Before sharing your next status, picture, or video online, have you ever wondered why you do it?
A few weeks ago, I woke up one morning, and the moment I opened Facebook, that question came to mind. Honestly, I couldn’t answer it. I came to accept the possibility that my habit of posting was a toxic addiction. Nothing more.
Then, I simply stopped posting continually. From my habit of sharing any trivial bit several times a day, I dropped to a couple of posts a week. I only shared anything if I had something really, really good or important to say that could be of interest to others.
Some people were concerned and messaged me privately. They thought I blocked them, or that I was going through some phase of depression. That wasn’t the case. In fact, I actually feel a bit better by not throwing oil in the enduring fire of social media drama of the public and among my friends.
I’m not trying to show off my life, like it was better than others. I’m not trying to get approval from others of how good my thought or my moment was. I don’t need to let the world know what I’m doing. So, really, what is the point?
Around 25 years ago, with a heavy Zenith computer on my desk only having two slots for floppy disks and no hard drive, a greyscale monitor, and MS-DOS as its only operating system, I would spend hours in EDIT.COM writing stories and adding entries to my diary. Every now and them, I tried to come up with ideas of what to program in QBASIC. (For those who don’t know, before .EXE, or executable, files running on Windows, you had .COM, or command, files running on DOS. I was not referring to a Web site.)
When the Web came along, I started putting out my thoughts online, for the whole world to see… in the event anyone ever bothered to find my Web site on GeoCities in the time. I wasn’t worried much about privacy. Really, who in the world would actually stumble upon my site? From where? How? Why would they read anything on it? Turns out, unsurprisingly, not many people visited. Some of my friends checked out my site sometimes. If I was lucky, somebody other than a spammer took a few seconds to sign my guestbook hosted by DreamHost. (Believe it or not, their service, DreamBook, was up until March 2015!) Besides those few moments, that was it.
Years later, while my writing on LiveJournal was getting sparse, I was invited to join Facebook by my employer at the time, in 2006. Three years later, I also joined Twitter during the microblogging fad.
In a crude way, that enabled me to get together all the people I know and shove my writing right into their brains. And for them to rub their thoughts in my face. I felt it was a natural progression from the private offline moments I had with my old blocky computer. Finally, I could connect with others and bring along my ideas and opinions.
Okay, that actually sounded good back in 2006. However, as I’m writing this today, that just sounds horrible and even a bit stupid. Or maybe it’s still a good idea, but I just had enough.
It’s no longer about sharing with my few friends who were checking out my Web site. Today, practically everyone I have ever met in my life will find me and add me on Facebook: old friends, new friends, classmates from high school, close and distant family members, past as well as current employers and colleagues…
Actually, my policy these days is to not add anyone with whom I’m currently working. If I post on Facebook, it’s not meant for work, and everyone needs to understand that distinction.
So, everyone, really. Some religions will try to scare some good behaviour into you by saying how their supreme omnipresent entity watches and knows everything you do… Well, this sounds quite similar to how we act with what we share with each other for the past decade.
When you add people you just meet, they will be quick to judge you by what you put online. People added you on Facebook while you were having a bad day? Chances are they’ll delete you right away and think of you as a negative, whiny person for the rest of their lives. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think my life and person are more than just the sum of the last status updates I’ve posted.
Besides why I should post, why should I see what others are posting? I went on a couple of times to see how people were doing… And frankly they were not telling me anything about how they were doing. It’s either pictures of food, people complaining about the weather or their jobs, videos of their kids dancing, or sharing things they thought was more interesting then whatever they were doing themselves.
Or fucking Trump. Jesus fucking Christ I’m tired of hearing about god damn American politics and why I should care about the US even if I’m a Canadian living in Japan. I’ve made the mistake of liking one funny parody about Trump, then Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter immediately thought I wanted to see a hundred more posts related to the same topic. If you’re tired as I am, try getting off Facebook and Twitter for a while. I’m sure you will appreciate the silence.
Anyway, point being, people just live their lives. It’s interesting for them and they think it might be interesting for us too. It can be worth a Like, certainly, but I think I ran out of Likes to give.
Back to my addiction. I notice it was a habit of mine to post the moment I had something in mind. Once I realised my muscle memory was responsible for “automatically” opening Facebook, to be honest, it made me feel uncomfortable. It felt as if I was not posting willingly, as if I couldn’t control myself…
Hey wait, isn’t that what the abuse of narcotics does?
Think about it. How easy is it to post something from anywhere at anytime? You’re on your computer, open your browser, and when it asks for an address, you automatically type
f and your browser already assumes you want
facebook.com. You just hit Enter and type your post away, then get your time sucked by whatever meaningless posts or ads are filling your news feed.
Same goes with your smartphone. Once you unlock it and get to your home screen, chances are the icon for Facebook is already in front of your eyes. Without thinking for a second, your thumb already tapped it. Before your realise it, you already lost precious hours of your day posting and commenting away while using your smartphone in your couch, or in bed.
If this isn’t your case, I’m glad for you. Either way, I know this was mine situation. Here are two things I’ve done to break this habit of mine:
1) On my MacBook, I opened the terminal, and typed the following:
sudo vi /etc/hosts
Shift+G to get to the end of the file, hit
o to append a new line, and added the following:
127.0.0.1 api.twitter.com m.twitter.com twitter.com www.twitter.com
127.0.0.1 facebook.com m.facebook.com www.facebook.com
Done, I hit
Escape, type the command
:wq to save the file and quit the editor.
The above makes your computer think Facebook and Twitter are actually hosted on itself, but they’re not, so your browser will simply say it cannot open those sites. Sure, it’s an old trick, but it’s effective: it helps you realise how automatic your gestures to open a social site have become, and that sudden urge to post something plummets when your browser can’t let you.
2) On my smartphone, I wrote a dumb little Web app for iOS called Fakebook. All it does is replace the icons for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on my home screen with icons that look exactly the same (except for the names).
Once launched, the app tells you what you got isn’t what you were expecting and encourages you to post your thoughts in private in Day One. There’s a text field for that “need” to write something, but all that does is letting you write content for an entry in the aforementioned app.
If you don’t know what Day One is, it’s a journaling app that was suggested to me a few years ago, when I was sharing too much of my private life on Facebook. It was geared towards being a simple private diary, but with its latest version, Day One 2 — as in the 2nd version of Day One, not Day 1–2 or Day One Two — has a more generic purpose.
You can still use it as a private diary, but you can also use it as an app to take notes or log anything you want. Since it now lets you create multiple journals, I still use it as a diary, and I’ve made other journals to keep notes and drafts. There’s also one I made strictly to vent, a single journal holding only my most angry, violent, sudden thoughts. Those writings tend to be very in the moment and become vapid quickly, so putting them apart help keep my main diary mostly positive and have more meaning.
There are other nice things about Day One. It lets you save photos with every post, location, weather, and you can search past entries. Every day, the app will also show you memories of the same day in past years. Keeping a diary in Day One can turn a simple journal into a personal database of good times.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been fighting my addiction to post online. So far, I sometimes find myself still fighting the urge to share, but it’s been going fairly well.
Facebook and Twitter like to ask us questions, prompting us to write…
“What’s on your mind?”
Maybe it’s now time to ask Facebook and Twitter:
“Why should I tell you?”