Why do I take photos?
September 10, 2019 6:58 PM   Subscribe

 
I'm trying to mostly stay off social media and this is what I'm expecting to likely happen. I did however just finish Jenny O'Dell's How to Do Nothing and I do appreciate framing this taking back of my attention as a very teeny tiny act of rebellion though. Also I'm reading a bit more now.
posted by bxvr at 7:21 PM on September 10


1,000 days of meditation in a year?
posted by boo_radley at 7:24 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


1,000 days of meditation in 15 minutes
posted by aubilenon at 7:30 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


1,000 years of meditation in 1 minute
posted by gwint at 7:31 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


“I made a resolution in September of 2019 that I would quit social media”

I hate to be the one to tell him this, but it only feels like it's been a year.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:32 PM on September 10 [47 favorites]


So there was no one weird trick?
posted by mwhybark at 7:34 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I *think* this means that his 1000th consecutive day of meditation happened to fall in the interval of his social-media-free year (so he started his run of such days 2.5 - 3 years ago).
posted by Jpfed at 7:38 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I look with a bit of envy at "I'm less distracted overall". I don't think that comes down entirely to social media for me, but I sure don't think it's not a factor.

I keep not really culling my social media habit significantly because it would be actively negatively socially disruptive, and sort of impractical work-wise, to just cut it out entirely and somehow the process of half-measures feels harder to get going on. But I really probably should do some focused unfollowing and try to really think about what I'm looking at because I get value out of it and what I'm doing because of a vague sense of obligation or because it's baggage that just comes along with years of social media history.

I did however just finish Jenny O'Dell's How to Do Nothing and I do appreciate framing this taking back of my attention as a very teeny tiny act of rebellion though.

I just got to see her talk about the book, and related thoughts, at XOXO this last weekend and it was so great hearing her sort of walk through some of both the ideas in the book and the context in which she came to them and how that all contrasted in some weird ways with the process of writing and then having better-than-expected publishing success with the book itself. I haven't sat down and read it myself yet because I Keep Getting Distracted By Stuff but...
posted by cortex at 7:48 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


I'm not on social media and every time one of these essays comes out I'm increasingly grateful that I'm only addicted to cigarettes
posted by captain afab at 7:54 PM on September 10 [12 favorites]


If you immediately have to blog about quitting social media, did you really quit?
posted by Literaryhero at 8:18 PM on September 10 [15 favorites]


Yeah, gave up Facebook entirely a couple of months ago (cleaned out and deleted my account) and deleted all my Tweets and unfollowed everyone on Twitter, both after many years belonging, and it hasn't affected me much. But I too have been meditating daily for 2+ years, so probably the two are connected.

I take photos for my own pleasure and haven't stopped doing that.

But is Metafilter social media? I think of it as a place to read interesting things.
posted by Peach at 8:19 PM on September 10 [9 favorites]


Why do I take photos?

1. To remember things that I need to buy.
2. So that when I catch up with someone I haven't seen in a while, I can show them 5 billion pictures of my pets.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:40 PM on September 10 [7 favorites]


This was a very thoughtful essay, thanks for sharing. I quit Instagram last year in an effort to rid myself of Facebook properties (am still on Twitter though, so no judgment here) and still find myself walking by scenes that I feel a phantom itch to photograph. I'll stop when I realize the only reason I would have photographed it would have been to post on Instagram. Instead, the photos on my phone are now for me, my home and/or individuals in my life that I want to directly share them with. I take pictures of people and places I want to remember, instead of photos designed to broadcast. There is a sense of loss, but it's the sense of losing something that was never really there to begin with.
posted by rogerroger at 8:49 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Apart from sharing this link here I shared on my family group on Whatsapp, the last social media service I still use, after quitting Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify and Youtube. My mother asked me if my experience was the same.

It wasn't same-same, and I would definitely not compare the first months unplugged with depression or opioid withdrawal (but the picking up of the phone 50 times a day searching for the apps and getting a mild sense of anxiety is definitely there). I did stop taking pictures, amusingly -- hadn't thought about that until I read the article, but it resonates. Am I more focused than before? No. That's probably something you get by meditating 1000 days in a year (or maybe I shouldn't have substituted Neko Atsume for Facebook in my home screen). I am reading more books and listening to more podcasts, but that is distinctly a result from quitting Youtube and blocking it from my browser on uBlock. One thing that Josh doesn't mention but which is perhaps the biggest thing I feel about not having social media is that my free time feels vast and unstructured, in the good sense. However: he has that blog and I have a presence in MeFi and HackerNews (where I pulled this link from), and we're both totes not counting these as social media. Hm.

As I articulated those thoughts answering my mom, I realized that it probably didn't make much of a difference in my life either way. Sure, it was awkward as hell to quit social media while working with digital advertising. (I'm happy to report I have since moved to a more meaningful job.) I had to actually create a blank, friendless Facebook account to operate the Ads tools. The only reason I quit these services in the first place is that I really personally hate Mark Zuckerberg so very much, and feel like the whole social media thing is bad to society -- but like someone who picks up veganism, crossfit, tarot or tattoing, after a first few months of promoting my enlightened way to everyone I know, I just grew used to it and stopped bringing it up.

So yeah, I have even less of a conclusion than Josh had on his post. Does quitting social media make your life better, healthier and more present? I'm not sure that's even the point -- does veganism? I don't think there is a point "turning back" social media, but a post monolithic/monopolistic social media reality is still very much an open discussion. If it were as easy as owning your own site and annotating the HTML with social semantics, a bunch of existing Geosites clones would be Silicon Valley unicorns at this point. I actually miss some group dynamics that for better or worse were captured by the Facebook platform, hence my still having Whatsapp. Lately I was considering the run your own social route proposed by Darius Kazemi (previously) as a solution to the things I miss the most.
posted by rufb at 8:52 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


I never got into Twitter

Okay there's a possible explanation for why quitting social media didn't improve this person's mental state dramatically.

I'm currently avoiding Twitter & Facebook because of a giant traumatic abuse scandal blowing up in one of my communities, & it's felt very good to be unplugged from the Discourse & using that time to study Japanese, play D&D, & watch old live-action Disney movies with taquito fella.

My quittin' trick is to let myself check my notifications whenever the impulse arises, but I'm not allowed to post or interact. Eventually the lack of input leads to a lack of meaningful feedback (I say "meaningful" because Facebook is great at filling your notifications with garbage) & I stop feeling the need to check it.

Not starting up again, especially before a conference or something where I want to make plans with people I only contact on Twitter, is the hard part. (Almost caved this morning & made a tweet about who called it "swordfighting" & not "the Large Hardon Collider," but taquito boyfriend talked me down.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 8:57 PM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I feel like "quitting social media" is something like the Millennial/Gen Y version of "canceling the Cable TV subscription" for boomers/Gen X. I don't mean that in a derogatory way; just that it was the current primary instrument of monoculture at the time. When Cable TV was king, opting out of it meant that you had deliberately chosen to withdraw from pretty much THE most common shared cultural experience that connected you with your friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. The only thing that came anywhere close to it was what radio station you listened to/identified with (rock, country, jazz, classical, etc.) - and that was a distant second. There were ways around it of course, especially after the Internet hit it big, but there's no denying a withdrawal of some sort was happening.

So even though I'm an Old and elected not to get into social media in the first place, I get the angst and the struggle. If it's any help, dropping my Cable TV turned out in the end not to be the traumatic experience I was expecting....
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:01 PM on September 10 [12 favorites]


Started reading, quit about half way through because I was in danger of straining my eye-rolling muscles.

I opened a Facebook account when my kids (now 27 and 30) were in high school and FB gave me access to parts of their lives I wouldn't otherwise be aware of. I've never posted anything, my account has been invisible for as long as I've known that's an option, and the kids remain my only 2 friends, though my son stopped using FB a couple of years ago.

No Linkedin ever. I can see the utility in theory, but I remain suspicious when any private service becomes essential for any aspect of one's life.

No Twitter ever. I'm convinced the service is a colossal waste of human time and energy. With precious few exceptions, any thought that can be expressed within the Twitter word limit doesn't need to be broadcast to the world.

Needless to say, I'm old. I'm not as sympathetic as Greg_Ace re any angst related to quitting social media. Then again, I lived happily without cable TV from the time I left home in 1972 until 4.5 years ago when I moved into a house that includes basic cable and Wi-Fi with rent. If cable were disconnected tomorrow, I wouldn't bat an eye.

But don't touch the Wi-Fi.
posted by she's not there at 9:29 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Further, how much more evil must Zuckerberg et al become before people feel compelled to write essays explaining why they CONTINUE to uae Facebook?
posted by she's not there at 9:44 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Started reading, quit about half way through because I was in danger of straining my eye-rolling muscles.

You and me both.

My first reaction to Facebook on first becoming aware of it was visceral repulsion, coupled with rather extreme irritation at the sheer cheek of the endless pestering to join up; I had trouble believing that all these apparently sensible people I knew were meekly handing over their private email address books to some cowboy outfit that so obviously failed to deserve the implicit trust being placed in it.

Nothing I've seen since has altered that first impression. I would never even consider making a Facebook account, and am fully convinced that my life is the better for that. The overall effect of Facebook on every user I have known personally since before Facebook was a thing has been to increase the amount of stress, insecurity and aggravation in their lives.

Twitter I just never got. I do seem to recall making an account at some point and adding one inane and rather confused comment to whatever Twitter has instead of threads, but the only time I ever look at it now is when somebody links to an interesting threadreader from MeFi.
posted by flabdablet at 10:44 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I love Facebook because I am in one of those fields where people re-locate for work all the time and without it I'd have a much harder time staying up with all my former colleagues and now friends lives- moves, kids birthdays, random funny messages and videos etc. We also use it to arrange meetings at conferences, check up with the fools who moved to Florida after hurricanes etc. It's great for that, kinda like Whatsapp but more people are on it. If you make it competitive or try to use it to fake a life you don't have then yeah you're going to be unhappy- but that's on people, not on the platform.
posted by fshgrl at 11:05 PM on September 10 [10 favorites]


I don’t have any of these feelings about Facebook - I have a Facebook account that I ‘used’ for a while but lately... I just don’t care. There was a cool wooden boat forum there, but there’s an equally cool one associated with wooden boat magazine.
But where’s the ‘pressure’ ? That’s the part I never got. I post a pic of my dog, it’s basically just for my friends and some of them notice and like it and ok, cool. So, I assume I’m using it wrong because ... like, so what? I regularly go months without ‘checking’ because there’s other stuff to do...
posted by From Bklyn at 11:41 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Like free cell. Those who know, know.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:41 PM on September 10


Not only am I not on any social media, I also do not watch television. At all. The latter is a direct result of the trauma of the last election; I never did embrace social media. I read a great deal and thus stay informed.

Life is dramatically better without them; I’m happier and more relaxed than friends who lean hard on social media. One cannot do a thing without photographing it all for her Twitter account; another ruminates endlessly about response to her posted videos. All are endlessly preoccupied with postings by people they haven’t seen in years and likely never will.

The time I did spend on the Book of Face left me frustrated and annoyed at myself for the time I wasted being angry at political posts by people I otherwise liked.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:45 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Definitely "nothing magical" about feeling healthy , happy, and real in this 2019 world.
posted by filtergik at 4:49 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


It's hard being a recovering addict when all your friends are junkies.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:52 AM on September 11 [9 favorites]


I got into Facebook in 2008 when an old friend from highschool invited to me join. From the start, it had been just about that: reconnecting with old friends with whom I had lost touch. At the time, my local social circle had knit itself together via a mixture of listservs, Yahoogroups, and reciprocal livejournal accounts; but I didn’t have an easy way to reconnect with these people who I knew but didn’t have a Googleable blog or email address. In our parents’ day, I think people would look you up on the phone directory but now, how does that happen?

It has served different purposes for me over the years. It eclipsed our legacy networks so that all of our LJs and Yahoogroups are withered and dead. It scratched a writers itch when I didn’t think I had time to write something more serious. It has been a place for some really deep and satisfying conversations from everything from my friends’ deep and passionate levels of nerdery on David Bowie to finding mutual support amongst trauma survivors to helping other cismale friends have their own awakening to structural misogyny. It was a loose set of friends who lived in places like Seattle, Edinburgh, or Hong Kong who would be good for a fun lunch if I was ever in their city. It was the mechanism where by I reconnected with a friend who had moved away more than a decade ago, and we could maintain a friendship through a low intensity exchange of likes, comments, and shout outs, and kept that friendship for years before it blossomed into a long distance relationship and then she moved up here and we got married.

I quit last year because I grew tired of having arguments with Trump supporters and with progressives who posted a lot of fake news. I went through phases of culling the most triggery people on my feed, but awful content would still show up as other friends would get dragged into these same fruitless arguments or eye rolling conversations. It got worse as Trump hit more of his stride, and as a person with a history of family and sexual abuse, for me, Facebook just became a continuous daily mine field.

This was already on top off the articles talking about the dopamine triggers of likes and its addictive consequences, and the various concerns about performative living (and, hell, I was maintaining and posting content to a livejournal for a decade before Facebook. Performative living was my native language at this point). I went for about a year with Facebook off my phone to address the addictive aspects and found that to be genuinely helpful, but that also made visiting the website that much more grueling; because I had gotten used to this life where I wasn’t distracted by political/news chaos and then going on to Facebook was just opening myself back up to that. The Kavanaugh hearing broke me, and I deleted my account after he got confirmed.

So it’s been almost a year for me too. There was an adjustment around social planning. I had been accustomed to sending emails out for parties and events from pre-FB days but now my wife’s and my social world is split across her FB friends and my email contacts so that’s awkward. She’s needs to sync me up on parties that people post on FB. I have to let her know who RSVPed if they didn’t reply to both of us. I have enjoyed getting back into books (which I had unconsciously been neglecting in favor of the infinite scroll) and podcasts (as the replacement for what to occupy my attention when on public transit). I had hoped to rekindle some of my creativity with writing or with other projects, but this hasn’t happened yet. It’s been hard to replace the motivation that comes from having an audience delivered via social media, as tiny as that audience may be. A lot of my words go into MeFi or one of the half dozen Slack communities that I have turned to for conversation.

The one quibble I would have with this authors essay is the point about how Facebook is filled with these superficial relationships and aside from the 2% of people that you interact with on a regular basis, any other attention you pay to anyone else is disingenuous. That may be true for some friendships but I also feel part of that is the natural process we go through when we realize we have limited time and need to be intentional about our relationships. But the particular boon I found in FB and other social media is that it can be this platform for casual connections where neither party needs a lot of time or intimacy but you both benefit from this sort of long term exposure to each other’s lives; and you can keep things on hold until one of you visits the other’s city and then you have an actual reason for deep and meaningful interaction in person. That particular function doesn’t have to be filled by Facebook, but I think it’s worth filling.
posted by bl1nk at 5:14 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]


I like Instagram to a degree because it pushes me to work on my photography more and it gives me something to do with the images that I create. I work mostly with film so it's a lot of process to shoot, develop the film, scan the negatives, clean and adjust in Photoshop and export to a jpeg so it's nice to have somewhere to display those pictures once I'm done.

Most of my former teachers and classmates from photography school are on there too so it's neat to see what they're working on.

Photography has also gotten me back to Facebook because it's as far as I can find the only place for interesting discussion on the subject on the web. FB groups tend to be a lot more inclusive too and have people other than straight white guys participating in the conversation. Any of the old photography forums are dead or dying and mostly full of grumpy old men who think that they're Ansel Adams and reddit photography subs are full of
bros thinking that their badly lit shots of their hot girlfriend in her underwear is the height of portrait photography. I guess that instagram has a lot of that too but it's easy to avoid if you prune your feed carefully.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


Octothorpe, left r/analog because of all the tasteful nudes getting posted constantly. I used to follow a few filmstock tags on instagram but haven't had the app in a few months. Is Flickr dead?
posted by bxvr at 5:29 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


> Josh C. Simmons quit social media for a year and nothing magical happened.

I thought that was the point of quitting social media: To break the dependency on whatever emotional and chemical surges your neural system generates through continuous amusement and ego boosts.

The physical world is not entertainment, and if you want to engage with it, you have to recalibrate to the level of boringness that daily life provides. Magical things shouldn't be happening, because magic isn't real.
posted by at by at 6:01 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Increased attention span, more mindful, more present, engaging less deeply with transactional relationships... sounds like he in fact got a lot out of quitting social media.
posted by Automocar at 6:12 AM on September 11


If you make it competitive or try to use it to fake a life you don't have then yeah you're going to be unhappy- but that's on people, not on the platform.

This is how I feel about it. I use Facebook and look at it a couple of times a day. I use it primarily to keep up with distant friends. I post family or dog pics, and occasional jokes. I have unfollowed or unfriended problematic people.

It does help that my parents don't use it and I have no extended family causing drama for me. I know that shit sucks.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:53 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


If you can quit it, quit it and be happier. If you need it for professional or quasiprofessional reasons, don't. We need it, so we don't quit.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:04 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


If you make it competitive or try to use it to fake a life you don't have then yeah you're going to be unhappy- but that's on people, not on the platform.

The platform is literally built from the ground up, exploiting human psychology, to get people to use it like this. The companies aren't neutral in this. They're not just "trying to make a useful product".

Do you feel the same way about slot machines and heroine?
posted by Reyturner at 7:06 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]


I work in media. Removing myself from social media would have a significant negative impact on my career. I use my social media accounts almost exclusively for work, so talk of having a 'social media' persona seems perfectly normal for me. It's a tool I use to disseminate my work, connect with other journalists and writers, and display my photography.

Social media is also often the only tool available for reaching out to certain sources, media figures, or repositories of knowledge for some types of stories, especially in my particular domain.

When I read about people 'quitting' it, I think 'good for them,' but I am always confused when it's presented as a universal positive that should apply to all people. That's like telling a cab driver it's time to start riding a bike.
posted by jordantwodelta at 7:09 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]


There is a sense of loss, but it's the sense of losing something that was never really there to begin with.

I really identified with his comments about friendships and “friends” on Facebook. I’m six months off most social media as compared to his year and it’s been a revelation to me how little effort I was really putting in to maintaining friendships and how shallow some of my knowledge of my friends had become. A lot of relationships were based on scrolling past posts and pictures and shared links rather than actual discussions. How many people was I actually checking in with, making the effort to see in person, sharing with them about a bad day beyond a surface level? Not many.

For those scoffing at this aspect of his piece, perhaps you are just better than he was (and I am) at staying connected to real friends or building relationships, and thus you wouldn’t notice much of a difference? Lots of us were on Facebook before we ever learned to build adult friendships, so working through it with Facebook out of the picture really is interesting.
posted by sallybrown at 7:11 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


For a few years Twitter was my main source of expression and entertainment. There's a common joke on Twitter where you lament how the only jokes you find funny are the absurdist nonsense that you find on Twitter. I always thought that joke was hilarious because of how true it felt. The Twitter style infected how I related to things in ways I didn't even notice. A common joke around the house was me laughing at something and then struggling to explain to my wife why it was funny. It was like being isolated by a watered down cult.

Eventually I realized Twitter was mostly making me anxious and miserable and quit. What helped was having things in my real life that I was capable losing if I didn't. It would have been a hell of a lot harder if I didn't.

I think a lot of "addictions" that "kids today" get sneered at for having (never mind the hold that social media driven conspiracies like Qanon has on racist boomers) are the natural result of an increasingly isolating and alienating world. The desire to be heard and seen and validated is a basic human need and these platforms commoditize that need by capitalizing on the lack that so many people are feeling.
posted by Reyturner at 7:40 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


not being on social media is an important part of achieving my Zero Interaction With Other Human Beings master plan
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:44 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]


Of course, he probably spent most of that year planning to write a blog post about it...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:53 AM on September 11


I think the author articulates some pretty significant changes he’s experienced, just very matter-of-factly and without any lampshading. It also sounds like he’s only beginning to experience and understand the significance and far-reaching impact of something like “I feel by far less distracted. My attention span feels more robust than it ever has.” I want to read the version of this essay from 2029: I Quit Social Media 10 Years Ago and ....

How many people was I actually checking in with, making the effort to see in person, sharing with them about a bad day beyond a surface level? Not many.

This has been the most dramatic difference since I mostly deleted social media accounts almost a year ago. I now use my phone as a phone almost daily, and actually call family and friends on a regular basis. The nature of social media intermediation in relationships is, to me, intrinsically (though paradoxically) isolating: for over a decade, I was sending and receiving way more information about way more people via social media than I ever had in my life, but at a consistently decreasing rate of actual, real-time interaction of any kind.

So it was like, sure, I’m sharing all this stuff and people are seeing & reading it, but to me the experience is like staring at a camera or putting a message in a bottle—there may be tens or hundreds or millions of people who will hear or read my message, but I will never experience their hearing or reading it, and so for me, it was kind of the same as just making scrapbooks for myself that friends and family commented about, or something. I found myself feeling alone more, and more like I was just broadcasting information about myself and receiving everyone else’s broadcasts, and then I’d chat with a few people in real life about those broadcasts, instead of having real-time interactions with other human beings as a baseline. 7.5 billion people, alone together on our rock, broadcasting at one another incessantly.

My experience now is that I have real-time conversations with my family & friends more regularly than I have in 20 years, and especially my friendships are stronger for it (because, of course, I live anywhere near only a couple of my dearest, long-term friends—thanks, middle age!). But I don’t judge anyone for their use or not-use, and definitely feel how utterly out-of-sync I am with my culture, but that’s OK because I’m only trying to find peace and contentment for me and my own experience of the world, as best as possible. Really severely limiting time-displaced, heavily-mediated social interaction has been essential for me in that. (He says while typing in a time-displaced, electronically-mediated conversational forum. Ha.)
posted by LooseFilter at 8:25 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


I've started taking large loads of stuff to the dump/donation center in an effort to scale *way* back on stuff in my life. In conjunction with that. I've organized everything on my phone into folders. The things I used to have on the front page are now in a folder labeled Front Page. Other folders include "Fun", "Money", "Shop", "Eat Out", etc. They are all now on the second screen and my home page has nothing but the time and temperature at the top with peaceful blue wallpaper. This means that when I open my phone, I have to think about what I want to do and open that folder, instead of instinctively just clicking on the Facebook or Instagram app. It's possible that I may have an empty "Fun" folder a year from now.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:30 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


fshgrl said: If you make it competitive or try to use it to fake a life you don't have then yeah you're going to be unhappy- but that's on people, not on the platform.

Reyturner said: The platform is literally built from the ground up, exploiting human psychology, to get people to use it like this. The companies aren't neutral in this. They're not just "trying to make a useful product".

Do you feel the same way about slot machines and heroine?


The companies aren't neutral in this, but just because they *want* you to be competitive and use it to fake a life doesn't mean that you have to use their platform in the way they want. If you're unhappy because social media has encouraged competitiveness and fakeness, that's definitely partly (or maybe mostly) social media's fault, but there's plenty of people using social media in other ways, so it is possible to hack their system and have social media be less likely to make you feel competitive and fake.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:01 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]


The companies aren't neutral in this, but just because they *want* you to be competitive and use it to fake a life doesn't mean that you have to use their platform in the way they want. If you're unhappy because social media has encouraged competitiveness and fakeness, that's definitely partly (or maybe mostly) social media's fault, but there's plenty of people using social media in other ways, so it is possible to hack their system and have social media be less likely to make you feel competitive and fake.

Yeah, this.

I can't be the only person who considers Metafilter a social media platform, can I? I'm here for the conversation, which means I'm here to interact with other human people. I'm here to be a social person. I don't think that's unhealthy, and I also don't think the way I use other social media platforms (Twitter, where I divide my time evenly between being a way-too-overenthusiastic nerd about science and making jokes to amuse myself; Tumblr, where I just let the over-enthusiasm run wild about everything) is all that unhealthy, either. All three of these platforms can be super toxic, but so can any human social institution.

It's hard to disentangle the structural aspects shaping human interaction on internet platforms from the effects of the individual people in your social networks to you, yourself. But that's true of other human social institutions, too, like work or school or church or or or. The trick is to figure out what social institutions and what people let you feel like your best, truest self, and then put all your social effort there. Marie Kondo your social life, as it were.

Sometimes, you can't interact with the people without interacting with the platform, because the platform is where the people are. That doesn't mean you have to give the platform everything it wants, and it doesn't mean that you can't shape the culture on that platform, at least where it grows around you, right back.
posted by sciatrix at 9:12 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


Do you feel the same way about slot machines and heroine?

I mean, yeah? And alcohol, food, tv, weed, cats and all those things. People can get addicted to anything. Should we all just live in bare cells?

I like being able to stay in touch with friends. My friends are not at all the type to post fascist rants or what have you so it's pretty much 90% positive. I do find facebook a lot less useful than it was though as its been taken over by sponsored pages and the like. I think we'd all switch if there was a better alternative but it is what it is.
posted by fshgrl at 9:35 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


I can't be the only person who considers Metafilter a social media platform, can I?

Definitely not (I hope not), because it kind of clearly is, right? For me, the difference is in degree more than kind, but I do know that I experience a distinct difference between social media whose user interface primarily creates interaction (e.g., Metafilter or Reddit) rather than self-curation (Facebook, Instagram). (Twitter is kind of in the the twilight of those two nodes, depending on how one uses it.)

Sometimes, you can't interact with the people without interacting with the platform, because the platform is where the people are. That doesn't mean you have to give the platform everything it wants, and it doesn't mean that you can't shape the culture on that platform, at least where it grows around you, right back.

What a great point, and it helps me to realize that it’s not either/or for me, but instead that I need to be really thoughtful and even vigilant about how I use the tools, even the ones I like.

(As a personal aside, I really appreciate that you often articulate the in-between, gray, boundary, interactional, intersectional, etc., aspects of so many topics, so well, sciatrix. It’s such a difficult and delicate space to work in, and I know that’s your specialty, but still, thanks. I wish we worked on the same campus.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:33 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


I mean, yeah? And alcohol, food, tv, weed, cats and all those things. People can get addicted to anything. Should we all just live in bare cells?

I think it's a bit of a leap to imply that questioning the risk of products, designed to addict and extract attention using the tactics of drug dealers and casinos, trying to insinuate themselves into every aspect of culture and human relationships is the same as insisting that everyone live in a totally austere nanny state.
posted by Reyturner at 10:45 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Too be a bit more solution oriented, Slack and WhatsApp and the rise of the group chat in general has been the best methadone too wean myself off of using Advertisement Delivery platforms to stay in touch with far flung friends and family.
posted by Reyturner at 10:56 AM on September 11


I semi-quit Facebook about three years ago (still had an account but never, ever logged in) and totally quit it a year or so ago. I have a Twitter account through which I mostly follow writers, local news, some historians, a beloved comic book creator, a couple of firends, and a few security professionals. I dip into Reddit now and then. I've never had Instagram.

I take pictures for the same reason I started taking them in the 70s...they are aesthetically pleasing and the act of photography gives me pleasure, especially now that I don't have to pay for film and processing.
posted by lhauser at 7:53 PM on September 11


I think it's a bit of a leap to imply that questioning the risk of products, designed to addict and extract attention using the tactics of drug dealers and casinos, trying to insinuate themselves into every aspect of culture and human relationships is the same as insisting that everyone live in a totally austere nanny state.

Yeah, but that's only because you're the kind of tree-hugging Luddite who wants to destroy our capitalist way of life and have us all go back to living in cold dark caves without running water and personally clubbing our food to death with the thighbone of an ox.
posted by flabdablet at 9:30 PM on September 11


it's felt very good to be unplugged from the Discourse

YES. I'm on social media, but I don't comment, I don't like, and I post once a month, when I find something I know 1 of a dozen or so people will actually see and like. I share often, almost daily, with individuals. And then I'm here and on Reddit, because Reddit is home to lots of super-specific sub-discussions. I stay way way way out of news commentary, and people who are wrong on the internet get a corrective link and left alone unless they PM me for further thoughts.

Just stay out of the stew and don't play the impressing people game. You'll always lose.
posted by saysthis at 10:50 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Oh man this article.

Social media is a tool. It's a disease-ridden, profit-seeking, attention-thieving tool with about as much utility for me as a pair of swim trunks in the arctic. And yet, it's a tool.

So that kinda cuts both ways doesn't it? I made a facebook account in '10, felt immediately backlit by every anxiety I've ever struggled with since toddlerhood, engaged sparingly, and eventually stopped altogether in '12 or so.

But it's a tool. I kept it around. If I ever wanted to find someone, I found them. Otherwise, the greater ecosystem of self-focused performative grandstanding, the in fighting, the branding--good god normal humans do not need to be aware of branding--all felt such a waste to me. It's cancerous.

But it's still a tool. So much emphasis on the media, so little on the social when we talk about this. Somewhere along the way people forgot that it's the people that matter, dummy.

If everyone dropped off tomorrow, the woven fabrics of this globalized world wouldn't disintegrate. Through inertia we have fooled ourselves into believing this is something we need, and through inertia, the beast keeps a-slouchin' on.

This blog post is just another echo in the hollow places we congregate. Our author shouldn't make so much of nothing. If it's no big deal, don't make a big deal out of it.

The only social network I'll ever need is the contacts app on my phone, and I hope that one day we can all collectively come to that conclusion. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we have choices in how we engage with the world around us. For instance, I don't post here if I don't have something to say. I don't post without effort. Pulling a lever just because you can isn't a good enough reason. Living with intention means everything, no matter the medium you use. If your intention is to further your career, or network, or find an audience, fine. If your intention is to catch up with folks that stoke the warmth inside you, great, but intent is the mojo. I find too often people drift without a tether, forgetting intent, until they are driven to action by the incendiary. Yes, that, in and of itself, is intent, but I believe if so many passive eyeballs weren't mindlessly drifting through the void, then there'd be no cause to draw their gaze in the first place.

We can denounce the corporate practices, the psychological tricks, the bots, the proliferation of pointless filler, the snippy thoughtless trolls, the racists, the clickbate, the likes, the metrics, the obsessive self-curation, the targeting, the data collection, the privacy violations, the skinner box design, the sensationalism, the outrage, the anxiety, the sense of isolation, the thoughtless cruelty, our lack of attention, the state of the world, the propaganda, Russia, Donald Trump, the alt right, public shaming, online bullying, echo chambers, callout culture, and the whole rotten lot of it on social media and its architects if we want. But it's such a waste of time. It's a tool. Treat it like a tool or don't use the fucking shit, and if you opt out, don't tell me because I'm not plugged in enough to care, unless of course, I'm on Metafilter, in which case I'll vomit out a post like this for favorites because like every stupid ape on the planet I'm compelled by my basest needs no matter what I pretend.

Yep. We're fucked. Love y'all.

But really. I don't get it. Never have. Never will. When I see something like this my kneejerk feeling is to shrug and move on, but then I remember that we've all been hoodwinked en mass and then I get angry.

This is not a very nuanced take, but I don't think this is a problem that requires much nuance. Stop using it if you want, engage with it responsibly if you must engage. It's hopelessly naive to think anyone will actually follow that particular edict, but I dream of a world where we don't meld with our technology like we have. Tools, tools, tools. They're tools to facilitate you, the individual, and you get to make choices about that.

I need a nap.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 2:13 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Tools, tools, tools. They're tools to facilitate you, the individual, and you get to make choices about that.

The thing about tools (by which word I'm happy to refer to all of technology) is that all of them directly increase personal power but none of them directly increase personal responsibility; any technology-related increase in the latter only ever occurs in those who bother to reflect thoughtfully on the former.

The largest problems that beset our world today have two root causes: the first is our sheer numbers, and the second is unanticipated consequences of our technological successes. Which, if one understands technology as an amplifier of power without responsibility, makes perfect sense.

To a far greater extent than is good for any of us, most people appear to live our lives in dumb and unexamined obedience to the Technological Imperative: CAN = MUST. Facebrag is just another example of the same all too human failing.

I made a very nice living working in IT for quite a long time. As a result of deep experience with seeing how that particular sausage is made, I am deeply and chronically suspicious of it and highly resistant to making it anything even close to a necessary part of my life. Perhaps this is just the typical zeal of the convert at work. Hard to tell from inside.

But it would, I think, be good if more people made more of an effort to understand the nature of the tools made available to us and the motivations behind that availability before wielding them, and spent more time giving serious consideration to the option of choosing not to do so.
posted by flabdablet at 11:41 PM on September 12


about as much utility for me as a pair of swim trunks in the arctic

Swim trunks are, as is well known, totally unnecessary in the Arctic.
posted by flabdablet at 2:00 AM on September 13


I mean, I definitely got addicted to Facebook fairly quickly, but to be honest I believe this is in part because most of my socialization and bonding in my teens was via very active, tight knit web communities/live journal/blogs, etc. It does not at all replicate them, but I wanted it to. For the most part I treated it like a personal blog (I had always kept once since I was 16) and a method to share my artwork or photographs. To answer the "why do I take photos?", originally the thrill of finding the shot to editing it to my own specification of beauty was the thrill, and I would share it where no one actually noticed more often than not, but Facebook/Instagram changed that into me seeking validation from my "followers" before myself. Suddenly I was getting dozen to hundreds to thousands of likes!! It made me miserable and killed my creative drive. So I deleted Instagram, Facebook is just sort of there as a weird wasteland, I read Lost Connections and similar books about why I felt depressed and lonely all the time, and I've actually begun to be more engaged with people around me. I am a lot happier. But sometimes I miss the thrill of my social media junky days when it was all new and exciting and held a lot of potential for personal growth and reach beyond I could have imagined rather than the commercialized hellscape it is now.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:46 AM on September 13


@Young Kullervo

Yeah. The biggest problem with Facebook and the like is scale, if I had to point a finger. Scale, and the artifice hung like tacky streamers from every jutting rail of the whole unnecessary construct. Likes, the quantified and visible demonstration of human engagement and anything else that serves that purpose.

I'm reminded of the early days of last.fm when blogging was integrated into the platform. All the math behind last.fm served the purpose of linking you up with people that shared your musical taste, so you had these little communities around an amorphouss collection of bands. It really did facilitate connection and the best part was the blogs you wrote were shown to your musical neighbors as it were. I still think that was one of the coolest uses of technology to bridge gaps. Enough automation and mathematical wizardry to smash folks together, and no more. It made for some great writing and some great people. Sure, you had sensationalist nonsense--I was pretty young and remember spewing all over 10,000 Days just for the clicks--but mostly it was a lovely group of earnest people that loved music and wanted to share that with one another, mediated by the platform without any kind of excessive intrusion. I miss those days.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 12:25 PM on September 13


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