I had a love-hate relationship with Facebook. For years, I’d use it daily. Then, in a fit of annoyance, I’d drop it entirely. I would cancel my Facebook account. But a few weeks later, I would start up a new account and repeat.
Love-hate seems to have turned into total indifference. I noticed my new-found indifference a few months ago. I simply didn’t bother to go to Facebook anymore. I stopped posting photos, reading updates, or getting my news from Facebook. It just stopped being worth my time. Over the holidays I posted a few times, read some updates and thought that maybe Facebook would be part of my daily routine again. But when school started up again, I simply didn’t bother to go back.
Not a fit of rage, not a deleted account, just a fizzling of use. I have no reason to use it anymore. One reason why is because Facebook over-limits what posts I see. Only some of the news, events and people I am interested are featured these days. Because of this I miss out on events I want to attend and news that I care about. To remedy these gaps, I changed by habits and found out the post office bulletin board is faster to use and more comprehensive in its postings. Moreover, going to the post office gets me into my community more.
Another problem with Facebook is that not everyone uses it, especially not every generation. This makes Facebook a terrible place to interact with the community as a whole. People across generations are now using text, phone, email, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. to communicate. With so many channels, it makes little sense to spend most of your time on just one.
Facebook is more than just fragmented and of less utility than it once was. It is also a terrible way to connect any community, especially ours. Because Facebook is designed to make money for Facebook, not to serve you or your community, it functions as an online casino of people’s attention. That’s no place to learn about your community or to be connected to other people.
Worse, Facebook gives us the illusion of being connected. In a small town like ours, this illusion can be deadly because we need to see the big picture in order to be connected. Unlike a large city with its many radio stations, magazines, newspapers, television news and other media, we depend mostly on this paper, posters on bulletin boards and word of mouth to stay connected. We need locally grounded broad spectrum media to be part of our community. Facebook may seem like a viable alternative to local news, but its only function is to capture our attention for profit. It’s not a newspaper, community group or coffee shop.
Recently I started a new weekly e-newsletter (“Friday Octopus”) that posts upcoming events in the community. (You can sign up for the e-newsletter at FridayOctopus.wordpress.com.) Each week I go to the post office, Co-Op, library and a few other places and gather up what’s happening. Then I compile it and send an e-mail to over 100 neighbours with a list of community events. The e-mail goes out once a week, there’s no spam or ads and it’s free and open to everyone. The news comes to you. But unlike Facebook, the purpose of Friday Octopus is to build our community, not to profit anyone.
I’d like more and more people in Haida Gwaii to intentionally abandon Facebook as their source for local news and events (especially event organizers). Of course, it’s fine if you use it for sharing photos with friends. But, please, no more relying on Facebook for outreach or news. If you want everyone to feel welcome to your event, post it in local shops, tell your friends to spread the word and send me email so I can included it in Friday Octopus. We cannot afford to lose ourselves to the illusion of connectedness because we need the real thing instead.