Since March 2009 I have a profile on Facebook; and I’m also present on a few other social media portals, although I am not particularly (Twitter, LinkedIn) or not at all active (Instagram) there. Today I have decided to stop publishing texts on Facebook and also not to comment anymore on postings of others in the future.
For a very communicative person like me, who travels a lot due to his work and who has lived in different parts of the world, Facebook as an idea is not a bad thing. Such a platform basically offers the opportunity to share certain information with his friends and acquaintances in an easy way and to catch up with what’s going on in the circle of your friends and acquaintances. And in principle, it would also have the potential to bring people together who do not know each other in real life, but who share common interests and values. And in a few cases, that’s exactly what happened: through Facebook, I made the acquaintance of some people who have become important to me today. But this is – if I look back over the period of more than 10 years Facebook presence -, the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, apart from these rare personally enriching experiences, Facebook has become a place where I am confronted with more and more misery, anger, hatred, rage, and ugliness.
The business practices of Facebook are by now probably well known; I do not want to revisit them here. If you want to read something intelligent and really brilliant and witty about this topic, I highly recommend you Jaron Lanier’s book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Lanier is one of the few thinkers who deals with the consequences of the developments of modern media and information technologies, and his sharp rejection of the “for free” culture, which is spreading more and more, I share wholeheartedly. I do not want to review the book here, but whoever has a social media account should read this insightful and instructive book. After that, probably only a very few people will actually delete their social media accounts – Lanier himself does not have any illusions about that – but almost everyone who will read the book will be much more aware of what and where he posts something, and it will probably be much clearer to most people, how Facebook et al. are trying to manipulate every user in the interest of their paying clientele. Lanier’s ideas about how social media that work in the interest of their users, and not their paying customers, should look like are also worth to be discussed. Food for thought!
In addition to the serious objections regarding the business practices and privacy violations of Facebook and the structural defects of the platform itself, something else comes into play, which is also addressed by Lanier, something that every Facebook user has probably already experienced many times. It concerns the often very unpleasant and aggressive communication behavior of many FB users.
Everyone who’s on FB knows them: the narcissists who post almost exclusively selfies; the trolls who, with every contribution – whether it suits the topic or not – address their favorite pet theory and who would like to hijack every discussion even when it is not even remotely linked to the topic of the original posting; the racists, anti-Semites, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers, Greta-bashers, sectarians, supporters of right-wing extremist parties, which I mercilessly delete from my circle of Facebook contacts, but who are apparently procreating like rabbits lately, so that you can hardly keep this plague in check. And what I also noticed time and time again: the way people address each other on Facebook, even and especially among people from whom one does not expect it per se (intellectuals), is frequently very uncultured, rude, insolent, insulting.
Over the last few months and years, I’ve been receiving threats to my physical integrity, including death threats, following some of my Facebook posts and comments. After my recent report about the revisionist activities of a Bulgarian writer, I received the most incredible insults – ad hominem attacks are by far the most common “argument” of many FB participants – and was the victim of a virtual pogrom of an apparently mentally disturbed woman, who despite being known as a pathological liar has apparently the ear of many of my Facebook friends. (It goes without saying that I only in very rare cases received any support even from close personal friends, when I was subject to such extreme cases of abuse and threats – so much for friendship!) And these are not just a few unique cases. If you only voice a single critical remark on a specific topic, you are immediately subject to abuse and unfair attacks even by people with a high formal education (including in some cases, writers and professors); even the friendly hint to a friend who asks where he can find a certain recording that is out of circulation is sufficient reason for a third party to jump in with snide remarks from the sideline.
I’m tired of all that. What I have to say to my friends, I will tell them in person in the future or through other, more private communication channels. And things that I would like to make public, I will post here on my blog. I will not delete my Facebook profile and maybe even occasionally share one or the other link or a few photos. But there will be no texts and comments from me on Facebook anymore in the future. No reason to be sad – in the contrary: I will have more time again to take care of more important things.
Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Picador 2019
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