Friday, July 25, 2014

A Challenge: Can You Go 99 Days Without Facebook?

The blog post header refers to an experiment, or perhaps more accurately, a mission, proposed by the Dutch group '99 Days of Freedom' - to  see if Facebook users can break off from its use for 99 whole days, or just over three months. They warrant the users will be a lot happier, but need to have people carry out the proposed mission to see.

Most of us not living under rocks have already heard or read of the Facebook -conducted experiment  in which the social media site conducted an "emotional manipulation" investigation on 689,000 unknowing users. Evidently, at assorted odd times, FB inserted negative news stories on the users' news pages to see if they elicited negative emotional reactions. This was kind of dopey since it's already well known that media can shape our thinking - for good or ill - depending on the stuff we allow into our cranium. Thus, if we watch only FOX and listen to Limbaugh,  our brains will likely be distorted and accept nonsense few other literate citizens would, such as that:  "Saddam caused 9/11" or "Obama is a terrorist sympathizer" or "Obama lacks a legitimate birth certificate".

As for Facebook, it has its social uses but can also be somewhat of a burden, and the content on most of it is nowhere near the more in -depth material found on most blogs. Basically, people can throw up whatever they want including images of kitties beating doggies, lizards crapping on flowers, or even obnoxious pseudo-political content which I'd prefer not to describe. But those are a few reasons I spend little time on Facebook, other than to make the occasional connections with family -who find FB more convenient to use than email. (It's true that some bloggers too put junk political stuff on their blogs, as well as outrageous images, but they're not likely to be taken seriously and have few followers.)

Facebook has also been maligned on account of  breeding into users a "single-minded attachment or obsession which has contributed to an artificial,  solipsistic view of the world" (cf. Mark Bauerlein, 'The Dumbest Generation'). Thus, instead of being a channel of information and knowledge consolidation, the monitor screen becomes a mirror of the users’ own limited selves and under-developed psyches. That Facebook would insinuate itself into a life to the extent of excluding so much else in the world is not surprising, and Bauerlein shows how this is done by blocking out all unwanted material on one's FB pages.  Author Sara Scribner  herself noted ( piece)  that while she first joined to share family photos it gradually descended into random, driven 'rummaging' and time wasting. As she put it:

"We know the pattern by now. That initial rush arrives with the first “like,” comment, or share. Then it becomes a habit. Instead of reading a book or the newspaper, I would troll through my friends’ pictures or comments, jumping from one stray, random idea to another. I was feeling fragmented, even a bit wasted, by the end of my daily FB journey."
Adding to the preceding are the encumbering (and often discomfiting) social burdens imposed,  a phenomenon of interjected -interlinked differing social milieus and often clashing personas that needed to be reconciled. As she described it:

"I had to switch roles often on Facebook. Students at the school where I work would friend me, and then I would have to alter my comments"

This effect emerges because one's "friend" universe is often populated by radically different people and types. So, for example, how do you navigate your FB world if one half is made up of religious or very conservative family members, and the other half made up of very liberal and non-religious (other) family members, and friends?  Well, you have to tread carefully because it can be a literal minefield, especially when a hyper-liberal friend happens to see what s/he regards as an offensive comment from a conservative family member.  So you're constantly having to steer clear of 'oil mixing with water' situations or whatever.

Sara Scribner herself describes it thusly:

"It’s not easy to make all these projected selves cohere: My friends and family include folks from Southern evangelical Christianity, from the rap/rock critic subculture, from ’90s bohemia, from mommy-land, from the public-education universe. My guess is that most people on social media have some variation of this problem. In life, I entered each space separately; on Facebook, it all happened simultaneously."

But that's another reason I use FB infrequently: first, because the odds are high I'm liable to run into comments or images I don't like - so I won't be compelled to "like" them or be outraged by them enough to respond, and second, there's too little dimension for more complex expression of thought, which a blog post allows. Truth be told, for communication purposes - especially on important issues-  I actually find email much superior.

And all that brings us to this new Facebook experiment, or should I say - on Facebook, In this case, a Dutch group ('99 Days of Freedom')  is asking users of FB to see if they can go 99 whole days without once bringing it up on one's computer, liking anything, or posting any pictures or comments. The group is interested in finding out if people would be happier without Facebook. (I suspect many people would be happier if they just limited their FB use. I mean 2 hours a day ought to be enough for anyone.)

So far, according to the Washington Post, over 100,000 users have signed on to the freedom pledge.

Meanwhile, Sara Scribner was able to totally go 'cold turkey' after seeing how much time she was wasting. The fact that she could do it shows perhaps anyone else can, if they set their mind to it!


Unknown said...

What I find very interesting is that the day after I took the 99 day pledge, and at least once every day since, I have received emails from Facebook informing me that I have 99 notifications, 5 friend requests, 2 messages (although the latter change from email to email). It would take me a month to get 99 notifications, if that. Every day it's 99 notifications. I will probably not go back after I cull my contact info for real friends.

Copernicus said...

Good for you! I tend to get the same sort of notifications - and after seeing them every day, just ignore them. For me, FB only exists in the dim background. I do occasionally check it for family matters, but not much more.

See also my latest post on 'Einstein's 2nd worst fear'.