(I’m posting this for people searching “Earl MacDonald Facebook” in the future, so they can know why I’m not found there.)
In April 2018, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and ReverbNation accounts. I’m off social media, and it feels great.
Some folks speculated my decision was a reaction to Facebook data being used to spread divisive political propaganda. Although I would be delighted if Mark Zuckerberg made this assumption, many factors led to my exit.
My takeaway lesson from the Cambridge Analytica data compromise is that we all need to be more deliberate and selective in what we choose to read, rather than mindlessly allowing ourselves to delve into whatever comes up in our Facebook feeds (based on algorithms derived from our stated preferences, sites visited, previous online purchases, and friend’s “sharing”). Although it might feel like we are exposing ourselves to new perspectives and ideas on Facebook, I think the opposite is happening. We gravitate towards people with similar outlooks, and we are being fed material which correlates with and thereby reinforces our leanings.
Aside from this…
I was feeling increasingly disingenuous in my use of these platforms. Adhering to Facebook’s cultural norm, I eagerly broadcasted my bright, happy moments, while choosing to conceal any personal struggles and failures. But by creating a facade where people could surmise I’ve “got it all together,” I believe I was perpetuating a lie — a communal lie which leads many to feelings of depression stemming from self-comparison and envy.
I wrestle with feeling jealous at times. Yup, I know this isn’t cool to admit, and I should always share in the joy of other people’s successes; but I am being honest here. When I read Tom Rath’s book, “Strengths Finder,” I was surprised to see competitiveness listed as a virtue. This is a personal trait I have often tried to suppress and keep in check; yet it remains. As one who is exceedingly competitive in nature, it isn’t healthy for me to visit a site where my peers unceasingly announce their awards, grants, commissions, gigs, performance tours, album reviews, etc.
Most musicians use Facebook the same general way — as a vehicle for self promotion. Because the majority of my friends are musicians, I saw the same types of posts over, and over, and over again. After a while it just became white noise and I found myself losing interest. When EVERYTHING is labeled as fantastic, innovative, and groundbreaking, NOTHING really stands out. Like everyone else, I contributed to this noise and my posts and gig announcements lost their potency.
I didn’t get into music to practice advertising, announcing, and spamming, yet last year I read almost as many books on marketing as I did on my artistic discipline. By spending a substantial portion of my day marketing, under the guise of being a “DIY musician,” I inadvertently veered off my intended path and allowed myself to become distracted.
I spent too much time on social media, and this too wasn’t healthy. When I made a post, shared a video of my music, or promoted an upcoming event, I wanted to see who “liked it” and what comments were made. So I checked back frequently, throughout the day. If this isn’t narcissism, I don’t know what is. I am embarrassed to say I slipped and fell into this trap. Facebook is the ultimate enabler for the many of us (in music, academia and other walks of life) who seek the affirmation of others. But… maybe life shouldn’t be encapsulated by the maxim, “look at me.”
Reading “A Grander Story,” by Rick Hove and Heather Holleman, was influential in my decision to exit Facebook, and has been a corrective step towards remedying my self-centeredness. The book begins with a biblical quote by John the Baptist, on which I have been meditating lately: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). [I may write more about this book in another forum, as some of the questions it raises strike me as worthy of serious consideration.]
Enough has been said about pet videos, meal photos, and political posting on Facebook, that I’ll skip ranting on those topics. I won’t miss these. I do question what “important things” I might miss through my feed. I may not always hear of things exactly as they happen, but I think that’s OK. NPR gets me caught up on the news while I’m driving. I hope relationships won’t be compromised. So far, I have been able to reach everyone with whom I need to speak. It is still easy to track me down, and to correspond with me through the contact page of my website. I’m not completely off the grid and I’m not in hiding. I will be sending out a monthly e-mail newsletter to those whose interests align with what I do. If you would like to be a recipient, just let me know. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but at this moment in time, for me, I believe the benefits of being off social media far outweigh staying.
…care to join me?