Why I’m Stepping Back from Facebook

The best reasons to leave Facebook behind, or at least to pull back and mostly disengage, are the most obvious…

Facebook is the most addictive, the most mesmerizing, the most interesting soul suck since man first started sitting around staring vacantly into the campfires at night. Early man found the nightly fire to be a good thing. It provided warmth, camaraderie, interaction, and a little something to stare at that activated the dopamine pharmacy in our brains that makes the stupid side of us want it to never stop. Dopamine addiction aside, a lot of good came from staring into the fire. The fireside is where story telling began. Relationships blossomed around the fire as the romantic, golden-yellow firelight made people more attractive than they might be in the glaring light of day. Personalities were revealed… the entertainers, the comedians, the politicians, and the trolls. So, it was a little like Facebook. A study was recently published by the University of Utah that hints of the early social media-like influence of the campfire in history. In the abstract for the study, we learn that “firelit activities centered on conversations that evoked the imagination, helped people remember and understand others in their external networks, healed rifts of the day, and conveyed information about cultural institutions that generate regularity of behavior and corresponding trust.” In short, campfire social interaction began to regulate behavior, re-ordered and systematized social interaction, and became the primary force in defining the culture. It became a tool of information, but it also became a tool of conformity.

Like with the campfire, the negative side of Facebook was self-evident.  A little of it, in moderation, might have been good and fun. It might even have been valuable. Old friends were reunited, creative ideas and plots were hatched, and the hive mind could come together to solve problems. But before long a little of it wasn’t enough. The campfire became the main source of news and gossip. If you weren’t there every night, you might miss something, and with the promise of the constant drip of dopamine in the brain, nobody wanted to get up and go to bed early.  In the morning, when the rest of the village was still tittering groggily about the hunting story that Alley Oop told the night before, or about how the head honcho was going to get them all killed, who wanted to be the one who’d missed it all? After a while, I’ll bet productivity dropped, adultery soared, and all of this while the worst angels of the human nature began to rear their ugly heads. Inevitably there were fights and arguments. Friends were separated. People were excommunicated, or they unfriended one another. Alternate campfires sprung up around the village, and people could gravitate to the bubble of people with which they mostly agreed. Those other people became the enemy because they were all stupid and listening to fake news. There were wars and rumors of wars. Cats and dogs living together. Mayhem. Everyone at that one fire became Hitler, and before long Nazis were punched. It was the end of days.

Only when people began to build comfortable enough housing where they could have their own private campfires in the burning warmth of their own hearths, did the party really start to break up and society was saved.

By then, news started coming another way. Professional news gatherers and propagandists took over the dirty work. Professional entertainers arrived on the scene and at least some of them knew enough to leave politics out of it. Until the Greeks and the Romans, and then Shakespeare, made cutting political satire subtle enough that the average folk didn’t get the joke but liked the burlesque, and the ones who did get the joke were in on it or realized it was mostly harmless. Then came television, and in the early days we only had three channels and most of us watched the same stuff. We were, in a limited way, one village again. One sad, TV addicted village. My metaphor is slipping.

The point is that the overwhelming negatives of Facebook are obvious. And those faults alone would be enough for me to come to the determination that I want to spend more time elsewhere. But the obvious negatives are not the only reasons to step away.

Facebook is about power, about regulating thought and ideas, and it is about conformity. But mostly it is about power.

For most people, Facebook is mostly what it pretends to be. It is the new campfire, only with a twist. You can block topics and voices you don’t want to hear. In the campfire analogy, in olden days, you had to go find a bubble where you felt comfortable, but everyone in that bubble had the same experience. With Facebook, the bubble is built around you. Every individual is the “god” of their own bubble, and they make it in their own image. Open-minded folk might like a big bubble with competing thoughts and ideas, trolls like to bubble hop, but most people ruthlessly cull the citizens of their bubbles like Robespierre and the Jacobins. The sounds of the guillotine are never far from their ears.  And to completely torture the metaphor at this point, perhaps even the guillotine became the Facebook of its time. A place for meeting and gossip, catching up, and watching the heads of one’s enemies roll. “Did you hear what Robespierre said? THWUMP. Oh, nevermind. Who’s in charge now?” The comparison between Facebook and the Reign of Terror is not a tortured one. It might be the source of another article at some point. The salons of Paris where eerily like the bubbles of Facebook, but that’s not the point…

For the average citizen of Facebook, the service remains a way for them to stay in touch with friends, family, and strangers who say the things that they like. Head lopping is optional.

I’m not going to try to ham-handedly shove notifications and Facebook Live into this now hopelessly muddled metaphor. Facebook notifications give you the little “ping” of dopamine to remind you that you need your full dose. Facebook live takes the campfire and morphs it into the TV. Everyone still stares at a screen in their hand or on their desk for a good part of the day, but now there is more to look at. And most people don’t want to realize that what they are scrolling for is some greater meaning for their lives – some purpose beyond being merely a consumer of news. The village campfire petered out as the sole means of community interaction because if it didn’t, the society would have fractured beyond the point of repair. None of that changes the fact that for most average users, Facebook still serves as that campfire in their lives.

For the rest of us, the producers and publishers and content providers, we were lied to from the very beginning, and now we’re getting fleeced, with a plan to butcher us wholesale.

You say that it doesn’t make any monetary sense to butcher the sheep when you can continue to fleece them, but it seems that Facebook hasn’t yet learned that lesson. Or, they just believe that there is no real competition at all, and there are plenty of sheep. From the day that Facebook introduced “Pages,” they told individuals, businesses, and anyone with a brand… “Hey, start up a Page! Build your own organic following. Your platform will be yours, and more people will find you!” And that was really a lie from day one.  We just did as we were told. We started Pages and Groups and such, and we went out and worked hard and built up a following of people who opted in to see what we post and to follow us. And Facebook promptly took those audiences hostage, withholding our voices from them and charging us to reach them. It seems that a fair way to monetize the content produced by content providers, businesses, etc., would be to let them reach the audiences they build for themselves organically, but charge them to reach even further. So if someone searches on my name, or sees a shared post of mine, and they decide to like and follow me, that is an organic part of my platform. I shouldn’t have to pay for that person to receive what they asked for. But, if I want to reach a million new people, then charge me for that ad. But that is not the way that it works, and guess what? It’s about to get way worse.

Click on the article to read it, but the gist of Facebook’s new plan is this…

Facebook is developing a two feed system. In effect, it already exists. The main feed is your NEWS FEED. This is the feed you’re used to. Facebook already blocks (or doesn’t show you) most of the stuff you’ve asked to see from your News Feed, especially from Pages… like mine. On all of the Pages I manage, I have over 7,000 people who have opted-in to see the things that I post. Facebook, claiming they are acting in those people’s best interests, picks about 150 of those 7,000 who will see any particular content I post. If you go to my Page, you’ll see my posts. If I go to my Page, I’ll see dozens of ad blocks telling me how to pay Facebook so I can talk to the people who have already elected to see my posts. And none of this is new. This hostage taking started from the beginning of Pages, and it is why many of us just choose to use our own private Facebook profile to post our materials. And they censor what we see from our own friends and family too, if we don’t go and jump through a lot of hoops to force Facebook to show us what we really want to see.

But now, Facebook has launched a second News Feed… called Explore Feed.

You probably have not heard of Explore, because it is buried in the collapsed menu on the left of your screen. You’ll find it under the redundant category of Explore. The Explore Feed is really not a feed at all. It is a place for all the Pages you have not chosen to follow or like. It is stuff you have never, yet, chosen to see. It’s really not a feed at all. It’s really a deep hole where no light escapes and Facebook lowers down lotion in a basket for it to rub on its skin.

And Facebook is now testing (meaning “planning”) the process of putting the information from Pages you have chosen to see, off of your feed altogether, and throwing that content into that deep dark hole. They were already keeping you from seeing 95% of the stuff Pages you elected to follow were posting, and they were doing this so that they could monetize the posts that publishers were willing to pay for you to see. Now, you won’t see any of it at all unless someone like me pays for it. And they do this, they say, for your own good (even though it is the foundation and grounds of their profit plan):

“With all of the possible stories in each person’s feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful.” ~ Doublespeak from Facebook

By “most meaningful,” they mean “someone paid us to show it to you.” In effect, they are admitting that you cannot be trusted to have tools to limit and vet your own feed. A simple button (like they already have) that says, “I don’t want to see this any more,” is apparently too complicated for you. But, in fact, we already know that this hostage-taking is the pillar of Facebook’s plan to increase profits. And I maintain, it is the very beginning, the earliest inkling, of the end of Facebook as the sole campfire to the technological world. It is the beginning of the end. It won’t happen overnight. It probably won’t happen in just a few years, but the first trickling of the exodus has already begun. If you’re like me, you see notices of people leaving Facebook every day.

No one is arguing that Facebook shouldn’t make money. They should and they do. Plenty of money. But part of making money and being successful is not planting the seeds of your own demise by your own hand. And probably it is best not to have built your whole profit making scheme on a huge lie.

I’m not big enough to make a difference, but someday, someone (or someones) who is big enough and who has a big enough audience is going to say goodbye to Facebook, and that’ll open the floodgates. But it won’t be me. And the thing is, I don’t really care to be some kind of Pied Piper leading the rats, and then the children, of Hamelin away. Besides, that allusion is ill-founded, since the term “Pied Piper” generally has come to mean “leading people away to their doom,” so no, I don’t want to be a Pied Piper. Not at all. Nor could I be one, so it doesn’t matter. But I’m not leading anyone anywhere, so there. I’m just backing away from my reliance on Facebook as the sole method of reaching my audience. Like Amazon, Facebook has become abusive to those who helped make their system successful.

I’m not leaving Facebook totally, not right now. I hope to some day, but not yet. I’ll still be around, only a lot less. I’ll still post in a few of my groups, and I’ll post needful information to my main profile now and again. But I’m not going to spend the majority of my social time on Facebook any more. I’m pulling back. And for those of you who mainly engage with me on Facebook, you’ll still be able to reach me in other venues and read what I’m up to…

How to follow what I’m doing

Primarily, I’m going to do most of my talking right here, on this blog. And if you’re not a member here at Thirdscribe.com, you should be. Thirdscribe is for anyone who loves books. Anyone. Readers and Authors. And Thirdscribe has its own social media functions. You can start up your own library (like on GoodReads) follow books you love, join book clubs, and engage in social media interaction with other readers, and authors too. *And I wasn’t paid to say that – I just really like Thirdscribe. Another great thing about Thirdscribe, is that it isn’t owned by Amazon or Facebook. At least not yet 😉 If you go join up at Thirdscribe, make sure to hook up with me there.

And I should have news for you very soon, because my good friend Rob McClellan, the brain trust behind ThirdScribe (the host of this blog) is building me a couple of new websites. One is going to be focused solely on my Off-Grid/Homesteading/Preparedness/Non-Electric Living lifestyle. The other is still a secret for now.

You can already hang out and chat with me at my Patreon page. Patreon is a great place to support and follow creative content providers (Authors, like me!) And if you become a patron for as little as $1 a month, you get a ton of freebies from me, including things like free copies of my brand new book that just released. In addition to getting almost all of my fiction writing for free as it is released, you’ll also get the mostly monthly releases of new chapters in a Patreon-only novel, along with free short stories on a regular basis.

My new social media hangout is over at Minds.com. I’ll warn you right now, there are a lot of extremists of every kind on Minds.com… because Minds is a censor-free zone. Which is what I like about it. I don’t get offended by opinions with which I disagree. Minds doesn’t censor content, but you can. They provide tools that allow you to block the main feed, or the posts of anyone who offends your delicate sensibilities. And the best thing is that at Minds, your platform (your fans or followers) aren’t held hostage. You always have access to your organic growth, AND you can purchase access to outside eyeballs if you want to, using points (which you can get free by interacting,) or by using money (even bitcoin!) I think this is the way of the future for content providers. *I wasn’t paid by Minds.com either.

Minds also has an encrypted chat function, and a Patreon like service where people can support you, but I haven’t really figured out how to use that part yet.

There are a number of ways to get in touch with me or to follow what I’m doing. I’ll be posting here regularly, so join Thirdscribe and follow me here. Or I’ll see you over at Minds. I still monitor my Twitter account, and occasionally I’ll be posting on Facebook. But not often.

See y’all around,

Michael Bunker

 

About Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker is a USA Today bestselling author, off-gridder, husband, and father of four children. He lives with his family in a “plain” community in Central Texas, where he reads and writes books…and occasionally tilts at windmills. He is the author of several popular and acclaimed works of dystopian sci-fi, including the WICK series, The Silo Archipelago, and the Amish/Sci-Fi thriller Pennsylvania; two books humor/satire including Hugh Howey Must Die! and LEGENDARIUM; as well as many nonfiction works, including the bestseller Surviving Off Off-Grid.

9 Responses to Why I’m Stepping Back from Facebook

    • Profile Cover Art

      I definitely cut most ties to Facebook. They started limiting my content, then allowed trolls to dissect me and pirate content, then sent messages that content was spam. I guess the only content they want is their own or paid mind-manipulations. Happy to see others are opening up to options beyond the social experiment that mainly illustrated the ugly side of “society” worldwide.

  1. Profile Cover Art

    You’re not the only person pulling away from Facebook, as I have cut my presence there dramatically. I still use it to keep up with friends and family, but it’s no longer (for me, at least) a good source of news, nor a decent place to do business (other than for placing ads, which it is good at doing).

    A recent poll over on The Verge on all of the tech giants found that Facebook was the least trusted. Interesting, in my mind. I don’t trust it much either.

    I intentionally made ThirdScribe ad free, because I didn’t want the network to ever be in a place where it needed to compete against it’s members. I’d rather we worked with them and supported them. Nor do we filter anything out at the system level, instead allowing users to select their own criteria for what they want to see.

    However, as with any social network outside of the biggest ones, it’s hard to get members to come and contribute. Minds, Google+, Gab, not to mention MySpace, Path, Twitter, Mastodon, App.net, etc all have had trouble pulling users away from the gravity well of Facebook.

    But, there is a lot of opportunity out there to communicate with each other in a better, more intimate way. Real life, certainly (watch Secret Life of Walter Mitty, if you have the chance, you’ll enjoy it), but also online.

    Niche communities might be smaller, but I think they are, ultimately, better for us.

    And, thanks very much for the shout out. We’re happy to have you with us.

  2. Hey Michale,
    I never had an account at Facebook or Twitter, but I see why you are backing away from FB.
    About a month ago I deleted my personal blog, but kept my WordPress profile. I also left Disqus and LinkedIn. Toying with deleting my Google profile. And yet, I do not have a decent author page right now. Perhaps ThirdScribe could be a one stop blog/social media/author site for me?
    The Internet is frustrating. It brings to mind the Eagles lyrics:
    “Relax’ said the night man,
    ‘We are programmed to receive.
    You can check out any time you like,
    But you can never leave!”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *