In recent years, we have experienced some divisive, confusing and turbulent times, with 2020 seeing us especially more isolated from one another than usual. Invariably, our main point of contact with friends and family has been through the use of technology and in particular social media. This in itself is no bad thing. However, I have noticed the atmosphere of Facebook in particular becoming ever more toxic.
I have been convinced for a while now that Facebook is inherently bad for mental health in some way and I freely admit that I, like many others have become addicted to it to the point of distraction.
I recently came across a computer scientist called Jaron Lanier, who was one of the pioneers of virtual reality. His recent work hits out very hard at social media and he not only confirms my suspicions but goes on to reveal how Facebook manipulates human behaviour in order to keep the user addicted and to harvest data. This Channel Four interview in particular explains the mechanism in great detail. I have watched it a number of times and have also purchased his audio book. Upon first watch and returning to scrolling my timeline as many of us do, I saw in glaring example exactly what he describes. It has been a tragic time watching lifelong friends tear into each other and this has been occurring over the last few years. This toxicity has escalated even more in the last few weeks and has become unbearable. Quite a few friends have commented on it.
The problem is that using this medium, the nuances of conversation are lost. Debate is difficult to do effectively. In black and white text, people see things in back and white, wrong and right, left and right in binary terms. The compulsion to be correct and to make others agree to your being correct is all powerful to the point that you believe everybody else is wrong. It often starts in a sarcastic manner and ends in all out flame war. Friends are readily unfriended or unfollowed and the art of discussion is crippled. Turns out it is all set out algorithmically and very deliberately. When I first posted the link to this video up, my timeline immediately became more toxic as if it were triggered to follow suit.
Does this mean Facebook is all bad? It has its uses for sure. I love keeping in touch with family and friends, some of whom I hardly ever get to see or communicate with otherwise (especially at the moment). For music, it has become an invaluable tool, not only for promoting my own work but discovering and keeping in touch with other like-minded people, booking gigs and finding out about new gigs. If I could find a way of effectively doing these things without using Facebook, it would be gone in a breath.
When I have had breaks from it in the past, I’ve stated that people can email or text me to keep in touch. For some reason, many people have a real aversion to using email and both of these methods tend to be point to point communications, rather than community/group based. So for the foreseeable, Facebook remains a necessary evil. In order to reduce my online footprint (or attempt to), I have created a new, replacement Facebook account which I have resolved to use solely for the purposes outlined above and the deletion of the old will take with it old comments, posts, superfluous groups and pages.
I’m not particularly looking to reduce my Facebook friendships so welcome adds from friends of the old account. I do aim to use it less going forward but ironically I’ll have to use it more for a little while whilst I administer setting up the new account and eventually ditch the old.
As always thanks for reading and for your own sanity, I urge you to please watch the interview. you’ll find yourself nodding in embarrassed agreement as Jaron explains just how we have all been played by this system.
Be kind to each other and don’t let the bastards grind you down!