by Woody Evans
After watching this interview with Chamath Palihapitiya a couple of weeks ago, one of the early developers of Facebook, I deleted my social media accounts. Well, I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I had to keep my Goodreads (I’m a librarian, suckers!).
Palihapitiya talks about the deliberate use of dopamine and positive feedback built into social media — we get a buzz when we’re friended or liked — and he talks about the dangers of that model for individuals and society. I realized that I was checking in on Facebook and Twitter several times a day and getting almost nothing from it. A meme from my wife now and then, a like from a distant cousin or loving Auntee if I posted a pic of my son, or a 💖on Twitter for floating some political pith: gossamer bits of external validation through a screen that fits in my pocket. So I dropped it.
Immediately I wanted to share things! I wanted to tweet out fundraising campaigns for political issues important to me, and I found myself longing to amber fleeting family moments into Facebook posts — my son fencing a dry bout at a local gym, my wife’s work on a new knitted shawl, my cat peeking out above a paper screen. It was less about the ‘like’ and the retweet, and more about the archiving of these passing intimacies. Not relying on a living, multi-media scrapbook, as I had done for some ten years, how would I organize what was important enough to ‘share’? How did my memory work before 2006, and how would it work differently in 2018 and beyond? I’m going to carry these concerns around for a while, no doubt, but the possible value of this cold turkey experiment seems worth it to me — though the librarian in me wants the archive, of course.
My demeanor is mellowing. My outrage is becoming less spikey and more ember-like. Rather than tweeting my representatives in government, I’ve called their offices and written to them more often. And rather than watching my homelife for “social media moments”, I’m sinking more deeply into the baldness of chopping onions, of dusting picture frames, and of petting my dog. For years I’ve blabbered plenty about the importance of living in the here and now, all the while letting a layer of “there” and “then” mediate my private moments — a sense of performance had crept into things. The mediating filter, by letting more and more through, had altogether stopped doing its job.
I don’t know which way this may snap and mutate, but for now, for today, I am having conversations in real time with real people, or spending purposeful time on emails and pen-and-ink correspondence, and taking things more slowly.
I know that I’m going to miss a lot of breaking news, a lot of cool pics and poems, and a lot of smart retorts. I also know I can live with that deficit.
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