Two Months Without Facebook

Tough to believe, but it’s already been two months since I deactivated my Facebook account. Have I learned anything? Oh heck, yeah.

  1. Facebook doesn’t hesitate to pull out the big ol’ creeptastic guilt guns to try to convince you to stay. Apparently you don’t see this lovely image if you deactivate your account on a mobile device, but this is what greets you when you push the button on a desktop web browser:FB Deactivation guilt pixel.jpg
    I was stunned when I saw it, and for about half a second, I did feel guilty. Then I recognized how I was being played and it just pissed me off and made me even more determined—eager, even—to go. It’s lower than low for a site like FB to try to manipulate its users this way, and it instantly reminded me that because I’m not paying for Facebook, I’m the product. Of course they don’t want me to go. It’s in their best interest to keep me around so they can continue to make money off me.

    Ugh. Bite me, Facebook. Especially now that, in the two months I’ve been gone, we’ve really started to get a look at how you threaten our democracy (and, I would argue, our humanity) on the regular.

  2. I don’t miss FB. Except when I do. But here’s the thing—”when I do” is pretty limited. In fact, there are only about two things that make me miss it.

    A. When I come across an important article that I think deserves a wide audience, and I don’t have a good way to help make that happen (which is the saving grace of this little blog, though let’s not kid ourselves; it’s not remotely the same thing)

    B. When it would be really helpful to be able to consult a lot of people at the same time for wisdom on, say, which bluetooth headphones I should buy, or who to call for a household problem.

    That’s it. Sometimes I wonder what I’m missing, but it’s pretty rare. I actually have been thrilled not to be there to see the uproar over Harvey Weinstein and Co, because honestly I’ve marinated in enough of that news all on my own.

  3. FB really is everywhere. I don’t think I ever noticed how many sites use its login services until I deactivated my account. Some don’t let you use anything else. Oh well…
  4. I have no problem filling my time. Alas, I’ve not read as many books as I was hoping to have by now, but I’ve got a LOT more done because I’m not sitting here staring into Pavlov’s Sinkhole of Attention for hours every day.
  5. I like Twitter better. Which is saying something, because a lot of Twitter is a cesspool. But you know it’s a cesspool going in, and if you curate your lists wisely, you can find beautiful little warm springs that are quite refreshing and even enlightening. I also find a much wider range of news and opinion on Twitter than I do on Facebook. And while Twitter is an all-or-nothing game in terms of privacy, there’s merit to learning how to dial your comments up or down in the knowledge that they may be seen by all and sundry. I’m actually starting to think the fact that Twitter isn’t friend-based is a real advantage in that regard, because it seems we’re more likely to argue with friends. (It’s still a cesspool, though. And dangerous for women and folks of color and, well, anyone who isn’t a straight white male, to the eternal consternation of those of us who would like it to get its act together.)

    And let’s face it: Sam Neill doesn’t post silly pictures of traveling, trouble-prone pigs on Facebook; ergo, Twitter wins by default.

  6. Not having a FB account can be a problem if you’re looking at, for instance, a job posting that wants you to have social media experience/accounts. Sigh.
  7. A curious thing happens when you leave Facebook. You disappear. Or your friends do, depending on your perspective. Facebook lets you keep Messenger, which is great, especially if you don’t have current contact info for a lot of your FB friends, but it quickly becomes apparent that Messenger only provides a line to those you already were inclined to chat with regularly.

    Everyone else disappears. Or you disappear to them. It’s literally like something out of a movie, where someone fades from sight. If you’re not on Facebook and your friends are, over time you realize that you’ve basically ceased to exist. I can go in and wave my arms in Messenger and scream “Hello!!!!!!” and get nothing. Even people who tried to encourage me to stay and wanted to keep in touch have more or less fallen off the face of the earth at this point. I’d say there are maybe five people I really keep up with on Messenger now. That’s it.

    Oh, did I forget to mention the folks encouraging me to stay? Oops! Yeah, there were a lot, because everyone who is hooked into this thing wants everyone else to be hooked in, too, and I noticed that in the week before I killed it—FB really doesn’t need that stupid guilt graphic, because the FB ethos, that All Of Life Happens On Facebook, is so pervasive that your friends will do it for them. And then once you’re gone, well… out of sight, out of mind.

    On the one hand, it’s fine with me to find out who my friends really are and to be out of the Matrix. On the other, it’s horrifying the degree to which the Matrix analogy holds (with a hefty side order of a very cultish “But why would you ever want to leave? No no, please staaaayyyy!” vibe) .

    If you’re still on there, you might want to think about how it affects you and your relationships, because it has more control than you probably think it does.

  8. And that’s why I don’t want to go back. My only regret about deactivating my account is that I didn’t download all my data first. If I do reactivate, it’ll be only long enough to pull that stuff down and deactivate again. Maybe even kill it entirely. I haven’t decided on that yet, but deactivation is key. I’ve taken breaks before, but always relied on my own stubbornness to keep me away. That worked, because my own stubbornness can be a force of nature not to be trifled with. Deactivating feels different, though. It’s an extra level of release from the madness of the machine.

Well, that’s disappointing/the future of this blog

I discovered last night that WordPress has decided to eliminate the handy extension that has made sharing articles here so easy for the past two months. Well, they haven’t eliminated it entirely. I can still use one particular variation that will automatically put a link to an article into a new post. But that’s it. Quoting, images, etc. I would have to handle myself.

That’s a lot more hoops than what I’ve been doing, and I’m not really that interested in jumping through them, if I’m completely honest.

As a result, I’m considering calling it a day here and just offering friends the direct link to my Pocket account, where you’ll find things I’ve been finding interesting–including a lot of stuff I’ve never posted here because I am but the one person and have only so many hours I can devote to reading everything that crosses my path that looks worthwhile. You probably won’t find commentary, but you may find a lot more good stuff. And the occasional dud.

The only catch is that you may have to have a Pocket account for that link to work. I’m not really sure, and they don’t seem to be terribly forthcoming about how following people works. If someone wants to give it a try, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

Trump’s Tweets May Be His Undoing – Talking Points Memo

All countries diplomatic personnel and intelligence analysts devote immense time and resources to understanding the views, motivations, weaknesses and agendas of key foreign leaders. Trump’s often erratic and impulsive tweeting patterns reveals sleeping patterns, moods, what makes Trump angry, what he’s focused on, who he’s hating or cuddling up to at a given moment. In some cases, his tweets actually having geolocations turned on. So they know precisely where he was. But there’s yet another dimension to Trump’s tweeting and generally impulsive nature and it bears on the Russia investigation.

Source: Trump’s Tweets May Be His Undoing – Talking Points Memo

How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her

I think this is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever read. If it doesn’t scare the hell out of you that someone could do this–and I’ve absolutely zero doubt that they could, because everything is online these days and we provide a helluva lot of it ourselves–I’m not sure what will.

This appears to be the Wired cover story for December. It’s a long read (took me about half an hour). Read it anyway.

A rare court case exposes the all-too-common horror of online harassment.

Source: How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her

Perspective | How the Roy Moore scandal could help President Trump fire Robert Mueller

Well, this is distressing.

If Sessions returns to the Senate, however, Trump will nominate another attorney general. And you can imagine what kind of litmus test he’d have for his new choice: Trump would want someone willing to shut down the Russia investigation. The president himself has said that he wouldn’t have made Sessions attorney general if he knew that Sessions would recuse from the Russia investigation.

Source: Perspective | How the Roy Moore scandal could help President Trump fire Robert Mueller

It’s Getting Bad Folks – Talking Points Memo

That noise you hear is the ghost of Richard Nixon whirring in his grave. The question is whether this story can have the same ending that one did.

To not get ahead of ourselves, it is important to note that the letter in question only says that Sessions is considering the right course to take and that appointing a special counsel is just one option. But make no mistake: this is as bad as it looks. A President is demanding that federal law enforcement go after his political enemies. And federal law enforcement appears ready to comply.

Source: It’s Getting Bad Folks – Talking Points Memo

Unusual experiment reveals the power of non-mainstream media

Not the result you’d expect. At all.

Pundits and activists have long blamed the “mainstream media” for having an outsized effect on public perceptions. Whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, some people say, it seems as if large media outlets like the New York Times or FOX News exert too much power over the national conversation. Ideas from non-mainstream media, according to this logic, get drowned out. But a new long-term study reveals that small media outlets have a far greater effect on public discussions than anyone realized.

To be more precise, it only takes three or more stories from small news outlets covering the same topic to make discussions of that topic go up by 62.7 percent on Twitter.

Source: Unusual experiment reveals the power of non-mainstream media

It’s time to stop trusting Google search already – The Verge

Students DO hear this all the time, and at this point, everyone else in the world has, too. As a teacher, I understand why, but I also understand that this dictum is utterly misguided. Wikipedia is no more untrustworthy than the average college textbook–and unlike a textbook, Wikipedia can be corrected instantly, where the textbook has to produce a separate list of corrections. Sure, you can go in and screw with Wikipedia, but it’s actually very good at detecting that sort of thing and will either reject the change or flag it for human intervention.

The problem isn’t that people can mess with Wikipedia, it’s that we don’t TEACH Wikipedia–we just state over and over that it’s “not trustworthy” until people everywhere believe it. Why? Because it’s been drilled into our heads, too. And because it’s easier.

A 2017 Edelman survey found that 64 percent of respondents trusted search engines for news and information, a slight increase from the 61 percent who did in 2012, and notably more than the 57 percent who trusted traditional media. (Another 2012 survey, from Pew Research Center, found that 66 percent of people believed search engines were “fair and unbiased,” almost the same proportion that did in 2005.) Researcher danah boyd has suggested that media literacy training conflated doing independent research with using search engines. Instead of learning to evaluate sources, “[students] heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”

Source: It’s time to stop trusting Google search already – The Verge