Adjusting My Social Media Presence
Recently, much has changed in regards to my presence on social media.
Back in February I decided that I had had enough of Facebook and left the service. I didn’t deactivate or delete my account, I simply signed out and deleted the apps from my phone & tablet. Suffice it to say, I have yet to look back.
I had several reasons for making this decision.
Facebook is of course known for the fact that they do everything they can to grab every bit of information about you. They find out who your friends are, what you like to eat, what you like to drink, your political views, and so much more. The scary thing, and this is by no means limited to Facebook, Google does it too, is that you don’t even have to be explicit about it. Facebook can figure out so much that all the little hints that you drop along the way in what you like and share can give it away. There was a story several years ago where Target found out someone was pregnant before her father even found out. Think about that, and then imagine something far more detailed, and far more invasive. I’m still on Instagram though, which is owned by Facebook. The privacy thing still bothers me there, but privacy alone isn’t the only reason I left.
Facebook’s algorithm gets a lot of press on how it really tailors what we all see and read about to our tastes. Facebook generally wants to keep us on the site, so showing us too many articles that we disagree with can end up hurting that goal. The problem that arises from that, is that when it comes to politics and ideas, we might only see those thoughts and ideas that correspond with our own rather than challenge us. I’m certainly sometimes guilty of too quickly writing off conflicting ideas as simply being “wrong” without looking at the meat of the argument. To not even be given the other viewpoints though ends up weakening the dialogue.
The other side of this is that we as humans tend to stick with people we agree with. It’s natural to do this. The downside here though is that all too often, it shows in the feeds. Even without Facebook’s algorithm, we still only see our side of the argument.
Given that my Facebook profile has content that I really don’t want strangers to have easy access to (I keep most things private on Facebook), becoming friends with people outside my social circle isn’t an option to get alternate views, and if I wanted to follow right-leaning publications, there are better places to do it than on Facebook. Before I left Facebook, I culled my likes and follow list to essentially just friends, not really pages and groups. Basically what I’m trying to say there is that I don’t really feel like using Facebook as a news aggregator, more as a way to keep up with my friends and family.
One last thing on this point, Christie Aschwanden, a writer for FiveThirtyEight had a great point on how social media sort of points you in the direction of what to read. Reading the news more like the morning paper rather than whatever your friends recommend has so far seemed to help me see more sides to things that I had been previously. Nothing’s perfect mind you as even publications like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal can try to funnel you into various stories, more often than not, you’ll see a lot more than you would through social media.
Let’s face it, social media is a huge time sink. Many people, myself included, spend so much time following their feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. I noticed I was spending far too much time on Facebook. It wasn’t the only thing on my phone or laptop I was wasting time on, but it was definitely the biggest.
After I left Facebook, I also ended up spending less time on Reddit as well. The one site I ended up moving a little bit more to was Twitter. At the time I justified it by following some right-leaning accounts and news sources, but it ended up being somewhat of a time sink as well. All the politics drained me as well, so in mid-June, I ended up leaving Twitter as well. The only two social media platforms I really visited with any regularity were Instagram and Hacker News. I love photography and technology so both of those fit in for what I was looking for without much of the other stuff that ends up tagging along with Facebook and Twitter.
I still have no interest in returning to Facebook. Given that it’s still a connection to friends and family, I don’t see myself deactivating or deleting my account, but I’m not going to be logging on. As for Reddit, I still occasionally peruse the site, but the apps are gone from my iPad and phone, and I don’t spend that much time there. Recently, I decided to really cull who I follow on Twitter. Outside of a VERY small handful of people, I stopped following all news & politics accounts regardless of what political leaning they had. Basically I’m trying to keep my Twitter feed to science, tech, development, sports, and beer feeds. While I’ve only been back for a handful of days at this point, I have to say it feels more enjoyable than being inundated with the latest happenings of Washington. I still like to keep up with what’s going on, but I think I’ll use podcasts and my subscription to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to help me out there.