Leaving Social Media
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
This week I made the choice to let go of my social media accounts. In this age of social networks and massive global communication, it was actually a bit difficult to follow through with my decision. I remember this friend of mine in Alaska, we'll call her Samantha, who told me she didn't have a Facebook account and that she didn't intend on signing up. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous. Why not? How would anyone find her? What if an old friend from way back wanted to look her up and say hi? How would she keep up with other people? Samantha's response was that Facebook hadn't existed twenty years ago and the world got along just fine. There's no reason to volunteer a bunch of private information to a company that makes a profit off of us while the purchasers of the data try to use psychology and our personal information to convince us to spend money on things we would otherwise not care about. Interesting point, but again, I thought she was nuts. "Get with the times," I thought.
Since then, my own data have been compromised through companies like Target, Credit Bueraus like Experian, and the US Government (thank you OPM). Right after Thanksgiving last year, my main bank account was compromised and I was high and dry while the bank tried figuring things out. Apparently my email accounts are hacked and someone is sending spam emails from them. And what can I do about it? Just like everyone else, I get the required notification letter which offers free "credit monitoring" for a year, and I usually just toss it to the side and forget about it. Even with the monitoring, things still happen, and ultimately I feel powerless. I suppose I can do nothing about this information thievery but complain about it. These companies don't even try to investigate. They don't care. Neither does law enforcement. It is expected now to be taken advantage of online.
Then Facebook was shown to be making money off of selling the networking information that we create when we friend each other. Who knows whom is valuable information to a lot of people with many different intentions. We hand over this information effortlessly, and then we are made to feel like we can't leave the platform. We can't stop providing this information because we feel connected to our friends and family. There is an inherent desire to maintain relationships as human beings. Of course that's the case; we're social creatures. However, the company has literally capitalized on that primal instinct. In our busy lives, how are we supposed to maintain a relationship with a person on the other side of the country? It is so easy to have my own personal news feed of the people I care about when I wake up in the morning. Have you checked your phone before even getting out of bed? Not to mention the warm and fuzzy feelings associated with getting lots of "likes" on your posts. Our brains are wired to work this way, and these companies have totally engineered platforms that capture us and never let go. The worst part is that we do it voluntarily. We offer ourselves to them. We are the product. Bravo, Mark. You really figured us out. Good job.
Now, you may be thinking that I have gone absolutely insane by launching my own website. I'm probably putting more content here that I ever did on FB or anywhere else. It seems irrational, but my motivation is not simply to leave social media to limit my contribution to their profits or to be a recluse. I want to connect with other people that I've never met on the other side of the world, or maybe a friend of a friend's friend who is so far removed from me in my network that we would never cross paths online or otherwise. Beyond that, I realize that I am now in a position that not many people get to experience. While it's been one hell of a struggle getting here (and believe me, the struggle isn't over), I have been quite lucky to have had the capability to overcome the obstacles I've faced along the way. Why not let you live this crazy life of mine vicariously through this site?
So my decision to leave social media is not about preventing my story from being out there. It is to prevent these sleazy companies from making money off of me. You could argue that my web host makes money off of me, and you're right, but I know exactly what I'm getting into and it is me paying. I'm asking for their service, and they provide it to me. Social media isn't a service, at least not in the traditional sense. It's simply a place for us to "service" ourselves. Again, we are the product. Well friends, the time has come for me to remove myself from the store shelf. I'm peeling off my UPC code and leaving it on the floor. I'm walking out of the social media sphere. I am taking back control. I own myself.
What do you think? Is it unimaginable to leave FB? Are you ready to jump ship? Let me know in the comments.