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I'm feeling like I'm harping on the subject of cutting back on Facebook, and I apologize. BUT. I also want to elaborate on my reasons for too-casually comparing FB to a toxic friend in the last post.

What I did not mean: that the people on my friends list were, themselves, toxic friends. To my knowledge, they weren't. Mind you, the vast majority of them, I haven't seen in real life in years; haven't even met some of them at all; so to be completely truthful, I can't judge what kind of friends they are.

But that's part of the problem. My daily free time--and to too great a degree, my daily work time--was being spent involved in the posts of people I hadn't seen in years or possibly had never met. Sure, that's life for us all, this day and age, right? What's the problem? Am I condemning the entire internet because it's composed primarily of people I've never met?

Well, no. I see great value in lots of the internet. I'm picking on Facebook in particular. Not even the professional-page side of FB: I actually think it works fairly well for groups, where everyone has an interest in common, and also works pretty well as a professional notice board for us artists and other businesses (assuming FB shows our posts to our followers, which I'll bitch about in a minute). It's the personal pages, and their associated friend feed, and the culture thereof, that I am mainly disillusioned with. Why, then?

Because of the likes. And the algorithms, which are tied in to the likes.

Every social media site, through its design and through the possibly unpredictable alchemy of its users, develops a feel. An ambience, a mood, an ideal. On FB, the ideal is to get as many likes and comments as you can. Well, sure, that's the case on most sites. But FB makes the game a little more diabolical, because if you don't engage your friends and followers, FB actually does not show your posts as often to them. That alone is one of the major reasons I lost patience with the site. It's really simple, FB, and it's what we all want: just show us every one of the goddamn posts from all the people or pages we're following, in the order they were posted, and don't filter them, don't re-sort them, don't fuck with them in any way. (Look, it's making me swear; that's how irritating it is.)

But FB does filter them and hide them and boost them, according to the algorithms, and we all feel the effects. Because then what we often find ourselves trying to do, subconsciously, is support the popularity scheme. Boost our friends! Get them to boost us! You better not forget to click "like" on the good stuff or else it might actually disappear! And how can that mood NOT result in a deterioration of quality of interaction? In short, what I've concluded is that Facebook breeds competition, not relationships. As a result, people are snarky more often than they'd be in real life, because a funny, snarky response will get likes from other commenters--never mind how rude it is to the person whose wall you're posting on. It also means people will post whiny, trendy, or obnoxiously controversial things more often, because those get more attention and interaction than a quietly thoughtful post would. (And if you do post something quietly thoughtful, brace yourself for the snarky commenters fishing for likes.)

"But Molly, then you were doing it wrong," you might say. "I use Facebook to empathize with my friends and family far and wide, and to feel comforted and uplifted by staying in touch with them." Okay. If that's your FB experience, I won't doubt you, and I'll count you lucky. What I know is that for me, it became anxiety-provoking. And not just for the usual reason the articles give: the ones that say "Facebook is depressing because it makes you see only the awesome side of your friends' lives, and thereby makes you feel bad about yours." That actually didn't happen to me too often, though sure, it makes the list of my grievances.

I actually had the opposite problem, as someone prone to anxiety: I'd see posts about something upsetting happening to someone I sort of know somewhere, and I'd feel my worry ratchet up. Not just worry for THEM, but worry for my own family: if this upsetting thing happened to an actual person I'm reading about right now, WHAT IF IT HAPPENS TO US? IT TOTALLY COULD. Because that is how anxiety works. Yes, it's stupid, but it's also very common, which is why I think FB is doing a lot of harm to an awful lot of people, because, remember, thanks to the interaction algorithm, you get a lot of comments on passionate complaint/rant/life-is-unfair posts. So people post them a lot on FB. They actually don't post stuff this whiny on all sites on the internet. If you spent most of your time on Pinterest, you'd think the world was mainly a pleasant place devoted to baking cupcakes, collecting pretty clothes, and squeeing about fandom. (If only! Ah, I do like Pinterest...)

By the way, as a psychological aside, the more time you spend fielding commiserating remarks about your annoying problem, the longer you're spending thinking about it. You're giving it life. You're choosing to feed the wolf of anger instead of the wolf of serenity. You're *wallowing*, when you could be doing something else.

I could have been doing something else instead of scrolling and liking my way through the friend feed, and monitoring the likes I was getting on my own posts. That right there is probably my number one grievance against FB. There was writing and reading I longed to do. Family and neighbors to talk to face-to-face. Exercise to get. Things around the house to sort out and fix up. A whole real, actual world to look at and get involved with. So why had it become so seemingly important to ANSWER ALL THE NOTIFICATIONS several times per day--per hour, even?

It wasn't. It was not important. I finally grasped that. And life has become so much more peaceful, my outlook so much more reasonable, after letting the FB fog clear from my mind.

This whole post is probably pointless. Most people either fall into the "Yep, I already hate FB" camp, or the "Noooo! You're wrong and I heart FB!" camp, and I won't change anyone's mind. But it was on my mind, this bit of statement for the defense, so I wrote it down, mainly to sort out my own thoughts. If it does spark any useful ideas in anyone else, so much the better. I do wish you all peace and happiness, whatever your camp.

Now I already feel like I'm wallowing in anti-FB resentment, so I'll go read one of those books I so wanted to read. :)


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2015 11:06 am (UTC)
It's clear no Facebook works well for you! I think any social media site has the potential for drama (remember Harry Potter wars on LJ?!), but fb is definitely primed for it. Another point you don't mention but that I think is interesting is I do think it can cause negative impacts on people through the echo chamber effect, too - it's easy to have opinions validated. I've noticed my uncle has got increasingly right wing (not in a comfortable way), which I suspect is partly because of all these ultra conservative friends he's made through a hobby & he interacts a lot with their posts on Facebook... I think a lot of people these days get their news from social media, so if all the links you see are of a certain type, I imagine it distorts your world view...

I still find fb very useful, but we have quite different personality types and so that difference in use of social media isn't surprising either!
Nov. 18th, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
Ha, yes, I think if LJ was still as active as it used to be, it could potentially be just as irritating as FB currently is. :) In fact, I recall it was, on some days long ago... Maybe what I like about LJ these days is that it's calmed down to fewer people and thus less noise.

Ooh, and indeed, the current events issue is another one high on my list of FB grievances. The news that's "trending" on FB is rarely actually the most relevant, but is often full of alarmism and, in some people's cases, inflammatory opinions or even misinformation. The echo chamber effect definitely got to me at those times.
Nov. 18th, 2015 12:33 pm (UTC)
I am trying to have a No posting on FB month although I do check it every day and I'm already doing that less and less. I agree with most of what you say although again my reasons are for staying in touch with friends and family and it is very useful for that. It is toxic, your life can be presented how you want it to be. I actually had a fellow parent say she assumed Dan's parents evening didn't go that well because I said anything about it on FB and everyone else had "Hurrah for parents evening, my child is a genius" type thing. The reality was that we had a brilliant parents evening but I didn't feel the need to tell the entire world. We knew, Dan knew, his teachers knew. Surely that's all that matters?

go read a book. breathe the air. play with the kids. make a cuppa. don't wallow :-)
Nov. 18th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC)
Exactly; once you're on it a while, people acquire this expectation that you'll update about everything and follow everything they post too. I remember when I'd try to just take a day or two away from it, people would remark when I came back, "I was wondering where you were!" I know they truly meant well, but it was starting to bother me. I felt tethered to everyone, like I was obliged to keep up and if I went quiet I'd be letting them down. So finally it became easier to axe it altogether and say, "Sorry, I am not here."
Nov. 18th, 2015 02:07 pm (UTC)
Hi. :) I don't remember how you ended up on my friends list because I've been away from LJ for so many years now. I came back because I needed somewhere to write, but not the snappy, snarky, short-form social media kind of writing that is so popular now. So I understand what you're saying here, and I really like the way you express yourself. It's been nice to see that this kind of writing still exists online.
Nov. 18th, 2015 08:51 pm (UTC)
Hello! I don't remember where I picked up most of my LJ friends these days either, it's been so long since I've had the account. :) And thank you - I'm glad it resonates with you. I did enjoy FB often enough, and still do use it for author talk stuff, but yeah, I found myself missing the quieter and more thoughtful pace of blogs. (Or actual books.)
Dean Mayes
Nov. 18th, 2015 04:38 pm (UTC)
You have comprehensively articulated the very same thought processes I've been having about FB Molly and I can credit you with fomenting those processes into action...although weaning myself off the social network has taken a bit of time.

The French terrorist attack this past week however, has been a critical moment for me. How those in my friend list have responded - outlandishly, inappropriately and over-the-top-erly - in the wake of the attacks has shown me just how much of a cess pool it has become. That - and the constant barrage of people messaging me about Star Wars - hoping to spoil it for me in the run up to the premier...seriously, their behaviour has been reprehensible.

I feel empty towards FB. I went beyond loathing it a long time ago and my persistence with it now is something akin to the five stages of dying.

If I can cleave it completely...that will be a banner day.
Nov. 18th, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
I'm cringing just imagining how the Paris news must have played out on FB. Ugh. Glad I missed that. I think part of the FB problem is that when something big happens--news or fandom or anything--you feel you HAVE to post about it or you're not showing life the proper respect. Maybe the sentiment there is noble, but what ends up happening is a bunch of people trying to outdo each other on (for instance) "prayers for Paris" posts, and then scrambling around to make sure they've clicked "like" on all their friends' posts who are saying the same so they're showing the proper support, and...argh. Productivity plummets.

You have the power to cut it adrift! I know you do! The Force is strong in you, Dean! And all that. :) But I suppose it's still wise to keep an author page there, and that's a good compromise, I feel. (They won't let you have JUST an author page, of course. So the way I did it was to set up a new account, with no friends added, just to manage the author page, and switched it over to that admin, then axed the old personal account.)
Nov. 18th, 2015 05:24 pm (UTC)
This series of posts is so interesting. I briefly had a facebook account a few years ago and loathed it for its vacuousness so dropped it right quick. I've always wondered if it was because I've become so accustomed to the LJ/DW methods that it seemed pointless to me (I also have very little family and my brother can barely check his email :-)

Thank you for sharing your thought processes. I know it works for a lot of people but ... eh ...
Nov. 18th, 2015 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you--I'm glad it's resonating with some of you! I did have fun reconnecting with a lot of old friends via FB, but then it became too many people to meaningfully keep track of, and if it wasn't meaningful, need we be keeping track of each other at all? The occasional update via other and more direct methods is more personal anyway.
Dean Mayes
Nov. 18th, 2015 10:36 pm (UTC)
Look up Dunbar's Number Molly. That is a really interesting concept and applicable to social networking.
Nov. 18th, 2015 11:28 pm (UTC)
Ah, very cool! 150, then. Anthropologically and psychologically speaking, that makes sense. And given you'd ideally have most of that 150 in real life, we ought to be keeping far fewer as our FB "friends."
Nov. 18th, 2015 09:34 pm (UTC)
If it isn't working for you, then definitely don't go on FB. I do it to keep up with friends, find links to costuming exhibits and when I'm traveling, post pictures so that my family knows where I am and that I'm okay.

FB does have the downside that you find out things about your friends that you really really didn't want to know. Sigh. At least I can block the stupid games.
Nov. 18th, 2015 09:43 pm (UTC)
It does actually work pretty well for keeping up with group activities and interests, I find. But yeah, ha, the oversharing...I even found myself falling into the pattern and sharing stuff I didn't really need to, which alarmed me when I realized what I was doing. Luckily I avoided the games the whole time. :D
Nov. 19th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC)
i find it terrible for group/local stuff, because it's so hard to save anything useful, like a phone number (local stuff) or a useful tip (group/craft stuff). someone will post some great update about a knitting method and then i can't even search for it usefully. or the innumerable secret/closed groups...for posting baby clothes.

i agree with you about the crumminess of facebook completely.
Nov. 19th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC)
Ah yes, the difficulty of running a basic search on past posts: good addition to the grievance list! That drove me crazy. Stuff disappears into some mysterious archive all too soon. LJ, for all its boringness, is worlds better with handling archives. :)
Dean Mayes
Nov. 19th, 2015 08:09 am (UTC)
Molly - I'm interested to hear what you're thoughts are about Twitter. I've had a similar crisis of loathing that particular platform lately, however I'm finding myself there more often than I am anywhere else. I'd wager that is the same for you.
Nov. 19th, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC)
Twitter, I suppose, I've never gotten quite attached to enough to loathe. It's always seemed shallower, and the feed is so quick and huge that there's no possible way to keep up with it anyway. So I just glance in once in a while and see if there's anything worth noticing, and sometimes have a nice exchange of tweets with someone. But I'm not keeping up with it by any means, nor even trying, because that would be downright impossible. Since I'm not trying, I'm fairly relaxed about it. But certainly, the same mix of obnoxious opinions happens there too, and the restriction to 140 characters naturally offends our novelistic souls. :)
Rich Mulvey
Nov. 19th, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, deleting the Facebook/Twitter/etc apps from my phone and making sure that I logged out of them each time I was using a browser made a huge difference in how often I was tempted to check out the sites.

There's nothing like having to put some effort into seeing the latest notifications to make you realize that there's probably not much you're missing. :-)

Nov. 19th, 2015 10:55 pm (UTC)
Yep! I took the FB app off my phone, so I have to check it through Safari if I want to see it, and it's kind of a pain that way, so - eh, not important most of the time. :)
Nov. 20th, 2015 12:23 am (UTC)
(Here via the LJ Home Page)

I finally had to delete my FB. At first, I was excited to reconnect with friends I had not had contact with in years. But then I noticed a strange trend.

People would often even seek ME out and ask to be "friended". But after the initial flurry of, "Oh, it's great to see you again! What have you been up to?", they would 1) rarely (if ever) update, 2) never comment on my entries, 3) never even respond when I would comment on theirs.

At first I thought it was just this or that person being busy. But I realized it was happening ALL the time. If you don't want to update or ever interact with me, what's the point? I even did the one way friendship thing and would try to interact with their posts, but I never got much in return.

There was the annoying fact that I could post something thoughtful about current events or something more personal and I'd get zero interest. But, hey, if I or someone else would post something trivial like a silly cartoon or animal video or game invite, suddenly there was all kinds of attention on that. Pointless.

Then there was the fact of family drama. We all live in the same city and see each other on a regular basis. I don't want to be reading on FB things that I should be told in person!

I admit it felt a bit like withdrawal at first. But I've been much happier and less stressed. And do you know what? All of those so called "friends" never missed me or cared that I was gone. After all, most of them have my email or phone number. If they had really wanted to stay in touch, they would have. Glad I figured out who is really a friend and who is not.

I just wish LJ wasn't completely dead. But that's another topic.

Anyway, that's $.02 from a stranger.

Edited at 2015-11-20 12:25 am (UTC)
Nov. 20th, 2015 05:51 am (UTC)
Good to see you again! I remember you from way back when in the LJ days. :)

And yep, all that. If there's a good reason to keep in touch with someone, we'll keep in touch and not need FB in order to do so. And it is annoying when people just *expect* you to know their news by reading FB, rather than making sure you hear it some other way if it's important.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )