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Why do we online? (Also, "online" is now a verb.)

No likeyIt's been slowly dawning on me that I have no idea why I read news articles. I'm not going to do anything with the information I receive. I mean, I've known who I am (not) going to vote for the last year, or the last decade if I'm thinking generically. Knowing the exact phrasing of whatever crazy thing Trump just said is not going to push me one way or another.

And when I see news of some terrorist attack in some city, I feel terrible for the people, but again, knowing about it will not change my behavior. How could it? A guy shoots some people in Florida, and that means I should… What? There's no completion for that sentence that ends usefully.

My chance of dying by "Islamic shooter" is orders of magnitude less than me dying by "car accident" or "colon cancer". It's bad that 50 people died because one guy thinks "God Is Great", but that should be less worrying than 40,000 people dying every year because millions of people think "Speeding/Tailgating/Running-Red-Lights Is Great".

So, I mostly check local news now.


I also have no idea why I check Facebook.

Nearly all of the posts coming across my feed are negative, or judgmental, or chastising, or chastisingly judgmental about all the other negative posts. Here's a good portion of Facebook content:

This latest [whatever] proves my point about [whatever]! [link to opinion piece]

And the same first [whatever] is used by "both" sides to prove their own second [whatever], they just use a different link.

It's all outrage porn. Outrage porn isn't porn that outrages you, it's (usually) non-sexual gossip or "news" that outrages you but you seek it out anyway. The reading of it and the reaction to it are quick and satisfying, but you're really just "massaging" your own "outrage gland" and not actually accomplishing anything.

Social media like Facebook seems like it should be great: your social group can interact and share information! But it's not really working out that way. I enjoy seeing posts about people's families, and stories of what they do, but those are few and far between, and too many of them seem braggy and falsely idyllic.

And I don't exclude myself from any of this: though I tried to moderate, I still ended up posting the same kinds of things.


So why do I check it? Why do I feel the need to check Facebook all the time even though I won't learn any useful information, and feel worse after I do? What compels me and millions of others to constantly check it? I guess it's boredom, and the fear that we might "miss something". But really, we never miss anything, and we never find anything either.

What to do? I had tried my "Facebook diet", and that helped, but in the end it didn't fix the problem.


That's why, yesterday, I left Facebook. Deleted my account.

They made it tricky to do. The "deactivate account" just temporarily hides your account. You can still log in just like before and it'll reactivate automatically. To truly delete your account, you need to go to this page and click on the "let us know" link.

Even that waits 14 days to truly delete it, but hold out that long and you're golden. After I clicked "delete", I thought that maybe I could have changed my password to something I'd never remember like "i5493%#ffly45s9.F4fr" (keeping it in an unsaved notepad because they'll ask for it to confirm delete), then delete my account, so I couldn't reactivate very easily.


Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Hopefully that little voice in my head that condenses all my thoughts into status updates will fade with time…

2016-07-20

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