This decision does not come lightly or easily, but I think that I need to leave Facebook. Actually I am 100% sure of it. I am not 100% sure for how long, or if it will be for good, but the latter is certainly a possibility. Before I explain to you my personal reasons for doing so, I want to say that my reasons are no judgment on anybody else. Maybe you’ll connect with some of what I feel, maybe you won’t. I know there are many of you who seem to be able to use Facebook in a way that I wish I can do. Some of my reasons are broad and for what I feel are based on reasoning, others are simply based on personal reflections and knowing myself and my own weaknesses.
I will start with some broader ethical concerns that make me feel it is the right thing to do. All of that can be best summed up by this TED talk. We live in an attention economy and companies are working to grab hold of my attention, and they’ve succeeded. There are people out there who are starting to think about ethics in this realm, but as it stands I don’t think I want to be part of this game where possible. I probably can’t get away from Google or Amazon, but I can do something. There are entities out there who want to learn about us and dictate how we want to live, and I want to at least take back some control and make more decisions about how I want to live. I don’t think that Zuckerberg or any of his crew are evil or anything, but I don’t think they put a lot of thought into what they are actually doing and wondering how they might change society for the better with this powerful tool.
But really it boils down to personal reasons. I don’t believe social media is inherently bad. When I see how useful it is for mobilizing something like March for our Lives, I think social media is a tool we need. Through Facebook I have met some incredible people. People I know will be friends for life. I have many friends who have helped expose me to insightful articles that help me learn and have meaningful discussions. But there is another side to all of it. There is seeing friends all posting the same horror stories on their news feeds. It’s not that they shouldn’t, they care about these things, but when you see the same headline over and over again it gets to you. Then there are the idiotic and poorly reasoned comments and this is where I fall into the trap over and over again of getting into these conversations. They get me angry, and I find myself unable to calm my mind. Sometimes these thought linger with me while I’m trying to sleep, trying to meditate, or when I get up in the morning. I’m getting angry at people I don’t even know and will never meet, even when I try to remain civil in the conversation. And then as comments and status mount, I’m seeing who replied, who reacted to my comment or status, and it all adds up. And I wonder, what am I really counting, and is there a point to it. If I make a comment that a lot of people like does that mean anything? Is this how I should be deriving a sense of value? I ask this question a lot. Facebook feels noisy to me now. The best analogy I can think of (and this dates me) is that it’s like a radio station with a lot of static and interference. There is definitely a signal I want from social media, but I can disentangle it from the noise. I fight to just focus on the part I want to hear, but I can’t tune out the static. I see other people do this and I know it’s possible. It just doesn’t seem possible for me right now. It just seems like the best idea to turn the radio off and read a book instead. It doesn’t feel like it’s increasing my happiness, contentedness or peace in life.
The weight of the world has been heavy on me these recent years. Even before Trump (Trump certainly hasn’t helped). I know this has been true for many friends my age. As you become more aware of what’s going on, there is a price to pay for that, you want to do something, you want to make a difference. In that vein I decided do some volunteer work in my local community to help neglected and abused children. With a second kid arriving, the responsibilities of now being a department chair, I am more acutely aware of my own limitations in both time and energy. I contemplated giving up my volunteer work with the second kid coming, but given the amount of time I spend on Facebook it just became crazy to me to give up the volunteer work. Don’t get me wrong, it means a lot that I mean something to people who might feel sad that I’m leaving, and there is obviously value in maintaining a relationship between people you value and admire, but as of right now, while I’m unable to shut out all the noise I have to truly ask myself, “Is the time and energy I’m putting into Facebook the most effective way I can use my time and energy?” I have to ask myself “Am I inspiring, teaching, helping by being on Facebook?” Now maybe I am, but it doesn’t feel that way. It often feels like I’ve just used Facebook as a way to ‘feel’ like I’m doing something; to ‘feel’ like I’m helping. I feel like I can’t know the answer to these questions until I break away from Facebook for awhile; to sort of de-clutter, and see what paths lay out before me. I was very inspired by this TED talk recently about how we can affect change in the world and I believe that sometimes I on Facebook when there is value I could be adding to the lives of family and friends just a few feet away from me.
I started this blog as outline to express myself intellectually and creatively. Whether people have enjoyed my blog posts are not, I have found it immensely helpful to me as an individual and this is also something I don’t want to give up as my time grows shorter with a new family member on the way. I don’t plan on leaving Facebook until the end of April. In that time I hope that those of you who read this, and who want to keep in touch will talk to me so we can find out a way to do that. But certainly following this blog is a good way to do that. There is a way to follow this blog by e-mail, and am happy to have discussions with you on here. There are other messenger services (like gchat) where we can still have conversations, and there is e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), twitter (@profswarn) for quick shout outs, and you can message me for my number for texting. I realize though that there is going to be losses with this. And while this decision might seem sudden, please know, that with all life decisions I have put in a great deal of thought into it, and this is something that has been growing in my mind for the last 3 years as I have tried, unsuccessfully, to have mastery over Facebook. I hope that maybe after a good break I can come back to it with better control and use it in a way that compliments my life. Right now I just feel like I’m in a mire and I just need to get out for awhile. At the very least it will make me a more present father, and that alone has value. I hope you can support me in this decision. And for all the people that enjoy my company on Facebook and who might not interact as much once I leave, just remember that my doors are always open if ever you are in the Pittsburgh area. Just give me a heads up even if a lot of time has passed. The memory in my brain might not be reliable but the memory in my heart always looks forward to interacting with a friend.
Thank you for traveling with me along my journey in life, I hope that many of you will continue.
Be good to each other and do good in this world in the way that serves you best.