When I was young, I wanted to be a parasitologist. The animal kingdom and in particular, the insect world fascinated me and I came across numerous stories of hosts and their parasites. Take for example, toxoplasma gondii which apparently infects 30 to 50% of the global human population. What a success story for a parasite that lives among us and within us, (fortunately with no symptoms unless your immune function is somehow compromised).
It is such a cunning organism that even without a brain or nervous system it manipulates its host’s behavior to ensure it continues to live. In cats for example, it completes its lifecycle by first infecting a rodent and makes that creature lose its fear of its closest predator, thus closing the circle when it is eaten. If you own a cat, it also exposes you to potential infection thus expanding its empire.
Now, what do you think could be the connection between a highly successful parasite and a social media platform? Well if you like me, have been infected by Facebook, you will know how efficiently it occupies the host and memetically spreads itself among non-infected members of the population. It is spread via social contact, albeit virtually and once attached it slowly siphons off your personality, all your pictures, activities, likes and dislikes etc. and hands the information over to marketers to target you better online.
And if you believe in the tinfoil hat community’s warnings, it was actually concocted by and for the security apparatus to track your every move by turning your smartphone into a surveillance device.
Potentially, it could remain with you for the rest of your life, or even after your death. As evil as it sounds, Facebook does have its benefits: it also allows you to stay in touch with people you love or like (and some you don’t). Indeed, its greatest success is our need for connection in a lonely often disconnected world. Nevertheless, studies have shown that Facebook also corroborates with low self-esteem and narcissism.
I’m not sure if the platform brings out pre-existing conditions like these or whether it actually creates them. Either way, lately I have weighed the good and bad and found the whole premise wanting. There are a number of factors too many to list, but I’ll relate the ones that bug me the most:
Pictures of meals – I can’t touch or taste the food you just ate. I certainly don’t want to smell your farts afterwards so why share a picture?
Donald Trump – my news feed has a secondary infection called the Donald. More than a year before he was fraudulently elected his digital team ensured that he would be visible daily in all news feeds. This continues. Even satirical posts mocking him have started to lose their appeal. I’m sick of looking at that boiled ham of a face.
Pictures of your holidays and hobbies – there is a boastful aspect to them – admit it. I’m happy you’re happy but don’t rub it in.
Your selfies – just stop it. Now.
Aspirational quotes – guilty as others on re-posting occasionally but if I have to see another picture of some ancient American Indian chief, Buddha or wise statesman, attached to a profound statement, even post ironically, I’m done.
Environmental destruction and animal cruelty – see under Donald Trump
Apocalyptic events – one more warning about a fast approaching Near Earth Object or next Fukushima/Chernobyl meltdown makes me want it to happen sooner
Mark Zuckerberg – smug just doesn’t cut it. Take your manifesto and blot out the sun with it
Cats and other fluffy animals – cats rule the Internet and by default, us. Evidently toxoplasmosis also exists in digital form
There it is. I’m pulling the plug today. More than anything else, I’m pulling the plug because Facebook, like its soul mate procrastination is the thief of time. I don’t buy into the time efficiency bullshit that corporations like to sell us but I am alarmed at the amount of time I have come to devote to this social media platform and its constant interruptions. I lived happily without it before its existence – I may yet do so afterwards. I’m going to use part of the time I will save to daydream, which is not pathological and may even lead to greater happiness.
Of course, Zuckerberg has cut me off at the pass by separating Messenger off into its own platform. You can still reach me there but you will have to have a reason to do so. And then there is good old fashioned gmail (firstname.lastname@example.org), Linkedin and when the spirit moves me, this blog – the same rules apply.