Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why I'm Quitting Facebook

I've decided to delete my Facebook account because it's no longer adding to the sum total of my happiness. I enjoy being able to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives, but there are other ways to do that. Besides, look at your own Facebook feed and tell me whether most of the content has anything to do with that. I looked at the first 100 items in my current feed and only 15 were direct posts from actual friends, as opposed to ads, commercial posts from organizations I made the mistake of following, and indirect posts ('liked by', 'commented on', 'tagged in', etc. etc.). That's a miserable ratio of things I asked for to things I didn't ask for, far worse than the ratio of programming to commercials on TV.

I'm certainly not the first to observe the strange and probably harmful worldview found in commercial media --- commercial defined as something you read, watch or listen to that you didn't directly pay for. It's a loose definition; I pay for Netflix but it has many of the same problems. That worldview goes something like this:

- You are an awesome and unique creation and will become even awesomer by reading this story/clicking on this link/buying this product.

- Every illness has a cure if we could only raise money/spread awareness/educate people

- The normal human condition is to be very happy every day, and if you're not, you need to take some kind of action which we will help you with, for a price.

- All conflicts can be resolved if we just get to know each other.

- You are unique in your awesomeness, but also much like other awesome and amazing people we will now tell you about.

- Every person has unlimited, and therefore equal, potential.

- The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. You also have to have a compelling personal backstory.

- Your life will follow a story arc in which problems will be encountered and then overcome. After your to-do list has expanded and then tapered to zero, you will enter a type of nirvana.

- Life is laden with meaning. Death is a meaningful event that happens to other people.

- When something goes wrong, it is usually the fault of another person.

- People do wrong not because they are acting out of self-interest that conflicts with your own, but because they are inherently evil like the Riddler or Lex Luthor

I could go on.

I don't think it's healthy to be bombarded with this stuff for hours a day. You may think you're smart enough to see through the bullshit, but think again. Do you think you can outsmart professionals who spend millions of dollars conducting ads and media campaigns that exploit every weakness, appeal to your vanity and greed, pander to your biases, and keep you in a perpetual state of unbalance and dissatisfaction in order to get you to act how they want you to act? I think not.

When my kids were watching TV and a commercial came on, I used to tell them, "The product is you." It's time I took my own advice.