Why It’s Time (for Us) to Leave Facebook Behind

I’ve always been a proponent of social media, ever since the early days of Myspace right on through to some of the newer ones like Instagram. I’d even be on Snapchat if my name was available. (“Trigonis” is apparently taken by someone who isn’t even using his or her account.) And back when I crowdfunded my short film Cerise in 2010, I discovered the power of the crowd, and the strength of my friends and followers all across social media. For years after, and up until today, that’s all I preached about: The unbridled power of the crowd, the united strength of the community. Wanna be a filmmaker? You gotta have talent, sure, but you also gotta have an audience. Wanna write a book? Write it, but live tweet its progress using a combination of the right hashtags to discover a readership so there’ll be people who actually read it when it drops. Wanna develop of video game? Who’s gonna play it? Find them. Interact with them.

Etcetera, etcetera. Etcetera.

The time has come for me to (try to) break free from one of, if not the top social media platforms out there, and that platform is Facebook. Yes, Marc Zuckerberg’s brainchild (arguably, of course) has gone from a simple yet groundbreaking social media platform with good intentions to a nesting ground for meaningless preaching and arguing and an increasingly desperate attempt for all of our opinions to be heard, agreed with, argued against, just so we can feel like we truly matter in this life. Not to mention all of the more serious implications of international intrigue and cerebral sabotage. (Fancy phrases, I know, but give a read to “How to Fix Facebook––Before It Fixes Us” by early Facebook investor Roger McNamee and “Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users’ Emotions For Science” by Forbes’ Kashmir Hill for further info and perspective on these.) And now, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app wants to hook children thirteen years old and under, which has struck quite a dissonant chord with parents.

Copyright © Chris Matthews

My decision first surfaced on the shoreline of my immediate thoughts shortly after Facebook unveiled its colored status backgrounds, which initially irked me. It’s a sign of the times, really: everything is so visual nowadays that no one pays attention to simple text anymore. Once Facebook integrated designs on these background, that was it for me. Maybe it’s simply my own angst at the cutesification of everything, or perhaps internal contempt I felt, knowing that the messages we wish to get across hinge on grabbing someone’s attention first. (How does a single drop of water stand out amidst a waterfall? Answer: it doesn’t.) I didn’t want any part of that. So, I started spending less and less time on Facebook toward the tail end of 2017.

Another factor is the fact that I have over 200 unanswered friend requests from people I don’t actually know. I probably should connect with them, for work purposes, but heck, that’s what LinkedIn’s for, right? I originally joined Facebook to connect with folks I’d meet in real life, and those are the connections that, to this day, I still cherish most of all, since they’re among the 100 or so who actually see my Facebook posts because I chat with them on a regular basis. But it’s hard to chat regularly with every Facebook friend you have when you’ve got over 1,760 of them! I can hardly keep a stronghold on the ten friendships I’ve maintained for twenty-plus years in real life. (Er, I mean #IRL.)

I’m being extremely real right now, because for a while now, I’ve felt like we’ve all been living in a fake world, an irreality of our own allowance. And the worst part is that we’re okay with this. I’m waking up from it. This life can’t be all about “making connections” and “networking” over actual friendships, familial bonds, and meaningful human interactions.

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely some awesome things about Facebook. I actually appreciate when a friend of mine marks her- or himself “safe” during a terrorist attack or natural disaster. And at first glance, Facebook’s upcoming algorithm change seems like it’ll usher the social platform back towards its roots, favoring posts from family and friends over publishers and companies. (But we’ll see, won’t we?) Most importantly, I’ve met an astonishing number of truly amazing people through Facebook––probably more than I deserve, truth be told: I’ve built an audience for my creative works, from films like Cerise and my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers to my comic series Siren’s Calling; I’ve discovered family members I never knew I had; and, I’ve reconnected with lots of folks whom I had lost touch with. One of those folks happens to be my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Torio, who actually messaged me just the other day to see if I was alright. See, since the start of January, I’ve limited my activities on Facebook as a sort of test run for getting off completely. That included not posting my daily #TrigTalks there, and Mr. T. took notice.

And that touched me deeply. That’s what a platform like Facebook is supposed to be all about. Social networking. It lost touch of that, and frankly, so did I. And this is one of the reasons I can’t break free as completely as I’d like to, aside from my managing a bunch of Facebook pages, and of course Facebook demands you have an account. Otherwise, I might just delete myself completely. I’m also a member of a small handful of groups that I enjoy. (Shout out to Tom Waits and the slew of M.A.S.K. (yeah, the ’80s cartoon and toy line) groups like this one I actively post in.) And I actually use Facebook Events to help me plan my evenings and decide where I’m “Going” and what to “Ignore.”

So, essentially, what my “leaving Facebook” really means is that I won’t be spending a great deal of time posting status updates, liking friends’ updates, commenting on the updates of others. I will still be using Messenger, since I do connect with quite a few people there who don’t have more direct access to me.

We’ll see how it goes, of course. In the meantime, you’ll still be able to find me on other social media sites that haven’t been tainted. (Yet –– I just noticed Instagram’s implemented a “Type” feature; thankfully, it’s only for the Stories, which have a 24-hour lifespan.) Feel free to connect with me over on Twitter and on Instagram. Those of you who enjoy those morning #TrigTalks of mine (thank you all, by the way, for watching, liking, and commenting on these over the past two years and change!), I’ll still be doing these over on Instagram and Twitter, and posting over to Facebook from Instagram (at least for the time being), as well as archiving them on my YouTube page, so you can check ’em out in various places.

The point of this whole rant against Facebook isn’t to rant against Facebook. On the contrary, I still think we all owe a great deal of thanks to it, for connecting us on levels never before seen. But with that connection, there has grown a disconnect and divide between what matters and what doesn’t; what’s meaningful, and what’s fluff. A sense of self-importance in a world where everything –– everyone –– must be important, and this leads to false entitlement, and that sentiment is the bridge to our taking real moments in our lives for granted.

Facebook is a tool, and that tool gives us power. But with great power comes great responsibility to the world, and most importantly, to ourselves. My subtle absence from your Facebook feeds may only be for a year, or it may be longer, or indefinitely. The fact is I don’t know. But I do know I am here, in the know, and most importantly, in the now.

Are you?

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