Saturday, March 24, 2018

What Is It Like Not Being On Facebook?

What is it like not being on Facebook?  A lot better than being on Facebook.

With the recent revelations of "security breaches" at Facebook, many people are calling on Facebook users to delete their accounts.  And while many people no doubt will do this, it is doubtful that Facebook will go away anytime soon.  It is akin to the cord-cutting movement with cable television. Many people, such as myself, got rid of cable television because it was too expensive and the content wasn't worth it it.  Although cable TV has seen a decline in viewership, the majority of Americans still have cable television in their home.  It isn't going away anytime soon.

The funny thing is, a lot of people can't even imagine a world without cable television in their home. They can't imagine not watching four or five hours a day of television and seeing all their "favorite shows".  What could they possibly do without cable TV?  Of course the question is, what did we do before cable TV was invented?  A lot, as it turns out.

Maybe I am ahead of the curve here, or at least ahead of the herdAs I noted before, at the edge of the herd - or at least the leading edge - the grass is all fresh and sweet and hasn't been trampled down and pooped upon.  The center of the herd may be safer, but the opportunities are far more limited.

I got rid of our cable TV back in the 1990s.  We got it only because it came bundled as part of an internet service.  But I quickly realized it was having a negative effect on my life and suddenly we were spending hours everyday watching television instead of actually doing things.  We started neglecting our house, our friends, our social life and even work, in favor of watching television.

Cable television caters to the compulsive addictive nature of all human beings and this was by design. They would show teasers and snippets of programs followed by five minutes of loud and annoying advertisements.  By the time that show restarted, they had to do a recap to remind you what the show is all about.  This effect is particularly jarring when you see these types of shows in a non-commercial environment such as Netflix, where the commercials are exerpted. Watching a History Channel show on Netflix is frustrating is it just keeps repeating itself over and over and over again.

But it seems that people like these sort of obsessive-compulsive behaviors and will substitute one for another.  Perhaps I've substituted blogging for cable television - I don't know.  But with most folks, if it isn't cable television, then it's something else.  Whether it is gambling, or video games, or Facebook I don't know.

The bottom line is that these obsessive-compulsive behaviors can take up hours of your day and prevent you from succeeding in life.  Think about it.  You spend 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours a day at work, and that leaves you only 8 hours a day of free time.  If you're spending half of it watching television, that only leaves you a few hours to get dressed, take a shower, prepare meals, and maybe contemplate life for a few moments.

And that's the whole point of this obsessive-compulsive behavior - to chew up a lot of your time, which a lot of people have.  People with no ambition, who have no goals in life, don't have anything to do, so they flop down in front of the TV and push the button on the remote and hope that something interesting comes on to distract and amuse them until they are required to go off to work, or go to bed.

I long ago got off of Facebook - very early into this blog - as I saw something very creepy and weird about it that I didn't like. It was interesting at first to connect with people and see their photos and pictures and hear updates from them.  The social aspect of it was initially a very positive thing.  But then I started hearing from people from 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago, and oftentimes it was kind of scary to reconnect with people and realize you had nothing in common with them.

It also seemed to me that Facebook was the ultimate in narcissism.  Everybody's life looks more fabulous on Facebook, and everybody has a fabulous profile picture and is doing wonderful and exciting things.  The problem is, this is not the truth.  We all live pretty mundane lives and do pretty mundane things.  The secret to Facebook is to post pictures that look more exciting than things actually are.  And when we are traveling we can tell when there's Facebook people about.  The Facebook people take 5, 10, 15, or even 20 pictures of what they're doing in order to find one that looks really exciting, to make their life look more important on Facebook.  It is incredibly shallow and stupid.  It also wastes a lot of time.  How many meals at restaurants have you seen interrupted by people hoping to get the perfect picture for Facebook?

I concluded that Facebook is for brain-dead idiots and I didn't want to be one of those.  And yes I realize a lot of my friends have Facebook pages, so when I say they are brain-dead idiots, I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Video gaming is another area that is both a big time-waster and an obsessive-compulsive behavior. We are starting to hear lots of stories about people spending as much as twelve hours a day playing video games.  These same people are living at home with their parents, and often don't have a job - the only way you can afford to spend that many hours playing video games.

Again, these games are designed to consume your time. Most of these modern games require you to achieve various goals to reach the next level.  And in order to do that, you have to spend an inordinate amount of time building up to different levels within the game.  The more time you invest in the game, the more you feel you need to spend, so you don't lose your earlier investment.  The only real controversy with video games recently was that one company got too greedy and offered people ways to buy their way to the top of the game.  The only other alternative was to spend days or even weeks trying to build up to the even the first level.

The reality is, of course, that while video games can be interesting and fun, they are also an enormous time-waster, just sucking hours and days and weeks and months and years out of your life and returning absolutely nothing in return.  And you can't just dabble in a video game, either.  You have to spend hours becoming expert at it, in order to get any satisfaction out of it.  And again, this is by design.  The game makers carefully craft these games so your "rewards" diminish over time, so you have to put in more and more time to get rewards.  It is a Skinner box of the first order.

A recent article online opines that it's nearly impossible to get rid of your Facebook account because you'll piss off and annoy all your friends, and they will all hate you for not being on Facebook.  I suppose to some extent, this is true.  When I deleted my Facebook account I did get some odd reactions from people.  But after while, they grew to accept the fact that I wasn't on Facebook.   The few "long lost friends" I found when I reconnected with my Facebook turned out not to really be interested in hanging out with me so much as showing off how great their life was, online.

And that's what Facebook is all about. You see young people with a 100, 200, and maybe even 500 Facebook "friends".  This is literally impossible to do - to have 500 close friends.  But of course, they are not friends but "Facebook friends."  And what does this mean?  It means absolutely nothing.  It means it's somebody who gets hits from your feed occasionally, which of course are likely filtered out.

But what about the other side of the coin?  Don't I miss getting updates and communications from friends and the latest things they're doing?  Not really.  As it turns out, there was a time in this planet before Facebook - believe it or not!  People would talk on the phone and see each other in person and have what was called conversations.  During these "conversations" they would talk about the things they're interested in, in life, and what they were doing, as well as their opinions on various things.  It was actually kind of fun.  Sometimes drinking was involved.

What I found with Facebook was there was too much communication.  I had Facebook friends who would send me pictures of every meal they ate every day. This really wasn't very interesting or useful to me unless the meal was somewhat unusual.  But even then, after 10, 20 or a hundred of these posts, you kind of get bored with it.  Nobody cares about what I ate for breakfast and I certainly don't care about what you ate, either.

For some reason this is a trend on social media sites.  On Reddit you see a posting saying "I made this" with somebody posting a picture of a food item they made.  Of course, it could be a picture they scraped off the internet for all we know.  And for all we care.  Why do I care about what some stranger on the internet made in his kitchen?  It's not like the first time somebody cooked an omelette or made souffle.  It wasn't like he invented some new food item.

But getting back to conversations, that was sort of the interesting thing about Facebook.  My friends posted every intimate detail their lives on their "wall", so then we got together in person, we had nothing to talk about.  I would start going into one of my long-winded boring stories about something I was doing in my life, and my friend would interrupt and say, "Yes, I read about that on your Facebook page" and the conversation will come to an abrupt end.

So what's it like not being on Facebook?  Well it's sort of like being one of the lizard people so to speak.  The vast majority of Americans are glued to their television and glued to their cell phones and glued to their Facebook pages - if they're not compulsively gambling or playing video games.  And you are one of the few people who is not doing these things and can thus think clearly and see things for as they are.

Or maybe it's the other way around, we are not the lizard people but the real human beings while the rest of humanity are basically replicants or clones living shallow meaningless lives and never accomplishing much but instead being passive consumers and victims.  They spend the bulk of their energy on things that return absolutely nothing to them whatsoever - television, video games, gambling, Facebook, and other sorts of things like that that just waste time, money, and energy.

Of course, it was a lot easier to cut the cord on Facebook ten years ago than it is today.  When I got off Facebook, not everyone was on it.  Since then, the number of Facebook users has skyrocketed, particularly among older people.  So if you decide to quit Facebook today, yes it is a lot harder as indeed some people will be pissed at you or think you're being strange for not compulsively posting every detail of your life on some stupid website

Oh wait, that's sort of describes a Blog doesn't it?