October 8, 2015
Why I'm quitting Facebook: Or, Welcome to 22015 AA.
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So yes, it's true -- after a total of six years on the service, I'm finally quitting Facebook for good at the end of this December, even going to the trouble of deleting my account so to not be tempted to log in "every once in awhile." Why? Well, to answer that is to ponder a bit in the worlds of history and sociology, which as a dilettante "armchair historian" is something I enjoy doing; and doing so I think ends up leading us to say something important about the human race in general, new lessons we're learning about humanity precisely because of these technological advances that are being foisted on us these days at a lightning-fast pace.

See, if you're a student of human history like I am, you'll realize that even something so incredibly basic as agriculture was only invented about 20,000 years ago; for millions of years before then, humans were not much more than simply another breed of animal on the planet, one who had to be constantly on the go throughout the year so to replenish the food supply they would consume in any given area. Once the first humans figured out what seeds and farming were, however, that suddenly let groups of humans stay in one place for long periods of time, which is what led to villages and then towns; and that led to the ability for humans to decide to do only one specialized thing with their lives, essentially the invention of jobs; and now that only some people were actually growing food but everyone needed food, that led to the invention of trade and commerce; and since people needed to record the amounts of things that they were trading with each other, that led to the invention of writing, which all combined start to give us the core things we now call "civilization." So if you ever wanted to adopt a calendar that more accurately depicted the rise of the "modern" human being, divorced from any particular nation or religion, but still wanted to make it directly relatable to the "Christian/Common Era" calendar we currently keep, you could do worse than making the invention of agriculture year 1 (making our own times the Agricultural Age, or AA, and the years before BA), and symbolically making January 1st of that year occur exactly 20,000 years before 1 AD of the Christian calendar, which for example would make this particular year 22015 AA, or for another example the Roman Empire last from approximately 19500 to 20500.

It was no guarantee back in 1 AA that humans were going to be able to live in large numbers within confined, permanent spaces; in fact, before the invention of agriculture and then settlements, humans had never lived together in numbers more than 50 or 100 at maximum, usually more like 20 to 40, essentially in a state of permanent war with the other thousands of tribes with the same amount. What allowed it to happen, then, is that essentially the lessons about tribes were applied to settlements in a micro/macro relationship -- these villages and then towns were in actuality comprised of a bunch of different "tribes," whether you now called them "neighborhoods" or "districts" or "zones" or "quarters," although for today we'll simply call them "communities." And what made them work was that people had a vested interest in making sure that everyone else in that community was living a good life, or at least avoiding a terrible one -- because you were connected to them by DNA or by long friendships, because they provided something you needed, or acted as receivers of something you provided, or simply because you didn't want to lose face in front of the people you had to see every single day.

That's the single greatest lesson about tribal life that has stayed with humanity ever since, that "civilized" behavior fundamentally relies on the fact that the people in a community are forced to see each other every day, rely on each other for their own success, so have a concerted, selfish reason to go to all the trouble of acting polite even when they don't want to be (because let's face it, it's exhausting to be polite when someone's being an asshole, even if they're a member of your "tribe, maaaaaaan"). And sure, we've invented a bunch of stuff over the millennia to let these communities get along with each other in the macro-environment of a town or city -- police, courts, government, public infrastructure -- but even with all these things, a city would essentially be in a state of constant anarchy if you couldn't find a way to get the citizens of each community to voluntarily choose to live in peace with each other, instead of running around constantly stabbing each other in the face when no one is looking.

And now we live in an age with what its proponents call the "global village," where geographical location is no longer a factor with whom you create communities; and Facebook is the latest pinnacle of this global village, a central online location where a head-spinning one billion freaking people have a chance to directly talk to each other. But what I think Facebook is by now teaching us -- and what I think will be the single biggest lesson we learned in the 2010s that future historians will look back on -- is that "global village" is not the right term to apply to the internet, and that what makes a community work still relies a whole lot on that thing we first learned 22,000 years ago, the idea of a relatively small amount of people who each have a vested, personal interest in making sure that everyone else in that relatively small amount of people isn't suffering, and making sure that they don't lose face in front of this relatively small amount of people.

Although Facebook was certainly a lot of fun for the first six months or so that I was on it -- wow, look at all these old high-school acquaintances I had lost touch with! Look at all these peers in the publishing industry I can now keep up with! -- as the years continued and the total number there got up to 300 million, 600 million, and thus my friends list started getting up to 600 then 800 then finally a thousand people, I started realizing that more and more of people were starting to act like...well, jerks. I started discovering that I could barely post anything without at least one of those thousand acquaintances posting a nasty response in the comments, and that trying to respond to the response never did anything but lead to a three-day flame war I never wanted to have in the first place. (And God forbid that you delete someone's comment at Facebook -- people would act like I had just stabbed and eaten a puppy.) I started remembering, oh yeah, there's a reason I lost touch with most of the people I went to high school with, because a huge amount of them became those horrific Tea Party conservatives who were now blasting my wall with Obama conspiracy theories; and oh yeah, there's a reason I largely don't spend time with most of the people I meet in the publishing industry, because a huge amount of them are those horrific Occupy liberals who were now blasting my wall with overly simplistic platitudes. Or at least, that's when I'm not hearing from some second cousin somewhere who posts an endless stream of baby pictures and updates from their church.

This isn't my community! And how dare Facebook claim that it is! And this was hit home for me even more when finally creating my first personal account at Twitter at the beginning of this year; I was forced to do it by the "computer programming bootcamp" I was in, at first for class assignments and now to help with my job searching, so I've largely kept it that way post-Devbootcamp, and only follow people there who are in the tech industry like myself, and only post things knowing that it's going out to a group of several hundred people who will be directly responsible for my future jobs and career. With this in mind -- this vested selfish interest in not losing face in front of my community -- I've been amazed by how different my experience is there, how I no longer post about politics or religion, try very deliberately to avoid negativity, and have a much more interesting and polite wall of content to read from my contacts whenever I stop by. And this is how it is with the other main social network where I interact as well, Goodreads.com which is devoted just to book nerds, and where I've cultivated a network of several thousand fans who trust my write-ups and who I can advertise all of CCLaP's books to; and that's made me realize how important community is to civilization, is seeing how civilized the tone remains at these two places, but how mean and wearying Facebook has become as it's become larger and more decentralized, and is now just "that place where the human race hangs out."

It's not a single bit of coincidence, I think, that the 2010s has seen the rise of GamerGate, Sad Puppies, the Men's Rights Movement and Randian Seasteading Billionaires; this is the way warring tribes always interacted with each other in the hunter-and-gatherer days, by standing on opposite shores of a creek and flinging handfuls of shit at each other while screaming at the top of their lungs. Without the mediating factors of the physical world -- the internet has no police, no central court system, no city council to revoke one side's voting privileges -- it's only the self-regulating behavior of a legitimate community that keeps things from descending into a constant state of violent chaos and anarchy, a state that I have watched Facebook exactly turn into when it comes to the ways that humans interact with other humans there. People call the online world a "global village," but really we need to start looking at it as the largest city the human race has ever tried to assemble, one with literally millions of neighborhoods that are at a constant state of war with each other. And that since a globally recognized "internet police" or "internet city council" isn't coming any day soon, perhaps the best way to make the internet work is by concentrating mostly on these self-regulated, smaller communities, and dealing with encroaching members of warring tribes in the traditional way, by kicking them out, not setting up some giant blue-tinted, thumb-filled Thunderdome where they can all fight to the death. ("Two groups of 23-year-olds with radical opinions and animated GIFs enter! One group leaves!")

That's why I'm quitting Facebook for good, because it's facing a much bigger and less solvable problem than any one particular policy they're putting into place at any one particular time; although let's admit it, that's a big reason I'm leaving Facebook too, is because they keep putting policies in place that are such bigger and bigger punishments to the very people who keep them in business in the first place. Did you know that every time CCLaP posts an update through its Facebook group now, Facebook throttles it so that it only gets sent to ten people out of the 500 who belong to that group? And that's because they keep wanting me to spend money to reach those people instead, and have no problem strong-arming me like a bunch of gangster thugs at a pizza parlor on a Friday night in 1953 Brooklyn; and I don't fucking like that, frankly, nor do I like most of the other "innovations" that have happened there over the last two years, almost all of which have been for the purpose of more thoroughly monetizing Facebook than for any user benefit. That's why I'm shutting down CCLaP's Facebook page as well, not just my personal account, so that people will have to follow CCLaP on Twitter to get the latest, because Twitter is a lot better at this; although they have money they need to make too, they're rightly targeting the big companies who are trying to reach a million people at once, without feeling the need to penalize all the tiny businesses like mine who simply need to reach the 500 people who are interested in them.

So anyway, there it is, and don't forget about all the non-Facebook ways to find me -- my Twitter account, CCLaP's Twitter account, my weekly coding blog, my blog just for funny pop-culture thoughts, my YouTube account and my Flickr account. I have to admit, I'm looking forward to weaning myself off the sour, hard teat of Facebook, part of the big plans in 2016 to make some fundamental changes to my life; but of course, a lot more about all these other plans here at my main personal journal as this autumn and winter continue.

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