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More on Why I Left Social Media
In May of last year, I wrote about why I left social media. This was a quick piece, written in the afterglow of finally deleting my Twitter account. It captured many of the main reasons for my quitting social media, though without much detail. In this piece, I'll expand on these arguments and present a few more.
Leaving the mall
Commercial social media is like a shopping mall. It’s entirely possible to have a constructive conversation in one, it’s entirely possible to have a fruitful political debate at the food court, but it’s not why the mall is built. It’s not what it’s for. What it’s for is commerce. Anything more is a happy byproduct.
When I joined Facebook in 2007, it felt exciting. I was among the first wave of high school students to join a site that was previously only available to college students. The main interface was your profile and the profiles of your friends. There was a "wall" where friends could write comments, akin to the back page of a yearbook. There were groups, where people with common interests could share ideas and interesting links. And there was the "poke", which could be a flirt or a prank, depending on who sent it. That really was it for some time.
In the early years, it was an extension of high school. Like a spare period where you're still hanging around killing time. I was part of a group of kids who liked The Beatles. We'd take turns posting an obscure lyric and it was a race to see who could name the song first. My friend Ryan usually won.
What we didn't realize until years later, when the "newsfeed" became the default view, is that Facebook was actually a mall. We...
Our family recently went camping with some friends and their children. In the Canadian tradition, we loaded up as much of our house as we can fit in the car and drove off to rearrange it in the woods. Our first evening, Saturday, was shared with many other camping families at the same site. As I watched older children zoom along the gravel road on their bikes, I caught myself looking forward to the days when my own sons are old enough to bike around and play independently, leaving my wife and I to some peace and quiet.
On further examination, I don't wish for this. I wish for moments of peace among the busyness of life, but I still cherish the time together with my boys. There will come a time when my eldest is no longer excited to show me the cool bug he just found. I can only have a lazy afternoon nap in the tent with my youngest for so long, his little arm draped over my chest, the soft patter of rain overhead. (In fact, if I think about it hard, I might realize that I already had the last one that I ever will).
My sons won't always need me or even want me around. There will come a time when they just want to grab their bikes and zoom off with their friends. I don't have to long for the future. I can wait.
I moved to a new city for a job after earning my undergraduate degree. I rented a small apartment in a house that had been converted to a triplex. I liked a lot of things about that apartment: the wood stove, the friendly landlord, the proximity to grocery stores, that it was the first place I had all to myself. However, my favourite feature was it being next door to a Goodwill bookstore.
Shopping for books at thrift stores can be a frustrating experience. Usually they're thrown on the shelf haphazardly with minimal attempt to sort or categorize. Finding a good book among all of the bad is difficult, though rewarding.
This thrift store was different. It was a curated collection of books and other media from donation centres all over the city. The shelves were organized by subject and alphabetical by author. The employees could often help you find something specific, or at least show you where to look. Almost all of the books could be had for $2 to $4. Every month there was a sale where everything was half-off as they cleared out old inventory to make way for new.
I didn't make much money back then but I decided that I'd allow myself to shop at that bookstore without a budget. My main constraint was shelf space in my apartment. What started as a reasonable collection atop the fireplace mantle soon necessitated a floor standing bookcase. I found a used one for about $10 and told myself that once it was filled, I'd stop buying books.
That bookcase got filled, overflowed, and I bought another one. I bought more books to fill that, too. I felt a bit guilty buying books when I didn't have the time to read all of...