This article was originally posted at https://medium.com/@inkensoul/unfollowfacebookfebruary-9762d885db01
One of my greatest critiques of the culture I’ve been born into is its obsession with consumerism. Before the boom that preceded the Great Depression, the forces-that-be started calling us “consumers” instead of “citizens” so that we could better fuel the development of disposable product industries and planned obsolescence factories. By 1957, just after the American Dream had reached its peak of happiness, “consumer” overtook the word “citizen” as a way to describe a person living in America. Now, “consumer” is used to describe people about three times as much as “citizen”.
Yet as much as I might criticize the continued consideration of Americans as cogs of capitalism instead of concerned and capable citizens, I must admit that I’m a consumer too. But if I choose to be a more concerned and capable citizen, knowing that there are many manipulative campaigns underway seeking to make me consume whatever product or information will help feed the voracious appetites for money and power that cultivate consumerism, regardless of how unhealthy their practices might be for people, our communities, or the environment, it is my responsibility to conciously choose which products I shall consume, as well as which information.
That being said, I must admit that I have become a Facebook addict. I can spend vast swaths of time just scrolling through my News Feed, consuming a lot of information about a number of people I care about, and many I don’t really know all that well, to see what is going on in their lives and what they think is important, amusing, or beautiful in the world. Unfortunately, I find that it can be a bit overwhelming for my schedule and I haven’t been putting as much time as I could into being the concerned, creative citizen I am capable of being.
I don’t necessarily fault Facebook for offering the services that they do, just like I don’t fault any of the other products I’ve found myself addicted to and obsessing over. Any product, service, or bit of inforation I might entertain in my life is largely the result of people trying to find the balance between consumer and citizen in their own lives as well. For any activity I engage in as a consumer or a citizen, in order to most adeptly negotiate these times of balancing, it is my responsibility to set my own levels of moderation, and with a social structure as ubiquitous as Facebook, while I certainly don’t want to be consumed by it, I don’t necessarily want to disengage from it altogether either.
So I’m adjusting my use of it in what I’m calling #UnfollowFacebookFebruary.
Whenever you make a friend on Facebook, you also automatically follow them, and they are added to the algorithm which decides which posts will make it into your News Feed. If I accepted a friend request from someone I didn’t really know, but we had a lot of friends in common, I eventually started unfollowing them after accepting their request. However, I’ve recently unfollowed everyone, and my News Feed is empty.
While I have appreciated the times that I’ve been able to live vicariously through the lives of people that I know but may not see that often, and I may have those times again in the future, for the time being, I need some of my attention back. Plus, Facebook hasn’t necessarily been on the up and up with a lot of their practices, and consuming their product at their recommended level has a high potential for the development of an addiction and poor mental health. I think it would do them good to have a large number of their users suddenly change their pattern and disrupt the system a bit.
I recognize that this will make me unable to find out what everyone is having for lunch, and I may miss out on knowing what is going on in the lives of all of the people I’m connected to on Facebook and moments that I have heretofore virtually enjoyed. I won’t know when they’ve changed their profile pictures or if they’ve experienced a sunset. I won’t be apprised of whatever newsworthy item they think I should react to, and I won’t know where they are in the political spectrum.
To discover those things, I will actually have to go to their pages and see what they’re up to. But to be honest, considering that I’ve been on Facebook for about ten years now, according to the recent Ten Year Challenge, I realize that I survived for almost four decades without knowing those things, and I managed just fine. Perhaps taking a month off from virtually scanning the lives of others, I can spend a little more time and energy on enjoying my own life, experiencing my own sunsets, and seeking out items that I think are important.
I’m still able to get notifications anytime someone comments on or likes something I share. I’m still able to participate in groups, and get notified of events on the calendar. All of my friends are still my friends, I still like everything I like, and I can still send and receive messages.
But I’m out of the loop on whatever my friends who have made it through Facebook’s algorithm are doing and thinking on a moment to moment basis. And I have to say, now that I’ve made it a full twenty-four hours, it’s quite refreshing. I’ve not only alleviated the temptation to have my time sucked down the vortex of endless News Feed scrolling, it’s made me appreciate the people I engage with in the real world all the more.
As I went through the unfollow process, which took roughly two hours for me to make it about 1,000 unfollows an hour, I appreciated seeing all of the people and activities that I’ve been following and considering why I followed them in the first place. There were quite a few that I’d been following, but haven’t heard anything from in ages. I found that many of the people, I didn’t really know, and I couldn’t remember liking a number of the pages I’ve been following. In March, if I decide to reincorporate a News Feed on Facebook again, I look forward to the refriending process, when I will follow who I want to instead of everyone all at once.
If you would like to participate in #UnfollowFacebookFebruary and reset your Facebook feed, go to your Facebook homepage and click the three dots to the right of the “News Feed” button. Click “Edit preferences”, and then “Unfollow people and groups to hide their posts”. Click everyone with as much gratitude for them as you can muster. Or, if you’d rather not take the time, there are extensions available that will clean out your News Feed for you.
In March, or whenever you would like to, reconnect with the people and groups that you want to follow. Until then, consider how much information you consume, and how much it has actually been contributing to helping you create the life you are capable of. Instead of just consuming, perhaps create some content of your own.