July 21, 2015

This is why I didn't like your status update


A few weeks back I ran across these two articles:

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here's What it Did to Me.

I Quit Liking Things on Facebook for Two Weeks. Here's how it Changed My View of Humanity.

(Please excuse the click-bait titles. I'll give you the TL;DR although I do recommend reading them both -- liking everything on facebook turns your newsfeed into an insane and highly polarized confluence of mostly advertisements; not liking anything on facebook means that you have to actually write comments and be social, and it's nice.)

Both of these articles struck a chord with me. I'm a long-time facebook user -- my timeline goes back to 2005, and facebook was pretty new then. I remember having to have a university email address to register, and I remember the furor when they removed that restriction and facebook was invaded first by thirteen-year-olds, and then by our parents and grandparents. I use it to keep in touch with many friends and family who live far away, and I'm not likely to quit any time soon.

The fact that I'm probably a permanent facebook user, however, (whatever "permanent" means in the internet age) doesn't/shouldn't mean that I keep using it mindlessly. I do have concerns about facebook's advertising algorithms, about privacy, and about the fact that it being a free service means that I am the product. And of course there's the old dead horse about facebook's inherent superficiality and the false sense of community that it (may) provide. I had already decided to stop engaging in facebook debates -- much like how I try not to read the comment section underneath news articles -- for the sake of my sanity. And I am ruthless about unfollowing annoying people and blocking just about every app or meme-generating page that crosses my newsfeed. But what about taking Elan Morgan's line and actually quitting the 'like'?

Unlike Morgan, I didn't announce that I wouldn't 'like' things any more -- I just stopped doing it. Either I liked a status enough to comment on it, or I scrolled on by: no more easy middle ground. And since I did that, I do actually find that I enjoy facebook a lot more. Needing to actually comment or not (and needing to decide which option to take) has brought back a degree of mindfulness that I had been missing. Leaving comments has fostered conversations, and it's nice to engage with people a bit more than I had been. And being made to actually stop and think has curtailed my natural inclination to open it up a aimlessly scroll down for more time than I care to admit. It's helping me to actually see what people are posting. I don't think I'll go back.

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