ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA - So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu
So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye — Goodbye!
I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie
– “The Sound of Music”
I am actually laughing aloud as I write this. The utter irony of me, of ALL people, using a lyric from “The Sound of Music” (SoM) as a starter for this piece is almost too much for me to comprehend. Anyone who knows me at all well, knows I loathe SoM; so much so that I have never watched the movie, ever. It is enough to say that I had a sinister relative who lived in Bavaria for years in the 60’s and birthed most of her evil spawn there and, to further cement my disgust, named all three after characters in SoM.
Media was an influencer even then
This quite neatly (and with irony to spare) brings me to today’s lecture. Media; all forms, all platforms, all audible and written or posted or tweeted or…..ad infinitum media, is now nothing more than an echo chamber of increasing severity. I liken it to the tinnitus I have in my ears; a ringing, buzzing, mosquito-like, annoyance that no matter what I try, I cannot escape. And Facebook (FB), where I am posting this point-in-time piece, is the most egregious of the offenders. Some may argue that Snap Chat or Twitter or any of the amorphous media upchucks are more, or less, offensive. I never got on board any of those ship-sinkers. A toe dipped delicately into Twitter, once, was all I could take. It proved too much for my soul to ingest.
Facebook on the other hand, when it was fresh and new, was a social creature too tempting to ignore. Think Sirens, Odysseus, and treacherous Greek Island waters.
What are sirens songs?
Half-birds, half beautiful maidens, the Sirens were singing enchantresses capable of luring passing sailors to their islands, and, subsequently, to their doom. Daughters of the river god Achelous and a Muse, they were fated to die if anyone should survive their singing. – Merriam-Webster
Facebook was designed by an evil genius to be the Siren’s Song of the modern-day masses and “to their doom” was highlighted by Merriam-Webster, I will point out. I intend to kill a few sirens by finding my way out of the troubled waters of Facebook and their ilk.
In the beginning it WAS fun. It was a chance to sit and waste precious hours searching for friends from schools and from pasts that were quickly forgotten and moved on from once we had moved forward in our lives. Suddenly, without any good reason, we felt compelled to search them out once again and catch them up with all our comings and goings of the last forty years. We chose a “look-back button” rather a live-forward option on our life’s dashboard.
The ego. The hubris
It was all doomed from the start, really. Their warrens of workers are madly clicking away on programs designed, like Mountain Dew, to do only one thing; sink the cortical fishhooks deeper and deeper until there was no us without them; the amorphous “them” whose “likes” and “loves” became almost the ASL of the emotionally devoid computer keyboard that is our life, now.
September 26, 2021 marked exactly 15 years since Facebook opened wide to anyone 13 years old with a valid email address. My profile says I joined (drank the KoolAid in effect) in August of 2008. Thirteen years of my life, roughly one-fifth of the years I have managed to survive, have now been spent throwing excrement on its “feeds” in the name of social justice, freedoms both won and denied, and far too many pet pics to count. And for what? In reality, it was ALL for my own ego and amusement. And at what price? The loss of meaningful time with the friends who were close at hand? The enhancement of a boredom so deep that it felt like a second home? The excuse to not write my Great American Novel that I have always dreamed of doing? At my age, I think about regrets a lot more. Things left unsaid, undone; unanswered siren songs.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
– “My Way” by Paul Anka
Will Facebook, at this stage in my life, be the one regret I feel is weightier than the other “too few to mentions”? How do I want the last chapter of the book of my life to read? Does it include an asterisk, *he spent far too much time on Facebook but was, other than that, a totally engaged and engaging human being.
I’ll never know unless I go
I did unplug from Facebook a bunch of years ago for many of the same reasons as I see now. It lasted about 9 months but then I was weaseled back in; a new house, new projects to relate, all the typical rationales. But now, after years of tRumpistic, rage-fueled, antagonistic hatemongering, I find we are in a wholly new and horrific landscape. Politics and polarization have wormed into every aspect of our lives and, like another virus we are all too familiar with, taken so much control from us that I really do hear and understand the people who decry their freedoms being taken away.
What we all fail to realize is that it is not the facemasks that they really rail against, they are a mere symbolistic substitute for the internal fear and hopelessness that now pervades ALL of the news, right or left, and the imaginary boogeymen that are just out there waiting to take more from them/us.
We all fail to recognize that the fear is the motivation for the hate and the hate is a reaction to the fear. It’s an endless cycle of recrimination that humans now gird themselves against while at the same time they toss firebombs of gasoline into the already established inferno to see how hot they can make others burn. What an astounding waste of time; we won’t even mention the good that could be accomplished if we all sat down and actually worked towards answers but no, now, thanks to Facebook and their cronies, we seem forever polarized into opposing corners of the ring and the bell is clanging a constant beat of battle.
I am bored to tears with it
There is so much more that I hope and wish to accomplish. I vacillate daily, hourly, about pulling the plug but then, like a pipe-prone crack addict, I find a comment or a photo, or a pick-me-up from a friend that really does add to my day and my sense of wellbeing and place in this world. Without that I would not lose anything tangible, but I would lose a real and valuable snippet of what keeps me, personally, somewhat saner in this largely insane world. And so, on this 15-year mark of Herr Zuckerberg’s taking control of the Universe, the question remains.
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go
– The Clash 1982
I began writing this intending it as a perfectly timed 15thanniversary departure dump. I would collectively and responsibly get my ducks in a row, exit on a high note, and take my chances in a Facebook-free environment. Two things happened:
I realized that even when I do, finally, take my leave, I will be continually inundated by friends and family alike trying to show me “what so-and-so posted this morning! Lolol”. I will have to come up with some reasonably polite (read: not too insulting) way of convincing them that I really, REALLY do not want to see these missives and, more to the point, I do not want the Evil Empire’s pervasive tentacles to even begin to get a wormhole back into my healing psyche.
The final decision though was made quite quickly and completely this morning. A normal Monday after an increasingly busy social weekend, once again. I should preface this by saying that in pseudo-preparation for this day, I stopped watching network news of any kind after the election last year. It has been a more peace-filled world. I have also systematically “un-followed” almost everyone I know save for a select few locals and family. That reduced, for a while, the sheer volume of traffic that FB was feeding me.
But today, this Decision Day, when I opened the computer and spent a solid half an hour “unfollowing all” from over 30 different, unrelated-to-me sites, I realized that FB will no longer be content to let me see and absorb things of my choosing. Instead, they now automatically attach me to sites through posts that unknowing friends have innocently shared. I now must waste even more of my time NOT seeing things from every animal rescue organization in every country; every slimy, sinister, scamming, adbot company trolling for dollars and likes and hits.
These aren’t news items from old friends. They aren’t even news. They are simply the culmination of the FB worker-bees in their basement lairs that are determining my day, my life, my fate, and my sanity.
And so, you’ll know where to find me; just where I’ve always been. I am not in witness-protection. I am not in hiding. I will be hard at work rebranding my own time into the life I choose to live from here forward. A card, a note, a text, a call….all will be welcome surprises and I will have so much more time and energy to respond to each and every one without the Siren Suck of Facebook to keep me imprisoned in the quicksand of useless info.
Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new,
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.
Time for me to leave you, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
Just look for me and love me, and I’ll be close to you.
--Look For Me in Rainbows, Vicki Brown 1990
(Robby Sherwin is a writer/photographer who lives in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, CA. His roaming mind is what is keeping him sane in these strange, dark, times. Send him a thought and he will likely expound on it. His past and future musing may be found at www.covewiz.com)