Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
Purpose, to me, is like an ocean. Those of us seeking to best employ ourselves for the good of some specific outcome- after what might be years of watching and studying from the sand- pick up a board, paddle out and wait for a wave to come. A chance to feel that incredible combination of skill, fortune and nature taking us on an incredible ride for glory.
Some of us will watch wave after wave come, and never try to ride any because we’re waiting for the perfect one, which we may get, we may not. Some of us will take a run at every single wave that comes along to best prepare ourselves for the perfect one. Some people get dumped, some drown. Some ride only one wave, all the way into shore and spend the rest of the time swapping stories and drinking on the beach with their friends. Some feel the rush and can’t help but get back in there over and over. Some are naturals, mastering the art and being idolised by the whole beach. Some play it safe, some compete, some coast, some snorkel. But this isn’t about them, I don’t think.
What does this have to do with the fact that I’m not going to be on facebook anymore? Well, I genuinely believe that I won’t get any better at surfing, metaphorical or literal, if I spend the whole time sitting on my phone at the kiosk. Sure I might be surrounded by friends, entertainment and people who validate me because I’m a customer, but what purpose does that serve? What connection do I have with those friends if we don’t make any active effort to converse or share properly? What chance have I got of really experiencing that mixture I mentioned?
On top of the fact that the “Community Standards” are no more than lip service to diversity and democracy. On top of the digital divide being one of the most severe hurdles for marginalised communities to overcome. On top of how it caters more to our voyeuristic, vain and vulnerable instincts more than any other without actually having to critically investigate our opinion, unconscious biases or ambitions. On top of how dreadful a series of alpha-masculine, back-stabbing, entrepreneurotic events that led to its success, facebook is making money of my mind as media, and neither I, nor you, are getting a cut of that.
A really large portion of my mind is telling me this is a mistake. Besides feeling embarrassed by the potential irony of posting about leaving facebook on bloody facebook, I’m nervous that I won’t be able to handle it. That I’ll be disconnected, that no-one will take me seriously, all my “friends” will be angry with me or feel abandoned, that I’ll lose my value, and my aspirations will amount to nothing because I’m not part of the collective consciousness. I don’t think it’s alright that the only reason I’m doing something is because the concept of not doing it plays on my anxiety, and because I’m pressured by the buy-in of my peers. I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not saying you, the reader, are. I’m saying that facebook has become a place where people’s love keeps me on the soapbox, when I want to be in the surf.
With every tumultuous political incident that has occurred of late, and is bound to occur going forward, it is dangerous to interact only with views similar to your own. It is disempowering to be guided by algorithms crafted for commercial purposes only. A friend of mine was in a critical condition psychologically, and when they appealed to their friendship group online, the response was for someone to call the police. Not call them. A woman was abused on a train I was on recently. I didn’t hear because my fucking headphones were in watching a video someone tagged me in, and I think even if I had heard I wouldn’t know how to interact at that level because public transport is phone time. I didn’t know anything about Brexit because all my friends were In. I feel completely clueless on US gun legislation, climate change, Middle Eastern politics, poverty in Africa because no-one’s really sharing that stuff. If Google doesn’t give me a fast and clear answer to a question, or if I can’t find the song on YouTube I’m likely to let it go because they’re my only bastions of information I consider.
I’ll still be on it for contact, just not for content. I’ll keep my Pages, I’ll get better at twitter, I’ll instagram some stuff. Of course I’ll still write here, every week. But I think for all that facebook has given me a lot – including the love of my life – there comes a time where you can’t depend on a tool initially designed to connect you to long-distance loved ones to now dictate your social life, your ability to mobilise, your social education, your commoditisation. You have to curate your life yourself, you have to hunt for your opportunities and seek no further validation for your decisions than your own, and those who love, care and respect you enough to surf alongside you in whatever way the current connects you.
Images by Che Chorley with sincere gratitude.