The day I joined facebook about ten years ago, a friend told me to be careful because it sucks people in. Prescient words, I think today, because in the years following I was absolutely sucked in. As I write this I am imagining a person out a sea being pulled into a giant whirlpool, like in that Pirates of The Caribbean movie.
Facebook is in the news now for selling our data to people who used it to hack our society. It has just fewer active members than the populations of the US, Europe, and China combined. ACTIVE users. Although we have 325 million people in the US, most are not 'active users' of our democracy. Facebook is the largest community in the world, and it exists as a for-profit business run by one thirty-something skeezbag and his investors.
I began to notice that the things I think about were those things which engaged me on FB--the things their algorithm determined to best keep my eyes on the screen. Facebook was very literally telling me what to think about, not because it wanted me to really think about police violence, Donald Trump, or kittens but because it is selling my attention to advertisers.
But these are not the things that compelled me to quit. I started to notice a change in my thinking--not that my opinions were changing, but the way I think was changing. I began to formulate and frame my thoughts for Facebook. I started to compress and encapsulate every thought, dish, sunset, experience, emotion for FB. Long thoughts gave way to short thoughts. In compressing everything for FB, I compressed my own thought-processes, and I absolutely notice the data loss. Being off Facebook feels something like what astronauts must experience coming back to earth and walking around on atrophied muscles.
A couple months back I started leaving my phone at home when I would go to the laundromat or the grocery store or out with the kids. I invariably found myself looking for it, just so I could check my notifications. (That impulse to reach for my phone felt very much like a compulsion and not so much like a thought.) Also invariably, I found myself enjoying thinking again. It felt like running across an open field. Old muscles that hadn't forgotten how to work but were ignored now stretched and worked and loved the feeling of it. I'd be in a chair at the laundromat, 90's music playing, looking out the window at trash-strewn South Grand, and it felt like being in the mountains.
I told myself for years that I had to be on Facebook, because it's the best forum for musicians to reach listeners. That is the conventional wisdom, and not without reason. I know very well that Facebook very much helped me build a fan base, advertise shows, share my music & videos, and get more work. Yes--Facebook is one place where you can do all of those things, but it is not the only way those things can be done. Before Facebook, musicians still did all these things. I should know because I did all these things before Facebook. Mailing lists, flyers, eye contact and conversations, radio, tv, print media, digital media, etc. etc., and I loved doing it. So... to free my mind, improve and expand my relationships with friends, and further my career, I quit FB.
(Haha, except that i still have the Tommy Halloran's Guerrilla Swing page and rely heavily on FB messenger, so my personal account can't be deleted--only silenced. But I'm not there anymore.)