Social Media isn’t Social at all

In case you may not have noticed, Facebook is the #1 Social Networking site in the world. According to their own number s, they now tout 1.8-Billion people now have a Facebook account, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.  The US users makes up 10% of that total, or 180-Million, which is just over half our population.  That number isn’t expected to change much over the next several years – most of the growth in the social space will occur on other/new networks.  It seems as though Facebook may have reached critical mass and some are now predicting that there has been blowback from the amount of political postings which could negatively impact any future growth.

social [soh-shuh l] adjective
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendlygregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in community, rather than in isolation
5. of or relating to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status
6. of or relating to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in community

Disgusted with the animosity and outcome of the election, I am one of those people who deactivated their Facebook accounts in November.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this, mind you, but in the past few months I haven’t felt like I was “missing something” like I had in the past.  In fact, I recently re-activated my account with nearly instantaneous regret.  Looking through the vitriolic nature of the posts in my news feed, the continual spread of dipshit stories and fake news, and liberal outrage over micro-aggressions while missing the bigger picture issues, affirmed that I truly hadn’t missed anything.  Maybe it has to do with age…but I think it has more to do with how ANTI-social the network has become over the past few years.

It’s deeply troubling that more people will share their most intimate thoughts, feelings and photos with near strangers, but can’t carry on a meaningful conversation with their significant other.  So much so, that the network has amassed data on the age, gender, income, employment, interests, travel habits, behaviors, likes, dislikes, food preferences, workout routines, and anything else you can imagine.  In the wrong hands, this data could be used by governments for more nefarious reasons and many users have begun to realize that they are allowing their privacy to be willingly violated with one click of a button.  The EU sees this level of tracking as a clear breach of their Safe Harbor laws, as to do I, but the rest of the US hasn’t caught on yet.  More than that, I no longer want to participate in the denigration of society by dividing ourselves into these “all-or-nothing” viewpoints and classes, according to our status updates.

From a 2014 Op-Ed on Media Post:

10 Times Social Media Made The World Worse In 2014

1. ISIS Recruitment. Social media plays a “huge role” in recruiting aspiring jihadists from Europe to fight in Syria, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator. ISIS, giving the Nazis a run for their money as “worst group of people/ideology ever,” also likes to distribute horrifying images of its atrocities via social media.

2. Facebook experimented on people to make them depressedThe study, titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” tinkered with the emotional content of news feeds for 689,003 Facebook users to see if moods can spread via social connections. Turns out they can — thanks Facebook! Oh, also, OKCupid deliberately set people up on bad dates.

3. Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Dae Williams, quit social media after an outpouring of abuse following her father’s suicide. Gross.

4. Social media fuels negative body image issues in women, according to multiple studiesOne researcher observed: “The biggest thing that stands out is social media. In the 2014 survey, a huge number of women — 64 percent — report that looking at pictures on sites like Facebook and Instagram makes them feel bad about their body.”

5. Social media also makes new mothers feel insecure, according to a survey of 1,100 women by BabyCenter. 60% of moms surveyed said they feel pressure to appear well-to-do on social media, as well as feeling envy and embarrassment because of their own situation compared with others; one in four millennial moms said she feels “significant” pressure to look well-off on social media. Another survey by Current Lifestyle Marketing and Impulse Research also found that many mothers feel social media creates unrealistic expectations and puts pressure on them to craft an idealized image of their lives.

6. The Fire Challenge. Read it and weep. ‘Nuff said.

7. Speaking of kids setting fire to themselves, parents believe the risks associated with social media outweigh its benefits for children. That’s according to a survey of UK and U.S. parents with children ages 6-17 who use the Internet, conducted for the UK’s Family Online Safety Institute. Overall 43% of parents surveyed said they though the negative impacts of social media outweighed the positive impacts, compared to 26% who believe the positive impacts were greater.

8. That massive leak of celebrity nude photos. Gross.

9. Social media undermines trust and makes us unhappy. A study titled “Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being” focused on measures of “social trust,” referring to the individual’s tendency to assume — or not assume — that strangers, as proxies for society in general, are benign and trustworthy, in the sense that they will “observe the rules of the game” in basic social interactions. According to the authors: “Internet-mediated interaction often violates well-established face-to-face social norms for the polite expression of opposing views. In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviors… In online interactions, dealing with strangers who advance opposite views in an aggressive and insulting way seems to be a widespread practice, whatever the topic of discussion is.”

10. Social media use contributes to divorceA study, titled “Social network sites, marriage well-being, and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States” and published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that Facebook use is a “positive, significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles,” according to researchers at Boston University and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile’s School of Communications. Specifically: “Results show that using SNS is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.”

This anxiety producing experience with Instagram is more veiled.  It’s owned by Facebook, so it has all of the same drawbacks of traceability and self-loathing.  Since the platform only allows users to post pictures and short videos, it’s easy to get caught up scrolling through the imagery and feel like you are connecting to the outside world.  Many users, however, quickly find themselves caught comparison game, they lose track of their self-esteem and no longer find they are relating to those around them.  Fortunately, I haven’t had that experience, mine has been more pleasant, but I do find that I’ve become engrossed in scrolling through pretty pictures of places and food, only to realize that 45-minutes has gone by without me hardly noticing.  That, my dears, was by design.  Most social platforms employ the psychology of gambling when coding their sites.  There is a reason that little notification button has a red bubble with numbers on it.

Once the platform for broadcasting news alerts and updates quickly, thanks to our new Cheeto-in-Chief, and King of Online Bullies, Twitter has thrown the idea of a polite and fashionable society into the garbage can.  Fortunately, the number of users is dwindling, as more and more people tire of its ability to amplify hate speech in a matter of seconds, but the death of the platform can’t come fast enough.  It is the platform for reporting on what is happening on the ground, in live time, in the moment, frequently used by law enforcement to track protestors and quell free speech.  Since it is conversational in nature, it is also the platform for gossip and unsubstantiated claims, causing frequent meltdowns over the smallest of slights, further isolating us from ourselves.

Sadly, the number of social networking sites continues to grow, as does the amount of time we spend on them.  In 2012, eMarketer estimated that most US adults spent an average of 4-minutes a day on social media.  Just five years later, that amount of time has grown to close to an hour.  Every day, we choose to spend 50-minutes fighting, coveting, longing, and freely acting like guinea pigs, while giving away our privacy so that these companies can resell our data to advertisers, to earn themselves billions in revenue….BILLIONS.  In 2017 alone, Facebook’s ad revenueis estimated at $16.5-Billion,  This does not take into account Instagram, or any of the other dozens of social networks profiting from the same practice.  This is your time, your privacy, and your sweetness of mind, but you will not be compensated for what you willingly gave away.

Instead, think about what would you do with an extra 50-minutes a day?  If you could shut off the “social” network, how would you relate to your life again?  For me, I have revived my account to get updates from a women’s group and writer’s group that I am part of, along with the occasional update on how friends of mine are, and what their children are up to.  I suppose these are the reasons that we all glommed onto the idea of social networks to begin with.  Now that more of my news feed is filled primarily with negative and often times violent language, I think it’s time to disconnect the “social” network and reconnect with my fellow humans, most likely this time for good.

30 day countdown, 30 reasons not to be on Facebook….

Reason #1: This s**t is like crack – and you don’t keep giving an addict crack.

Reason #2: I have 4 emails, 2 blogs, 1 LinkedIn account and a phone. That is a sufficient amount of communication options for me to manage and for you to reach me.

Reason #3: Agreement #1 says “Be Impeccable With Your Word”

Reason #4: Facebook Faces Privacy Audit

Reason #5: I am not a brand, I do not need to market myself in hopes that you will “like” who I am.

Reason #6: Check out the study: Social Media is for Narcissists

Reason #7:  Mark Zuckerberg can suck it

Reason #8: I will have more time to read real “News Feeds”

Reason #9: If I see one more post or one more ad for some Yoga workshop, festival, training or event that will “change my life”, I am going to vomit gasoline and light it on fire.

Reason #10: My definition of a friend and FB’s definition are very different

Reason #11: In the average day, you leave at minimum 220 ways for someone to track you.  You do the same in every minute you spend on Facebook.  How is that for lack of privacy?!

Reason #12: My life is not for you to invade or stalk because you are bored with your own – and vice versa.

Reason #13: Reduce your anxiety level

Reason #14: Facebook is like jail, you sit around, waste time, write on walls and get poked by people you don’t know.

Reason #15: I will no longer feel compelled to burn my eyes out of skull after I read nonsensical posts like this: “I practiced yoga tonight. I was in the back of the room with no one in front of me, and the sun setting and the lights in the room hit just right, so that for the entire class I could make out the silhouette of my body but no details. The shape, but no hair or eyes or face or anything. It was amazing to see my whole self, but also not see anything of me. For once I saw my true person, with no possibility of picking apart all the pieces.” (Please, for the love of GAWD, just stop the madness)

Reason #16: Facebook is NOT the only way for us to communicate with each other, stop it already.

Reason #17: Why do I bother posting shit anyway?  It isn’t like anyone reads it.  In fact if you are all like me, most of you have hidden my posts anyway

Reason #18:  Facebook is an inappropriate medium for announcing amazing, life-changing news like you got married, pregnant, had a baby (and stop posting your post-baby I am in the hospital and look like hell pics, please), got fired, got broken up with, or are in a relationship, etc.  These are the kinds of things you TELL your friends while you are screaming at the top of your lungs with excitement or wailing in angst while jumping up and down either while on the phone or visiting them IN PERSON.

Reason #19:  If you have something funny to say to your friends, why do you not tell the friend who is sitting next to you instead of thinking “oh, I need to post that on Facebook!”  Had a guy come over and sit next to me the other day because his friend was too busy on Twitter (the other devil) to actually talk to a person RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM!  WTF?!

Reason #20:  I do not want to be one of those assholes who walks around staring at their phone in order to post something on a dipwad website.  Although, I do enjoy pointing and laughing at those people when they run into walls (which I have witnessed quite often)

Reason #21: I dated a dude once who is CREEPY – you all know him (some of you actually still like him..ew). I have to say that I after that whole FUBAR, I am just not okay with creeps.  Now if I don’t want to date a slim bucket, shit bag cheater, why would I allow an entire company full of creeps to invade my WHOLE private life?

Reason #22: The website design is intended for people with an IQ of about 50. If yours is higher, then you are overqualified to access the site.

Reason #23: I have always lived life refusing to be a part of a herd.

Reason #24: A friend will have your back in a fight.  A best friend will already have the body-bag unzipped for the fucktard that pissed you off. This is what real friends do for you….they don’t turn around and hang out with the fucktard behind your back…..some of my “friends” on FB I can’t say the same about.

Reason #25:  A few years ago, the average person was exposed to 2,000 advertising messages per day.  That number has increased to 5,000 – not only do companies bombard you with advertisements, but now your friends do as well, posting TMI thoughts like they just took a dump and wiped their ass with red toilet paper. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)

Reason #26: “Welcome to Facebook, where relationships are always perfect, liars believe their own bullshit, and the world shows off they are living a great life!”  In reality, your enemies are the ones who visit your profile the most, your friends and family block you, and even though you write what you are really thinking, there is always someone who takes it the wrong way.

Reason #27: I am tired of seeing people repost the Dalai Lama quote about what surprises him the most.  Really?  Must they?  Furthermore, these same people do not even come remotely close to following through on their actions to insure they live by this quote.  It makes me want to spit tar and kick them in the shins.

Reason #28: So that I don’t have to gag over bullshit over the top narcissistic yoga love fest posts that lack substance and meaning.

Reason #29:  I don’t really need a reason, nor do I need to justify my choices.  If you have to ask why, or talk about me behind my back, then maybe we weren’t really “friends” to begin with.

Reason #30: Out of sight, out of mind (Europeans often joke that Americans are notorious for saying they will show up, call, email, stay in touch, etc. and do not follow through on the commitment…..I believe they are right, but you can try to prove me wrong if you like….)

Aaaaannnnddd….I’m out!

Agreement #1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

I recently started reading The Four Agreements again, and thought it is about time to apply the teachings of Don Miguell Ruiz.  They are fairly simple agreements but sometimes hard to remember to apply.  Going slow and applying one at a time, for me, is easier than all four at once.  So, I will begin at the beginning with Agreement #1: “Be Impeccable with Your Word”.  My “word” used to mean something to me and to others.  When I told someone I would be somewhere, or do something, I followed through – after all, “A Man (or in this case Woman – I like Person better) is only as good as his (her/their) word.”  (I don’t know who said that, I thought it was John Wayne, but if you do – will you let me know?) 
This is not a new concept, mind you – all religions and spiritual systems agree that in order to be closer to God, you must get closer to the truth.  Yet, we all have different versions of the truth, don’t we?  And sometimes, I would say that my truth is better than your truth and vice versa – depending on the argument over what version of truth we prefer in that particular moment.  Funny thing about truth – it isn’t yours and it isn’t mine – none of us “own” truth.  Many religious or spiritual systems differ on many things, but they do agree “God is Truth”.  For human beings with free will, that is a pretty abstract concept because the mind gets in the way and starts asking all kinds of ludicrous questions like, “Well, which God are we talking about?” and “What if I don’t believe in God?” and “Why are we talking about God?” Ruiz kept it simpler than that….”Be Impeccable with YOUR word.”
The broad concept of this agreement is to avoid sin against yourself by what you think.  The more complicated concept is that what we think about others is generally a reflection of what we perceive about ourselves.  So, here I am back in religious-speak with the dreaded word “sin”…instead of the word “sin”, let’s replace it with the word “harm”, “harming” or “harmful” in reference to negative behavior we oftentimes project on ourselves or others.  To be impeccable with your word, you work to avoid harmingyourself by what you think.  How many times a day to you put yourself down, or to get into the more complicated meaning of the agreement, put others down and gossip about them?  We all have done it, myself included.  In fact, I have spent most of my life putting myself down on a daily if not hourly basis.  I put down others, too, but far less often.  It all stems from fear and insecurity.  Fear of what?  For me, the fear that I don’t have as much as others, or, more truthfully, that I am not as good as others.  I have harmed myself with the perception that I am undeserving of the love, joy and happiness that we all want from life.
This fear has led to inconsistency between what I say and what I do.  On one hand, I have always been adamant that I don’t need anyone’s approval, yet my action of remaining in a dysfunctional, totally effed up relationship for almost two years demonstrated my desperate yearning for acceptance and fear of abandonment.  Another example would be saying to my students how important it was that they take care of themselves first so that they can be better parents, friends, employees, etc., yet the action of working 80/hours a week to manage a yoga studio proved I could take care of others at the expense of my own needs, which only left me exhausted, angry and resentful.  More recently, I have been complaining about the phenomenon Facebook has created about what it means to be a “friend” and how impersonal our “connections” with our “friends” has become, yet my action was to continue to manage my own Facebook account and interact with “friends” that I wouldn’t even want to talk to or have dinner with.  No offense, but some of the people my list of “friends” haven’t been impeccable with their words or actions of what I would call a friend.  When I lost my job, then two weeks later my relationship with said infidel, they all called, or sent notes (on Facebook) to say how sorry they were, yet their actions were to turn a deaf ear when I cried over the loss.  They also demonstrated the kind of character they have as human beings when they quickly befriended the very man who had so badly betrayed me. 
For at least six months, I ran around in circles yapping like a Yorkshire Terrier about the hurt, the betrayal, the pain, the shit of it all, and on and on, with the hope that these people would change.  And then I grew the fuck up and realized in order to be impeccable with MY word, it is MY actions that need to change.  Barking about life’s injustice was doing me no justice in my healing process.  So, I opened up Ruiz’s book again and read those magically simple, harder to execute words: Be impeccable with your wordand I remembered, “Hey, I was that girl once!”  I started doing things for myself.  If someone asked me to go out for dinner, but I was really tired, I told them, “I would love to have dinner with you, but tonight is not good, because I need to rest.  Can we schedule for later this week or next?” which was giving myself the message through action that I could take care of myself, and this also made me a better friend.  No one wants to go have dinner with a tired person who sits like a bump on a log complaining about how tired they are, right?  No!  And if I am going to have dinner with a friend, then I want to be able to enjoy our time together – because it is unbelievably precious and most often goes by greatly unappreciated by many of us.
My next step is to stop freely and willingly provide all of my most private thoughts, memories and information over to a company who just wants to use it to generate an ever greater amount of advertising messages in order to sell me shit I don’t need, and then sell it to third parties (like the government or companies who do background checks on you before they consider employing you), eg Facebook.  I will not continue to complain about a free service that violates my privacy – I am deactivating my account.  When I first said this, do you know how many people reacted like I had said I was moving to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific with no internet and no phone and I was going to grow armpit hair and eat nothing but fish and drink coconut water (God, don’t I wish that were true)?  How hopelessly dependent have we become on this ONE website to connect with our “friends” and family?  What did we all do before “social networking”??  Since I am of a generation that is pre-Facebook, I can tell you…..we CALLED each other and if we lived in the same city, we met one another out for lunch or dinner (more than once or twice a year….that is just pathetic).  When did Facebook become the center of our Universe, and worse, when did it so badly redefine the meaning of a friendship?  The old school definition of a friend requires more work and time than most of us are willing to commit to.  
However, I choose to be impeccable with my word.  I choose to no longer harm myself with self-defeating thoughts.  I choose to be present for a friend and not simply click the “like” button, then lie to myself that I was supportive when their life was falling apart.  I choose to actively live life, rather than be passively voyeuristic or envious of what others are doing or where they are through a meaningless, time-consuming, soul sucking, relationship murdering, privacy violating, over commercialized, inauthentic, downright stupid when you think about it, website. 

Click here for the Follow Up to Agreement #1.