This is undeniably the Era of Information, and I predict the Age of Social Media within the Era of Information is now in its death throes. No longer does the convenience of connection outweigh the cost of publicity. We live in a time where the refusal to volunteer your personal information to the entire web-connected world labels one anti-social or computer-illiterate. We also live in a time where that same freely-volunteered information is sold to advertisers or handed over to federal agents for ill-defined reasons. In the words of the brilliant comedian Stewart Lee, “[Twitter is] like a state surveillance agency run by gullible volunteers. It’s a Stasi for the Angry Birds generation.”
And if preservation of your own privacy isn’t cause enough to abandon the sinking ship of social media, consider the distraction. Keep a log for one week of how much time you spend looking at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and the like on your computer, tablet, and phone. I did. I’m not going to tell you the embarrassing result, except that it can be measured in days rather than hours if you also factor in Reddit. When you check Facebook on your phone in public, why are you doing it? Are you expecting an important status from a friend or family member that you would not otherwise receive as an email, text message, or phone call? Probably not. I would wager that it’s usually because you’re bored. When I check social media on my phone, it’s because I’m bored. That’s okay. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s just something you should stop doing.
What’s so bad about being bored? And how often does scrolling past pictures of acquaintances’ meals or re-re-re-posted memes truly alleviate your boredom? While dividing up your attention into 120 30-second increments to browse several pages deep into your Facebook Timeline or your Reddit Frontpage can quickly kill an hour, that’s all it does: It kills an hour. In the hour you spend mindlessly staring at cats on your phone, you could also open up your e-reader app (or, you know, an actual book) and immerse yourself in another world for a chapter or two. You could compose a lengthy email to your mother telling her about what you’ve done since you last wrote to her. (She would love it. I promise.) Or, if you’re feeling particularly jaunty, you could pull out some stationery and write an actual letter to your grandmother. (Call your mother. She has her address.) Grab your journal and write a poem. Grab your guitar and turn your poem into a song. Or just simply shut up, sit down, close your eyes, and exist.
I’m cancelling my cable service. I just deleted my Tumblr and Twitter accounts, and I’ll be deleting my Facebook as soon as I finish downloading my old photos. (Facebook has a service that does this for you, and I’m just waiting on the email. I’m sure they know this usually precedes account deletion, so this process might artificially take anywhere up to a couple days.)Note: Unlike deleting your Twitter and Tumblr accounts, deleting your Facebook account can be tricky. The link is hidden in light blue at the bottom of the Security Settings page under Account Settings on the gear icon at top-right. Once you click it, Facebook will guilt you by saying, “Your 183 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you,” although no one on Earth has 183 acquaintances they can honestly call friends. Below this, five random “friends'” pictures are blown up and labeled; “Ed will miss you,” “Allison will miss you,” “Jill will miss you,” “Drew will miss you,” “Voldemort will miss you.” After the obligatory guilting, you are required! to give Facebook a reason for your departure. (I checked “Other” and wrote, “I don’t need a reason. You are not entitled to one.” I doubt anyone will read that anyway.) Only after being begged for further explanation can you move forward to the confirmation screen, enter your password, and wash your hands of the whole thing. Some of your information, such as your name and your messaging history, will remain public on Facebook’s servers and you may never request their deletion. Your pictures, videos, check-ins, statuses, chat logs, and everything else will still also be stored permanently, albeit not viewable publicly, in case you ever decide to re-join the cult. You can’t delete these either. (I assume, since this data remains at Facebook, it is still sellable, subpoenable, and other sinister “-ables.”)
Free yourself from the unending cycle of social prying, directed marketing, and public judgement. Stop pretending to be involved with social causes and pretending to assuage your boredom while actually doing nothing at all. Delete your social media accounts. Become anti-e-social. Read a book. Write a song. Do something real.