Facebook Cleanse

I’m doing another Facebook Cleanse.

This is where I remove the Facebook icon from my browser shortcuts, and resist the urge to sign in to “see what’s happening.” Like any addiction — “habituation,” more accurately — it’s hard at first. I find myself reaching for the mouse, opening the browser, looking for the FB link, eager to distract myself from this or that … but the link isn’t there, and then I remember. After a while, I stop reaching for the fix. A little later, I stop reaching for the browser. And my spirit quiets.

What dragged me back last time was a responsibility: the local symphony posts its events on Facebook, which reaches a lot of people who wouldn’t be reached otherwise, though we haven’t been doing that long enough to know if it has affected ticket sales. I’m the guy that pushes the buttons and pulls the levers for the FB events. Hopefully, I will resist the pull next time: get the job done and get out.

What is so toxic about Facebook? A combination of paid advertising, paid trolls, and ePeople. ePeople are people freed of their human baggage: they are surfaces, shells, simulacra.

There has been a conceit among futurists, modernists, and philosophers that the whole problem with people is their animal nature. Since the Enlightenment, they have praised the mind over the body, and believed that if they could simply rid us of our animal lusts, we would automatically hew to our best natures, fit residents of a Utopia.

Facebook gives a clear indication that this is exactly wrong. Freed of our animal nature, we become the very worst versions of ourselves; we become offal in a river of verbal sewage.

When I’m at a local party, meeting new people I might find myself living amongst in a broader circle of acquaintances for a very long time to come, I watch my tongue. Most people do. I haven’t called anyone a “fucking moron” to his/her face in a very long time — if ever — even when the thought crosses my mind. I can’t recall the last time anyone has called me a “fucking moron” to my face, though I’m sure it’s crossed their minds, too. We are generally quite polite to each other.

Yes, there’s a level of fear in this. Fear that they will take offense and physically attack me. Fear of their disapproval, not so much their words as the contempt and anger in their eyes. Fear of the disapproval of others, who are important to me even if the fucking moron is not.

But there’s a level of empathy and compassion in this as well. With real people, I make an almost unconscious effort to see through to the person beneath the fucking moron exterior. More often than not, I’m at least partially successful. In the context of their animal nature, which must eat and shit just as I do, I see the commonality, and sense a bit of why they are what they are. Emotional damage. A hard life. Poverty. Ignorance. Propaganda. Privilege. Underneath, I see our shared primal, animal desire for very little more than a full belly and a spot in the warm sun.

I also see myself reflected in their eyes. My own emotional damage. My ignorance. My privilege. I always find it humbling to get to know other people.

With ePeople, all of the commonality and shared regard goes away, and all that remains are the ill-chosen words of a fucking moron — or a troll, or a bot, the former being a paid propaganda disseminator, and the latter being a troll implemented as an automated machine process. The fact that you can almost never distinguish an ePerson from a troll is an indicator of how empty the ePerson shell really is.

This is not new to Facebook. Its predecessor, the “bulletin-board chat room,” was also a nascent nightmare of verbal abuse, and the term “flame-war” comes from the behavior of people in the pre-Facebook chat rooms. These venues generally had a common acceptance of something called “netiquette,” a kind of “book of manners” to be observed in the chat room, and there were “monitors” who would summarily eject someone they deemed disruptive. Like the bartender who throws a mean drunk out of the bar.

Facebook is, in most respects, a failed Utopian experiment gone mad.

I find less of this problem in my monologuing here. This is more like correspondence, though targeted to an audience rather than individuals, and generally without feedback. It isn’t Facebook — it’s Mybook.

This illuminates perhaps the biggest difference between Facebook and this blog. I currently have nearly fifty “draft” posts for this blog. Some are no more than an opening paragraph. Some are half-done, some are finished. But I didn’t feel right about completing or publishing any of them, for various reasons. Instead, I’ve found myself, more and more, reactively venting on Facebook, and my words have been growing more snide, dismissive, and angry.

I need to cleanse my aura. And the simplest way is to avoid Facebook for a while.

8 comments on “Facebook Cleanse

  1. Paula Prober says:

    This makes so much sense, Themon. And I love the way you put words together. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hksounds says:

    I am glad when anyone decides to get out of Facebook, but I find it interesting that you make no mention of, and therefore perhaps are unaware of, or unconcerned about, the complete destruction of human privacy and the selling of personal data without permisson for profit. This has kept me from ever joining this corporate criminal organization. That people who are being debased are behaving in a debased manner, seems somehow apt. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Demus says:

    I enjoyed reading your post, too. I love taking in little nuggets of wisdom from thoughtful people.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sarah says:

    Freed of our animal nature, we become the very worst versions of ourselves; we become offal in a river of verbal sewage.

    So true. People have no problem typing out the sort of things they might scream as the honk their horns in traffic. I think it’s excusable to have no verbal filter with a steering wheel in front of us, but some of us have no filter when we have a keyboard in front of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s such a great term, ‘epeople’. Yes, we now have our online personas. Online communicating is now another huge layer of social interaction, both interconnected with the real world but also its own world. I’ve often thought, and these probably exist now, that Schools of Communication in the Universities across the world will begin offering new specializations, ‘Internet and communication’ or ‘Cybercommunicating’ or whatever. I’m starting to go off on a tangent, sorry. Anyway, I totally agree with you, one strange facet of this how anonymity engenders the dispatching of social niceties as you were discussing, being polite and not calling someone an idiot. Youtube comments are often horrifying to me. Literally! Name calling, foul language, the whole works, like kids being mean to other kids at the park. Oh wait, kids don’t really play there anymore, do they…..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. hksounds says:

    I have been thinking quite a bit about your identifying just how a future that is even further disconnected from our animal selves, in other words, further alienated from nature, would look like. This is a powerful insight and an excellent lens through which we can further scrutinize those who would foist an AI future on us. The prospects ought to be terrifying when the natural world is merely ‘biologic,’ something to turn one’s back on, discarded and will be viewed as the habitat of a lesser species, humans. Think how well we have preserved the habitats of our fellow biologic relations up to now and that is exactly the ones striving for this AI paradigm.

    Liked by 1 person

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