Sunday, March 7, 2010

Anti-Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago. The reason: I find it to be an inexcusable waste of time. When I mentioned deactivating my account with Facebook to a friend of mine, he said, "Good! I was going to tell you to get off that thing. It's addictive. It's like crack cocaine. Besides that, you were being too conformist being on there."

Aside from the wry chuckle I enjoyed at his comments, I found his perspective on Facebook insightful: it's addictive, and it promotes conformity.

First, let's look at some behavioural characteristics of addiction.
  1. Obsession - person cannot stop thinking about an activity.
  2. Relentless Pursuit - person will engage in activity even to the detriment of his/her physical and psycho-social well being.
  3. Compulsiveness - person will engage in an activity despite not wanting to, and finds it difficult to stop.
  4. Withdrawal - once the addictive activity is stopped, person becomes irrational, irritable, depressed, restless.
  5. Lack of Perception of Time - person cannot control how long, when, or how much s/he will engage in an activity.
  6. Denial - person cannot, and will not accept that s/he has an irrational attachment to an activity, even despite the negative effects.
  7. Covert-Ops - person hides his/her activity from friends, family, and concerned individuals.
  8. Blackouts - person simply blanks-out during activity, which results in a lack of recall about what went on during addictive activity.
  9. Depression - person experiences depressed states surrounding, and even during activity.
  10. Poor Self-Esteem - person deals with personal anxieties and low self-esteem issues by "filling in their lack", as it were, with an addictive activity.

As a loose gauge for my own participation with Facebook, this list shows me that I fit at least 7, possibly 8 of the characteristics usually associated with addictive behaviours. As a family man, and a man with a conscience, I find that unacceptable. So, for this reason alone, I shut down Facebook.

Now, just so we're clear, I am not blaming Facebook for my problems. I am solely responsible for how I attend to an activity, how much time I spend doing it, and in what manner. Facebook itself is simply a computer application and has nothing to do with my addiction to it. But, as a vehicle for part of my social life, I cannot trust myself to use Facebook anymore because I was not able to control myself around it. Also, because I was allowing my time on Facebook to interfere with my family, my real-life relationships were starting to break down. So, for me, having parrotted the common sentiment that I would "take a bullet" for my family if I had to, why would I allow myself to shoot my loved one's down with an inordinate compulsion toward Facebook?

The answer to the rhetorical question above is an easy, "I wouldn't." But I did. And I did so unintentionally, and to my shame. But even unintentionally having hurt my family because of my own addictive behaviours surrounding Facebook, the result is the same: my family was hurt. Intentionality does not exhonerate me from the pain my family has felt this past while. My work is ahead of me; I have a lot of wounds to heal.

Coming at this from a different, more 'academic' angle, however, there is a certain conformity proffered in applications like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, et al. That is, applications such as the ones listed dole-up a common denominator people can easily access and use. The fact that applications like these offer the same basic templates for social interaction, aesthetics, and mindless pursuits (e.g., Farmville) now strikes me as a little creepy. I don't ascribe anything apocalyptic to it, but the fact that there is a definite sense of sameness across the board comes across a little Hux-Wellian.


Facebook is a little like a prototype for the 'Feelies' so excellently imagined in Huxley's Brave New World: slip into a virtual reality where everything surrounding you is a template for homogeneity, and predictability. The best part about it is that you don't actually have to carry on a real relationship with a real person. You can simply 'Add' and 'Delete' on a whim, and at will.

At the same time, Facebook is also a little like Big Brother. Mind you, the government is not prescribing Facebook as a means of mass-control, so the comparison is very loose. Still, people are screened for jobs by employers looking up Facebook accounts. Corporations actively monitor people's use of Facebook to keep an eye on the corporate reputation. Facebook does not protect your privacy, but instead, allows your information to be readily accessible to marketters (data-mining), industries, government, etc. It is a wonderful vehicle for corporate voyeurism (ever wonder why your stuff is hyperlinked without you having hyperlinked your information?). It is not quite Big Brother, but it is like having Big Brothers.

Facebook promotes uniformity not in people's ontology, but in people's expressions. That is, you don't stop being who you are by using Facebook, but you begin to alter how you express yourself to fit the mold offered. Eventually, this will impact who a person is. The same principle is illustrated in a positive light in the movie Patch Adams: if you change the conditions, or parameters of a persons environment, you affect their response. This in turn affects who the person is on a fundamental level. Seeing as Facebook is generally a breeding ground for poor grammar, thoughtless banter, useless games and quizzes, ambivalent attachments, and techonological distancing (i.e., moral ambivalence via technology), it shouldn't come as a surprise when people start communicating in real life as they do on Facebook. I imagine conversations would sound like Valspeak, but less eloquent.

I refuse that measure of conformity. I refuse that common denominator, which, as I see it, will continue to get lower and lower as the phenomenon of social-networking applications trim out the fat of human-to-human contact, and unwittingly inject us with the narcotics of virtual reality, and pseudo-relationships. I will not follow suit any longer. I am officially anti-Facebook.

12 comments:

Craig said...

That actually makes a lot of sense. Congratulations on a good decision. Your theory about internet style communication and Valspeak reminds me of Douglas Coupland's Generation A.
Me, I'm still on Facebook.

Maybe we should attempt to code a non-conformity book? A social networking site that would somehow tend to not cause people to interact in similar ways.

Nnamdi said...

Deactivation is a big step. The new book, "Facebook Addiction: The Life & Times of Social Networking Addicts" maybe of some interest.

Amazon: http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/links/retail/amazon
Blog: http://www.icecreammelts.com/blogs/facebook-addiction
More Info: http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com

Kane Augustus said...

Craig,

Thank you! I'm glad it makes sense to you.

As to Douglas Coupland, did you mean Generation X? Did he write a follow-up called Generation A?

Non-conformity book? Nah. But if you wanted to pen a book on the subject, I'd be happy to proof-read for you. Perhaps do some content editing?

Kane Augustus said...

Nnamdi,

Thank you for commenting here. I am quite excited to read through your blog.

Tell me, will your new book, The Facebook Addiction, be available in bookstores here in Canada?

Take care,
Kane

Craig said...

Kane,
Ya,
Generation A is a recent follow up. I don't want to give away the ending but one of the themes is language degenerating because people are instant messaging instead of reading books.
There is also a serious shortage of bees.
I have suffered through many of Couplands books with a kind of love/hate; he is writing about us, kind of feeling.
Generation A was, IMHO, his best book. If brought coherence to a lot of the subtle things that he seemed to be implying in his other books. After reading Generation A, I tried reading one of his other books that I had missed "Miss Wyoming" and I couldn't.
I wish that I could have read Generation A first, and then I would have had no need to wade through all the other crap that I read by him. Although, I'll probably read more of his stuff sometime. His books are kind of relaxing on the mind to me, like watching cartoons.

Craig said...

Kane,
Have you ever heard a theory about every person actually being 7 people? I caught a quote out of context on cbc the other day and wanted to find out more, but it doesn't google well.
Thanks,
Craig

Kane Augustus said...

Craig,

I've heard snippets of stuff like that before, but never really looked into any of it.

The most I can recall is about theories of self-actualization: as a person passes through various stages of personal identity, claiming those stages as who they are, that person lives to the fullest sense of that identity until they realise the next evolution of their personhood. In that sense, a person can be argued to be more than one person internally since each step away from personal ignorance is a step into a new identity.

Anonymous said...

I am quickly coming to the same conviction about Facebook ...
I spent about three hours not the telephone trying to sort out some problems with my telephone service. I was frustrated by the hours lost, and that got me thinking about hours lost on Facebook.
I spend very little time there, now. At first I thought it might be fun and that it might be a way to reconnect with old acquaintances. But I have come to my senses: I would much rather connect with the people in my life who have invested time in a relationship with me ... people such as yourself and Imogen, whom I cherish.
I have had some fun on Facebook, with my daughter, exchanging YouTube videos, mostly, and watching one of her singing.
I realize as well that blogging may be a waste of my time, as well, if there are other things that I am supposed to be doing and I am not getting them done because I'm "here," instead.
Interesting.
I absolutely agree that language has been deteriorating because of e-mail and other forms of Internet communication.
I had someone ask me if I would write sales letters. They said I would need to "dumb it down, somewhat."
"Dumb it down?" I queried, then asked, "You mean, to a Grade 8 level?" (which is the level of newspapers, generally).
The response surprised me: "More like a Grade 6 level."
Yikes.
Having said that, using language that most people have trouble understanding does not mean that there is a higher level of intelligence. It could mean quite the opposite: there is a saying that the teacher hasn't taught unless the learner has learned, which is probably a blog topic all its own.
The three Cs of editing, classically, are "clear, correct, and concise." So, simple is a good thing at times ... but a Grade 6 level is pretty drastic.
J

Anonymous said...

Drats ... in further posts, I promise to re-read before posting!
But the flip side of being being human and making mistakes is that it gives us a great opportunity to laugh at ourselves.
J

Anonymous said...

I have another thought to add to this, although I am not sure anyone is continuing to read along here.
Perhaps part of the "problem" of things like Facebook is our own expectation of it.
If I expect certain things and am frustrated because they do not happen, then I may attribute it to the organism instead of my own expectations.
If that makes sense ...
I expect very little from Facebook. And I spend very little time there.
There is still enough value in it for me not to opt out for the time being.
J

Kane Augustus said...

J.,

I'm keeping up with the conversation still. I'm just distracted by my intense interest in the Catholic situation.

In any case, you wrote: "Facebook is our own expectation of it.
If I expect certain things and am frustrated because they do not happen, then I may attribute it to the organism instead of my own expectations.
If that makes sense ...
I expect very little from Facebook. And I spend very little time there."


I agree. And that is what I was referring to (though you put it much more clearly) when I mentioned, "Now, just so we're clear, I am not blaming Facebook for my problems. I am solely responsible for how I attend to an activity, how much time I spend doing it, and in what manner. Facebook itself is simply a computer application and has nothing to do with my addiction to it. But, as a vehicle for part of my social life, I cannot trust myself to use Facebook anymore because I was not able to control myself around it."

At the same time, however, I have suspicions that utilities like FB are purposefully designed to consistently, and intentionally drag people in to dependence on it.

Hope you participate more!

K9-CRAZY said...

I miss seeing you around FB. And here.