Assessing The Real Cost Of Facebook Promotion And Connections
THEY SAY THAT the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.
I’m Malcolm Moore. I run the Altered Moods Recordings record label. And I’m a Facebook addict.
When the first thing I do after opening my eyes is grab my mobile phone off the nightstand and check Facebook, it’s a problem. When I’m constantly scrolling through my timeline for new updates or checking the idle times of people who interest me because there’s nothing else more entertaining to do, it’s a problem. When I’m basing the success of this label on interactions to things I share about it, it’s a problem.
I recently announced that I’m wihdrawing from Facebook for the foreseeable future. A common theme in the PMs I’ve gotten in response is that they understand and that they’ve contemplated walking away as well. But they always counter immediately with an argument in its defense in that “it’s a good way to stay connected” and to “promote things” that they care about.
That might very well be true. I can’t say I haven’t seen the good in the site. I have a wide mix of friend groups among the over 1,800 people on my friend’s list, from music aficionados to label fans to coworkers to more esoteric groups like transit buffs and full-time RVers. And I don’t make this post to say that Facebook is irredeemably awful.
But, in reality, this is just a story they’re telling themselves. What is the real cost of those connections? I’ve told myself this story for years about the use of this service – it’s merely promotion and connections – and yet I oftentimes feel more alone and detached from people than ever despite being on the site and interacting with folks every single day.
The sensory overload that Facebook gives people is amazing and yet disturbing at the same time. In one fell swoop, I get to read about your successes, see your pictures and videos, learn about your gigs and releases, read your memes, hear your political views, and share my own. There’s likes and comments and shares and it’s all wrapped up in a nice, neat package. And the site’s draw is in having that instant gratification at your fingertips any time, day or night.
But it’s not real.
Yes, your experiences are real. It’s the selectivity of how you present those experiences that makes it not real.
Before Facebook, you heard about a party, you went and had a good time. You told your friends about it later. Maybe you called some and told them to come through. Now, social media and selfie sticks have perverted the experience: Not only do you get to go to the party and have a good time, you get to tell all your friends about it, in real time. This invokes a number of responses in people that range from happiness and admiration to jealousy and a sense of worthlessness. It puts pressure on people where there was none before. People feel like they have to go bigger, better, faster, and harder to evoke a response in those who they’ve connected with online.
And, to be sure, having that instant feedback is a big shot in the ol’ reward synapses in your brain. But I don’t see a lot of selfie sticks whipping out when things are sour. If those same people aren’t there when things aren’t so good; if I can’t reach out and call you when I really need you, when I’m awash in a sea of tears because I just got the third call in a week that someone I care about has died, then all that liking and commenting you were doing when times were great is completely pointless.
How many times have I fallen out with someone over a misunderstanding in a Facebook post or chat? How many times have I seen people blow up massive amounts of drama over the silliest things on my timeline? How many times have I posted about how bad I’ve felt – when I’ve really felt down or alone – and not gotten a single message asking if I’m okay?
A lot of people get defensive about this and say that they “only do a little bit of this”, “it’s a free site”, “it costs nothing.” But it does cost – first of all, it costs you time.
You spend time on Facebook that you could spend…oh, I don’t know, writing a track? Completing a project at work? Taking a walk? Relaxing on the beach? (Guilty.) Having a quiet dinner? Helping a friend get through a scary problem?
It costs you money. Depending on how you use the service, it can cost you lots of money. Of course, you worried about whether Facebook would ever charge for using the service, and that was always a fool’s errand. They don’t need your measly $5 a month – they have your data. Your clicks, your likes, your posts, your shares, your memes…it’s all part of your dossier.
It costs you friendships. Because you’ve narrowed your day-to-day experiences to lines in a Messenger window, a bad day can make you misinterpret things others say, or conversely, make others misinterpret things you say. A few miscommunications later, and you’ve both blocked one another. All the while secretly stalking from your puppet accounts.
It costs you creativity. When you’re watching videos or listening to SoundCloud links, you’re not spending time creating your music. I have an album that I’ve been working on that has sat idle for two years because of social media, mainly because I didn’t think what I was working on was good enough (which is not an entirely awful opinion to have, a lot of people release a lot of crap that gets a lot of hype and sells.) But last year, I decided to stop following nearly all of my Facebook friends and focused on my artists and my DJ skills. As a result, this last summer was one of my best as a DJ, and the label’s releases have been some of the best musically in years, with more good stuff to come.
It costs you your privacy. No, posting that “I hereby object” nonsense on your timeline didn’t and won’t ever protect you from Facebook’s prying tentacles. Facebook makes the site, thus, they make the rules. This axiom has held true since the beginning of time, and your need to be heard doesn’t trump their need to make money.
Think about that for a second. Facebook has taken your need for a megaphone and built an empire. As of the writing of this blog post, their share price was a little less than $100. That makes their market value a little under $274 billion (and rising.) Shouldn’t it bother you that you don’t get a penny of that unless you were smart – and rich – enough to invest early?
Think about this, as well: Touching on privacy again, shouldn’t it bother you that Facebook can randomly decide that you aren’t who you say you are and that you have to pad their file on you with government-issued identification just to remain a member of the service? And yet I see so many friends disappear under their given name and then magically reappear under their true name.
Yes, I know there are exceptions to the rule, and yes, I know that many people use Facebook happily with not (m)any problems.
I am not one of those people. And I know that I am not alone. And I am not interested in participating in this version of The Matrix any more.
I will say if you’re thinking about leaving, do it, if only for a little while. You might think you need it because it’s been a part of your life for the last whatever. But really, you don’t. You don’t ever need Facebook. There are many other ways of staying in touch. There are many other ways to promote yourself. And if people are interested in what you do, they will find you.
I don’t plan to withdraw from the internet. I’m merely saying that my current relationship with Facebook is untenable. It’s possible that I might be back, even after only a short time. But I don’t have plans to come back, and I would ask those who find themselves unhappy using the service yet hang on because of the “free” promotion and interaction to take some time and assess what the real cost is for putting time and effort into your Facebook presence. For me, it’s just no longer interesting.