21 Jan 2008
Why I’ve Closed Down My Facebook Account.
I hadn’t even thought about having a Facebook site, but then recently I started getting lots of emails from people asking to be my friends on Facebook. An interesting concept. I had always avoided things like that before, thinking that anything that might in any way add to the tsunami of email that washes over me every day is best avoided. However, motivated by a curiosity about this new medium, and the ease of setting one up (just list your favourite things and stick a nice picture in), I set one up. Then, after a couple of weeks, I read Tom Hodgkinson’s piece With Friends Like These in the Guardian last week, and after some reflection I have deactivated my Facebook site.
His excellent article begins;
>”I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as “a social utility that connects you with the people around you”. But hang on. Why on God’s earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?
>And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn’t it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.
It is an odd concept, this one of collecting friends in a virtual world. My friends are people I see from time to time, and those friendships are something deepened by time spent together, evenings round camp fires, offering shoulders to cry on, help with babysitting, people you sit down to meals with, argue with, play football with, laugh, dance and cry with. The idea that people you barely know want to be your virtual friend is all a bit odd really.
Hodgkinson’s article also explores who is actually behind Facebook, and their neo-con, libertarian values. The site is worth a phenomenal amount of money. The idea is very simple. You pander to people’s self absorbed interest in writing about themselves and their preferences and interests, make it easy and attractive for them to do so, and then you have an astonishingly enticing resource for advertisers. But it gets worse, with Hodgkinson linking Facebook to the information gathering culture that is emerging in the US. A lead article in The Times last a couple of days ago offered an insight into how technology is developing, so that when you sit at your workstation, your employer assess your competence, productivity and well-being. It began;
>The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.
In this context we are also supposed to be posting our personal data online, into the hands of neo-con US billionaires, in the belief that we are cementing friendships and building our popularity. Talk about using our sense of personal insecurity to boost GDP! Hodgkinson for one, and now me, have decided that actually our quality of life will be increased by removing this pointless nonsense from our lives. He writes;
“For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as unplugged as possible, and spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven’t read Keats’ Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard? I don’t want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology. It’s free, it’s easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information: it’s called talking”.
So there we go. There is a very good button on Facebook called ‘Deactivate’. I clicked it. However, seeing as one of the main purposes of Facebook is to allow you to show off all your favourite records and books and so on, and I have now got rid of my Facebook site and deleted it all, I thought, in the same spirit of narcissism that probably attracted me to it in the first place, are my Facebook lists of all my favourite things, just so you know what a groovy guy I am and why you should all be my friends.
In the unlikely event that anyone else in the world should be even slightly interested…
Transition Town Totnes, Transition Network, fatherhood, insulating my loft.
Transition energy descent peak oil stuff, walnut trees, raised beds, my kids, football, books, digging up potatoes on a frosty morning, making good compost, cob walls, crop circles, 7″ singles, good food.
**Favorite Music:** (note, not *favourite*)
Can, DJ Shadow, Neu!, Josef K, Fire Engines, Velvet Underground, Jurassic 5, Radiohead, Subway Sect, Beatnik Filmstars, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ronettes, the Fall, PiL, Buzzcocks, Aphex Twin, Joy Division, New Order, Cocteau Twins, Magazine, Public Enemy, Brilliant Corners, Jeff Buckley, Television Personalities, Nick Drake, My Bloody Valentine, DJ Cam, June Brides, early Wedding Present, the Egg, golden nights spent at the EEC Punk Rock Mountain, early Primal Scream, 23 Skidoo, “Brainfreeze”, “Product Placement” & “Hard Sell”.
**Favorite TV Shows:**
‘Behind the Green Door With Kevin Turvey’, ‘LOST’.
If, The Big Lebowski, Crude Awakening, Control, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Delicatessen, A Night on Earth, Gregory’s Girl.
‘Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability’ by David Holmgren, ‘Peak Everything’ by Richard Heinberg, “Possession: a Romance” by A.S. Byatt, “Little, Big” by John Crowley, “Liberation in the Palm of your Hand” by Pabonka Rinpoche, “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy, “What’s Welsh for Zen” by John Cale.
“When do we live, that’s what I want to know”.
*From the film “If”.*
There we go. I’ve satisfied that urge. Now to go and spend some time with my friends. After all, in an energy descent culture, I’m going to need them.