I deactivated my Facebook account some time ago. For one reason or another I have had bad experiences with Facebook and decided it wasn't meant for me. I made many social faus paus, because my basic people skills come by way of reading body language and voice inflection. I don't do well trying to read meaning through social media. I felt there were a whole lot of social rules I didn't know and felt at a disadvantage. It was far easier to break away rather than to figure out the mysteries of Facebook etiquette.
There was another motivating factor for deactivating far more compelling: I became conscious of brain rushes that came from the anticipation of receiving comments or when I would sign in. The term for it is "dopamine loop". After quitting a Facebook session, there was this heavy feeling of letdown that got heavier each time I used it. Even today, just with email I notice rushes when I see an email in my inbox. When I email something to myself and see the number 1 appear on the inbox browser tab, I feel it just as strongly. The brain doesn't care about the source of the stimulus and treats it the same. This lack of differentiation disturbs me as it indicates an involuntary response I have no ability to control. Lately, when I am working on something and notice an email arrive, I try ever so hard to continue what I am doing and ignore it as I want to be the master of this dopamine loop, but this strange anxious feeling overcomes me, and I can't concentrate until I take a look.
During the time I was considering deactivating, I did some web browsing on this issue to see if others felt the same. I found this Facebook group called Facebook Suicide. It was a whole bunch of people complaining about Facebook and how they wanted to quit. It actually was kind of funny that they were using the very platform they were complaining about to express their complaints. At one point, they made a Facebook suicide pact--choosing a date they would all deactivate. Well--of course, at the time I was visiting this group, the date had long passed, and there were still members. Obviously, many of them did not follow through or reactivated.
I am so happy I have simplified my communications by reducing my portals to only email. I turned off my texting feature, and I don't twitter. I would quit email if I could, but it is a vital way to communicate with the community work I am doing and a necessity for online business transactions and for being a Patch blogger. I am glad that people in my generation still prefer email. If I was forced to have to do Facebook or text message to get anything done, I suppose I would have to drop out of all electronic communication, because I feel these are the most addictive and destructive to the integrity of brain activity.
Recently I was at and ran into a couple college graduates. I told them I was surprised to see they didn't have their cells in hand. They said they turned them off and put them away to unplug. I was gratified to hear that. We spoke about their main means of communication. They said they use texting almost exclusively. Since I've never texted, I had many questions for them. I asked if there is a lot of miscommunication. They said it happens constantly. Information is missed or misread. Often they show up to meet someone who doesn't arrive only to discover texts didn't go through or weren't seen. Knowing this fact, it amazes me people keep with it.
It may be naive for me to say this, but I do think a time will come when people will begin to pull away from all this electronic stuff, even the young ones. It's possible it may even be happening on a very hidden scale, one person at a time. However, it does take courage to make such decisions. By closing down portals and simplifying communication, it means missing out on things, and people don't like to be left out. And there is also peer pressure to stay with it just as drug addicts like their friends to remain drug addicts. What fun is it to Facebook alone? Then, of course, there are the withdrawals, which are very real, since the addiction is just as physical as it is psychological.
The young college grads I met enjoyed that feeling of being unplugged, looking at the ocean, and having a long conversation with a stranger passing by. If moments like that come to feel more satisfying than staring at words going across a screen, perhaps unplugging may one day become a way of life for more people the world over. We are not there yet. There's just not enough people burned out or fed up with the whole thing for a major wave of change like that. It's a long time coming, but it will come some day. Perhaps this post may serve as a small contribution to this change, like a pebble tossed into a pond.
Just call me Wall-E.