Saturday, 14 February 2015

My Facebook Diet

For the past week, I have been on a Facebook diet. Not a fast nor a total abstention, mind you. A diet.

You see, lately I have noticed a more intensive polluting of my Facebook feed. I have been dismayed by the level of mindless shares, toxic discourse, junk science, and disheartening advertisements that have grown exponentially on the site. I thought that if I could dramatically cut back on my postings and instead become an acute observer of what was developing on my homepage, I might begin to bring Facebook back to a level where I once again feel comfortable in engaging. I really wanted to become a leaner, sleeker, better informed user of the product, so I decided to conduct a little experiment.

For one week I didn't "like" anything on Facebook. Nothing. Nada. Rien. I didn't wish anybody a Happy Birthday with the exception of Younger Son which I managed by way of a photographic post. (If I missed your birthday this week, I apologize and wish you all good health and many many more!) I didn't share a single article, blog post, (mine or anybody else's) newspaper article, and with only one exception last evening, I didn't post a single status update. I did post pictures relating to my latest strange obsession, bird watching, but I limited them to one per day. I did engage in a few short conversations on those particular photos and I did visit the site often in order to observe what was happening on my feed.

Here are a few things that littered said feed this week that I pointedly avoided.

  • The Grammys
  • Kanye West vs Beck
  • Brian Williams
  • Jon Stewart
  • Measles
  • Anti-Vaxers
  • Bibi's congressional speech
  • Bibi's perhaps cancelling of his congressional speech
  • Rob Ford
  • John Baird
  • Stephen Harper
  • Barack Obama
  • GMOs, Gluten, Toxins that might be invading my foods, vitamins, makeup, or beverages
  • American Sniper
  • Stupid or Cute Cat, Dog, or any other animal videos
  • Animal rights stories
  • Sun News
  • 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM (Thank God!)
  • The Leafs (Are they still playing?)
  • Stories that were clearly anti-Islam, anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-religion, anti-liberal, anti-conservative, anti-democrat, anti-republican or anti-anything.

And that is only a small sampling. There is not a single thing on this list that I feel as though I missed out on, but I did learn a great deal.

Here are a few of my observations after a week of Facebook dieting.

It is clear that there are some individuals who are all about sharing other source's content rather than creating their own. When I first started using Facebook, I was excited to have a social conversation with friends and family. I loved the reconnections. I loved the photos and the catching up. Sharing the odd article of interest is certainly part of that conversation, but many people on my feed are sharing 20 or more posts from outside sites or other users a day. A day! That level of sharing is going to dilute anything of value that you may wish to convey, because believe me, I will, and have already begun to ignore you. If you are one of these people who over-share other people's content rather than create your own, you probably have been muted in my feed.

Avoiding the "Like" button, even for a few days, has certainly led to an increase in the diversity of posts I am seeing. I know absolutely nothing about algorithms and the manner in which they function, (that's math, right?) but I do know that being more judicious in my "liking" has cleaned up some of the more distasteful ads on my feed. If I haven't "liked" your posts this week, please know that I probably really did. I will most likely go back to "liking" certain things, but I will be far more attentive as to when I press that insidious little button.

Too many of us are lazy users. If Facebook is to function properly, it requires the collective masses to have a basic working knowledge of how it works. Today, a friend posted that Miep Gies, the lady who helped Anne Frank, had passed away. The problem? She died four years ago. A closer reading of the date of the article would have cleared up the confusion, but this friend didn't take the time. It happens with old photos and statuses as well. Please take care not to "like" a photo that is older than three months. All it takes is one person and the damn thing jumps to the top of everybody's feeds.....AGAIN! Just look at the top left hand corner of the post to discern the date and be careful what you are "liking".

By thinking more carefully about my own postings, I became far more conscious about things and opinions that might have been better left unsaid by many. That was a difficult lesson for an opinionated b**** like me, but it was a very worthwhile one. Look, I am fairly open, honest, and vocal about my preferences and interests. You can read all about them right here in this space. But, I refuse to get drawn into hateful discussions with trolls who clearly revel in their anonymity on social media in order to advance an agenda. If you have expectations that you might possibly be able to bring me around to your position,  I will only engage if the conversations contain meaningful, rational, and polite debate. If you cannot follow these simple rules, you are blocked. Facebook is supposed to be fun. It has become less so.

Facebook is an amazing tool. It affords introverts like me an opportunity to interconnect while maintaining a safe environment in which we feel comfortable. But it has lost it's focus and it is up to us, the individual users to bring it back to a place of usefulness. There is much that I love about the site, but I have learned a small amount of judiciousness goes a long way.

Be wise, be wary, and be careful.

That said....I saw a black swan today. No picture, so no Facebook post, but it was just as exciting.

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