will show you posts by those friends only. I've found two advantages to this:
- You can organize groups of friends and see their posts on your schedule instead of being overwhelmed with everyone's posts all at once.
- I almost hesitate to reveal this Facebook "flaw," but when you look at your friends' posts in this way, you see them without the ads. That alone makes the effort worthwhile.
I've been implementing both the unfollowing and the reduction in Facebook time over the last couple of months, so if you've been wondering why you haven't seen me commenting on your posts recently, that's why. As I said, if you don't want to rely on random, occasional checks on my part, you can always bring a post to my attention by tagging me.
I really do want to keep in touch and know what's going on in your life! But Facebook has gotten out of control, so the control is going to have to come from the people. This is my small effort.