Features, Social Media, Top Stories

My Social-Media Suicide Note

To Whom It May Concern:

I was already tired of your rants about food, bad-hair days, roommates, feeling too many feelings, the public transit, lost IKEA tools, TV shows, wives, husbands and children and, above all, Trump (that’s like ranting about having an asshole—we all have it). I was tired of your quirky disregard of punctuation and how it’s for the olds. Guys you don’t need it to understand what I’m trying to say, so here’s your nut graf – this is about Facebook death.

I was tired of the quizzes: What Kind of Pizza Are You?

And the Inspirational Quotes. “It’s during our darkest hours we must focus on the light” (—Aristotle, supposedly). Here’s mine: “There’s no better time than now to delete.” (Position this one against a background of a man in canoe swimming away to a proxy of freedom.)

Shares about yoga, running, god? Ugh.

“Funny” kid dialogues: no. (But I’ve done it myself, yeah.)

I read your high-brow discussions about postmodernism or grammar, out of my leftover Good-For-You homework sense of obligation.  I didn’t go to the right schools to be able to join in and I don’t retain information easily. I rarely felt philistine-aggressive about it; I accepted that I didn’t have the membership.

On a positive note, I always looked at your baby pictures because I like babies. I will miss the baby pictures. I won’t miss twice-a-week updates on some of those babies.

I also never got sick of memes or videos of animals, or articles about octopuses or archaeological digs or stupid but cleverly funny reviews of your mundane experiences on the bus or your convos with grandma. On a serious note: I am also passionate about health policies, and Indigenous issues in my country and have a lot of educated friends who post about it—stuff that doesn’t even make it to mainstream media—so I liked to get my information that way.

I used to post status updates on Facebook that many people found interesting or funny, and sometimes I shared opinions, and it was a good place to feel socially connected during times of isolation (a new baby, illness). But about two years ago or so, I stopped posting about anything serious, though I still asked for recommendations, innocent stuff. Occasionally—an old reflex—I would post something of more substance but then delete quickly because Facebook became the place of who knows who is watching.

Despite my wariness, I kept logging in. Except that, increasingly, every time I logged in, it was as if I was an addict taking a hit I didn’t intend to take. As it is with addiction, first you have it, and then it has you. That aside, where in the past, Facebook served as a dumb distraction, or a way to connect with people I couldn’t see irl, and where arguing over vaccinations served as an easy way to weed out the dumb, for quite some time, having my kind of public opinion threatened my very livelihood.

I’m an artist. So for the past year or so, I mostly stayed quiet because I was waiting for grants I applied for and I had no idea who was in charge. I got the grants. I could be wrong but I think my silence paid off.

During my quiet time, I watched others’ Facebook fights—especially the chaotic, passionate ones between the budding social-media police who were still scrambling to decide which correct opinion was correcter or correctest. And, as mentioned, I still liked baby pics. And funny irrelevance. And some actual information I couldn’t get elsewhere. I would also, still, post links to my new artistic endeavours because my Facebook audience was large as I had always accepted friend requests from strangers—my only rule was that as long as we had more than 10 friends in common we were cool; it was a bit like throwing a house party and having your buddies bringing along their 10 buddies, come on in, everybody, hope you Like.

But then, possibly high on the success of getting my grants, I got into a few fights, which, naturally, one can never win because arguing—and trying to change someone’s mind—on Facebook is as effective as throwing your laptop out the window to show them.  But there I was, disagreeing with the Correct-Opinion Police (let’s call them COP); even the Sheriff got involved and, I’m sure, screenshots were taken (screenshots are evidence you can present later to argue some more). My involvement was not at all like taunting the anti-vaccine cretins. It was self-harming because there could be real-life consequences. In my professional circle, COP is a powerful entity. They are the people in charge of money and blacklists. They know people who know people. The logic-driven ones talk about COP at dinner parties and via emails but not many are crazy/ brave/strong enough to take their pants off in the middle of the social-media lane and scream our own outrages. (Those of us who do, I suppose, write for this magazine or stay quiet but perhaps increase their daily alcohol intake.)

When I stepped into a few angry COP-monitored threads, it got ugly quickly. It was stupid of me—after all, I saw bigger dicks than mine get cut off. I followed the slow disappearance of many of my peers who did not have the correctest opinion—or worse, who were, in the beginning, somewhat antagonistic. But there I was, commenting away. After my lonely Don Quichotean gallop into garbage, I got private messages from a few other artists saying they supported me, but in public it was a pretty lonely fight.  Actually, it wasn’t even a fight. There was no discussion; it was indeed just garbage and I trashed in it for a short while until a former friend (and now part of COP) said something scathing about my family that was private. Like COP were always threatening to (and doing so and posting to social media to dismantle whoever they attacked, and occasionally threatening and accusing him or her of ridiculous motives and sometimes, crimes), I myself took a few screenshots of my pathetic battles to show my future grandchildren what futile attempts at reasoning with the Unreasonable look like, and I started packing, downsizing.

But downsizing was harder than I thought. I wanted to stay on Facebook but couldn’t erase my past—it mirrored life in that way. I never deleted my comments but I limited audiences, and got rid of all of my former status updates. I tightened privacy settings best I could.

There was one snag: I couldn’t delete the pictures that I had posted over the years. And there were enough of them to throw myself an online retrospective of all of my failings and successes. I mean, I could delete one at a time but I didn’t have a month to do it (I joined Facebook in 2007). More importantly, there were lots of pictures of my child and although I was successful in removing all of them you can, still, find my kid on Facebook, because other family members and friends have posted photos of her. I will deal with that in time. I will deal with it because my kid is now nine and had recently became very much aware of having photos of her posted online and she does not like it—did we ask her permission?  No, and I wouldn’t like it either if you all could see a snapshot of me in a bathtub, nude, with my parents’ friends’ kid who was also nude and a total idiot, but our mothers thought it was cute to stage us in such pedophile-bait visual.

It was partly, due to my kid’s wishes, that I deleted my personal Instagram where there were many adorable—to me—pictures of her posted without her agreeing to it. Instagram, unlike Facebook, deals with digital suicides with less drama—one click and you’re erased. I am still on Instagram, I am not ready to disappear entirely. I still post pictures of my kid but only of the back of her head, walking away—there’s something mildly symbolic about that, her walking away from the spying iEye of a parent who can’t help himself.

With Facebook, the proverbial last straw was someone telling me that she had read my heartfelt-heartbreaking (embarrassing) discussion in a supposedly secret group for people dealing with traumatic experiences. I’m assuming that person joined the group too; I don’t have the energy to investigate how my sad outburst was leaked but the point is, it was mocked and I was dumbfounded. The next day, I requested to have my Facebook personal profile euthanized.

I had to get out, too bad about screenshots of my incorrect opinions that might’ve been taken and put on one or other COP blacklist, have them, fine, save it for the robots that might need some material to justify killing us in the future.

My road to freedom from Facebook was long and then short but it was in this short period of time that I was truly tested. You see, when you hit Delete, you are given two weeks to change your mind or—supposedly—you can never recover your profile. Those two weeks are a detox. If you’ve ever smoked, drank, compulsively ate macaroons, worked out like a bulimic, broke up with an incompatible but kind type, you know what it’s like to quit the wrong-for-you stuff. It hurts. It feels unfair. You will miss what you no longer can’t or shouldn’t put up with. But the best decision is a decision you stick to. After asking to delete, I got even angrier about Facebook—I got angrier that Facebook didn’t believe in my willpower—screw your two weeks. You think I can’t do it? Watch me. Anger is a good motivator. So I removed the F from my phone, my desktop—same as in the past, when I’ve deleted C’s number. Just a small action, but an action taken.

Taking down my personal Facebook profile gave me some illusion of freedom. The noise in my head lessened and my anxiety over COP instantly decreased. I had to to re-learn how to Google for recommendations and stop being lazy about doing my own research—I could no longer source-hive opinions on what is safer: train or a plane? And I told people I quit—so I became accountable to someone else other than myself. I immersed myself in a new interest to distract myself. I took a vacation. Literally.

I died on the 11th of July. Not entirely, unfortunately, as I have a Facebook business page, so I had to create a new personal account in order to administer this page, so, the truth is I am still on Facebook but I’ve only a few very close friends and I’m not accepting any new requests. All my photos are gone (in theory), my other, real and fake, 1458 friends and COP can’t see me anymore. My Facebook suicide has made me feel more in control and control was what I lost when I argued with the unarguable, and when I let you all into my house where you started puking in my sink and waiting for me to slip into incorrectness.

I also deleted my Twitter account. At the time of writing this, I have to wait 20 more days before that death is final. Fine.

 

JD Jagiello is a pseudonym. My kid is maybe a bunch of kids or maybe is of a different gender, otherwise, everything else is true.

33 Comments

  1. Susan says

    I unfollowed all my friends so I could see the two pages that I asked to see first but never saw. It didn’t work. I bookmarked those pages and check them once a week.

  2. Benjamin Perez says

    Social media: I used to think that social media was barely either (the shallowest manifestation of the former utilizing—“consuming”—the lowest materializations of the latter)—but now I’m pretty sure that the latter actually comes at the expense of the former; that it’s really the former that’s being consumed (digested, decomposed) by the latter. In the end, there might only be media; at the end, even worse.

  3. I’ve said this many times: social media empowers the wrong kind of people. These are mostly just lazy cowards who in the pre-social media world were largely ignored and kept quiet in public. Now they have been given a tool to band together in the kind of online anonymity cowards crave and roam about the digital landscape seeking out people who dare to express wrong opinions.

    I’ve not yet joined in FB suicide, but am seriously considering it. Since the last election cycle things have become too politicized and it brings me no pleasure to log in. In fact I haven’t logged in in over a month. Why have it if I don’t use it?

    Also, it’s disturbing that the platform itself has become active in thought policing. For that reason alone I find having an account morally questionable as it is implicit support for a corporation that has become fascistic.

    Judging by the precipitous decline in FBs stock, a lot of people may agree with this sentiment.

  4. John AD says

    I’m sorry, but this piece is sorry lowering of standards by Quillette, and is not story of unappreciated wisdom that the author implies (“Those of us who [take their pants off in the middle of the social-media lane and scream our own outrages] write for this magazine”).

    This piece is poorly written and doesn’t even begin to justify the premise on which it is based – the premise being that a the author is a reasonable person who has been hounded off social media for expressing reasonable opinions. Perhaps they got the hounding because they drew legitimate flak. This very comment is probably being categorised by the author as such hounding.

    Here’s something to juice up that hounding. I work in the private sphere. The commercial operations that employ me have a strong perception of the value that I give, based upon the returns they can get on my work. That perception keeps me honest, grounded, and focused on real returns that folk are willing to pay for. An artist relying on grants from patronising institutions that apply subjective judgements to their award decisions doesn’t have that value-based mechanism to undermine their hubris.

    Just to back up the claim of poor writing, here are a couple of examples.

    “And, as mentioned, I still liked baby pics.” Pedantically, you didn’t mention you “still” liked baby picks – you mentioned that you liked baby picks, and you still do. Less pedantically, the “as mentioned” destroys the whimsy you’re straining for. To keep the whimsy just say “And I still liked baby picks.”

    “I couldn’t delete pictures that … there were enough of to throw myself an online retrospective of all of my failings and successes”. What?

    If there’s an argument in this piece (I’m not sure if there is – perhaps it’s just a quirky human story from which we’re meant to draw our own conclusions, one way or another) then it is undermined by manifestations of logic failure. “My only rule was that as long as we had more than 10 friends in common we were cool” is meant to report a method by which the author constrained their social media connections to a particular standard. But this is a strategy whose standard inherently degrades.

    The author states that “one can never [change someone’s mind] or win [arguments on Facebook]”, but doesn’t reveal times when their own mind was changed by someone else’s argument. Perhaps the author (an artist – almost by definition someone believing they’ve something to say and believing they should be listened to, otherwise they wouldn’t art, or at least wouldn’t believe they’re worthy of grants that allow them to art) is a little over-confident of their beliefs, doesn’t express valid beliefs well enough, and responds too emotionally to the inevitable verbal aggression encountered on the web. Again, sorry, but frank, if cutting, feedback is the grounding the might be needed.

    “I was already tired of your rants about food, bad-hair days, roommates, feeling too many feelings, the public transit, lost IKEA tools, TV shows, wives, husbands and children … “. Well, ok, if that’s the state of your Facebook account then, yes, delete it. And save us, in an otherwise thoughtful place, the superior rants about it.

    Quillette is an outlet for unorthodox views. It shouldn’t become a place where those who enter a fray but cannot stay the course go to complain about their treatment.

    • The writer is writing in a voice. It’s a style. You don’t like it, fine. But it’s not wrong.

      • As an editor I have learned it is better to resist messing with style. If you find the style unacceptable, then don’t publish that author. If the style works, is appealing to some of your readers and comprehendible to them, then avoid messing with the author’s voice.

    • Peter from Oz says

      You make some interesting points, but your constant use of plural pronouns when referring to the author is really off-putting. Verbs do need to agree with their subjects.

    • Sceptical says

      ” otherwise they wouldn’t art, or at least wouldn’t believe they’re worthy of grants that allow them to art”….

      I’ve never seen “art” used as a verb before and I do not like it, not one little bit. I’m not complaining because it’s ungrammatical, I’m complaining because it’s ridiculous.

  5. TarsTarkas says

    I also found some of his sentences a little too long and meandering, stream-of-consciousness, and awkwardly written, but I got the gist of what he was trying to say. I’ve never been on FB and don’t plan to, but I’ve been on enough blogs to understand the problems he was encountering.

    I think what he was complaining about most was getting into fruitless unwinnable arguments with tireless unrational SJWs who have power over you up to and including getting you fired and making you unemployable (and not just in your chosen field of endeavor). Working can be stressful enough without having to worry that your slightest misstep, past or present, could change your life forever, and not in a good way.

    • So good – don’t be on Facebook, be on Facebook, whatever. Just don’t write on Quillette for a Facebook audience …. please?

  6. Man, so many parallels to my own experiences in this article. I make my living as an artist, but write in my spare time. I publish under a pseudonym, though none of what I write could necessarily be considered political. I just can’t take the chance of mixing my business with my opinions on the things I write about. I often feel stuck between my pride and my need to protect my livelihood and family. At the end of the day, I value my privacy much more than seeing my name in a byline.

    I deleted my Twitter account recently after logging in for the first time in four years. What a goddamn wasteland that place is. I still have a FB account, but never log in. I deleted the app from my phone and intentionally forgot my password. I did that about six months before the election, so I missed a lot of the brewhaha over Trump, but I know I made the right decision to move away from it. Besides being another toxic waste dump of ideas, it’s just a gigantic time suck.

    I still have my business IG account. Funny story about that. A few days after Trump won, a woman (not someone I knew personally, just a fan of my work) DM’d me to let me know she was unfollowing me because I had failed to express outrage over his election. That pretty much set the tone for the next year and a half.

    I want to believe the tide is turning…

    • I enjoyed your post and mean no offense, but how do you intentionally forget a password?

  7. ga gamba says

    Communications are a force multiplier, and when you retreat from the battlespace the momentum goes to them.

    You don’t reenact the charge of the light brigade’s folly. It’s an insurgency; be the Viet Cong.

    The key to anonymity is compartmentalisation. From a device not used for anything else, and not tied to your credit card, bank account, etc.; second-hand mobiles with working wifi are perfect. Create a toss-away email account on protonmail or other secure email provider in a realistic name. Only go online on public wifi. Join FB, twitter, or other social media. Feminist forums are tremendous. Adopt the persona of what you want to subvert. Be a person of colour; you can get away with murder online. Start cautiously. Incrementalism is the game. Raging social justice warrior mode will never played. Rather, you’re the mate of raging social justice warriors, egging them on.

    You’re looking for internecine strife, i.e. hard left versus hard left. Nothing is more hard fought than Judean People’s Front versus People’s Front of Judea. You don’t initiate the squabbles, but you do your best to add fuel to the fire and lob in a few grenades.

  8. I’ve tried the last few months I slowly moved away from Facebook simply by noticing how much time I was spending on there doing… nothing.

    I deleted the app and was using the website. I then decided it cut it off. Like that I went 2 days before even thinking to check it. I can now go a week or so.

    When I am on there all I notice is how uninteresting 95% of the stuff I see is. My visits usually don’t last long.

    Ironically I used my Facebook account to write this comment because it’s auto logged in ha.

  9. I think Irving Babbitt was too early with his comment

    “The busybody, for the first time perhaps in the history of the word, has been taken at his own estimate of himself. We are in fact, as some one remarked, living in the Meddle Ages; inasmuch as the meddling is itself only an outcome of our confused definition of justice….” Democracy and Leadership pg 200

    We are now truly living in the Meddle Ages, where its everyone’s business to meddle in yours. We have busybodies everywhere these days.

    If Babbitt had lived till 2018, I think he too would agree that writing this in 1924 was premature.

  10. Steve says

    TL;DR – some random person quit facebook.

    C’mon Quillette!

  11. Valenta says

    This is superficial, self-obsessed, attention-seeking noise. Rather disappointing, Quillette.

    The writer is clearly not ready to give up validation for pretentiously phrased, content-lite drivel. Anyone who needs an audience to validate their social media quitting experience clearly has not quit. Conversely, someone who finds social media trivial and unrewarding will just give it up quietly.

    More importantly (editors at Quillette) there is no insight into anything in this article. I’ve read many pieces on this site with focused, informed commentary, which left me knowing more about a subject.

    This is just a writer talking about him or herself in deliberately verbose, attention-seeking language.

  12. restless94110 says

    Anyone who writes the phrase “anti-vaccien cretins” is unworthy of any attention whatsoever. An ignorant fool writing about leaving Facebook? Duh. Anyone with a brain left Facebook 2 years ago. The utter stupidity of name calling of those who believe there are many valid reasons to question vaccination schedules that have ramped up 5 times in the past 20 years or so? It’s cretinous.

    • Mel says

      Absolutely agree with you. The irony of their claims to victimhood that people were intolerant of their views while also calling vaccine critical people ‘cretins’ is surely not lost on them?

      My comments in response to state enforced vaccinations were taken from fb and used on an anti choice page (under an incredibly misleading heading). The men who took my comments also linked my fb page and my residential city to incite harassment. Thankfully it didn’t work, maybe it will when I start applying for jobs again, who knows. But I feel absolutely no sympathy for this person and their self absorbed, narcissistic bs. No doubt they’re someone who incessantly harassed people online and didn’t like it when it blew up in their face.

  13. Richard Russell says

    I thought it was a (very) mildly entertaining piece, until I got to the end, and saw the author had used a pseudonym: lame beyond measure, and made me instantly discount the author to zero.

    More seriously, this seems to be an emerging trend on Quillette, and I hope it is receiving the editorial attention it deserves, as it could very rapidly destroy the fine credibility this website has developed in a short period of time.

    Pseudonyms should be used in only the most dire cases of author danger. Allowing their use here for every little weenie who wants to spit off the balcony and run away, is chickenshit of the lowest order.

    • I fully agree. Not only the article is not very interesting (Facebook has never been about deep content but sharing pictures of parties and holidays), but as you said, the surprising part is the anonymity. It isn’t justified for content as little subversive as “Facebook mob mindset bored me so I quit”.

  14. OtherWay says

    Coincidence? I just deleted mine last week. I have been meaning to for a while. But last week the endless Democrat talking point memes from my sister finally pushed me over the edge. I used to think it was my obligation to tell her once every three months that everyone who disagrees with her politics is not actually the evil she says they are every single day. But I decided its not my problem. She have her hateful little world if she want it. I am out.

  15. Tijmen says

    I agree with the other commenters who say that this sort of article does not belong on Quillette. But I do wonder if mainstream platforms would be open for a piece like this. Would they really reject it because he disagreed with some SJW’s on Facebook? And if they would, would that justify publishing this on Quillette?

  16. JMatlock says

    Re. the scattered complaints about this article as “substandard” for quillette; I For one thoroughly enjoyed it, having gone through similar but less traumatic experiences with Facebook myself. The article was a pleasant and amusing read. I enjoyed its mildly sardonic approach to Facebook and its discontents.

    My thanks to the author for writing it and likewise to whoever selected it for inclusion in this weeks collection off articles.

  17. Tijmen says

    What I would be very interested to hear about from the author, are the left-leaning tendencies in the art world, and what happens when you question the politically correct consensus.

    I’m an artist too but so far I’ve paid my rent with day jobs, not with grants. People encouraged me to apply for them, but I’m hesitant. On the one hand because it would help me set up a company that relies on outside funding, and would be very fragile once that funding stops. And on the other hand because I hear artists around me spout such inaccurate but well-subscribed political ideas, that I think I’d be out of any grant application the moment the jury looks at my facebook comments. So even if I would get a grant, I’d constantly worry about whether I could say what I really think publicly, for fear of closing the money faucet.

    I would also like to hear from other artists how they solve this problem. Keep quiet? Crowdfunding like Patreon, and how? Build your clientele among more conservative buyers from the get-go?

  18. I recently deactivated my Facebook account, but still kept my Messenger activated. I can continue to stay in touch with my friends without keeping up with everything else…. Granted that it is not political reasons that made me deactivate my account, but some of my friends behaviour on Facebook. I knew this one woman, married and has a kid, who changes her profile picture nearly every week… for what? I am certain she’s not doing it for attention, but I just think she’s that bored. So bored that she spends her time changing her profile picture every week. It’s kinda sad, so I’m glad I’m strictly on Messenger now.

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