Why I Left Social Media
In January, I deleted most of my social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn were deleted permanently. Twitter held on for a bit, but as of this evening, it's gone.
I joined Facebook in 2007 when it was the New Thing. It felt interesting and exciting. It allowed me to connect with new friends at university. When I spent a year abroad, I could share pictures of my adventures for friends and family back home to see. I spent a lot of time on that platform.
Over the years, I drifted away. I would endlessly scroll my Facebook feed but not interact with any of it. The connection with "friends" was superficial and the feed was increasingly cluttered with corporate advertisements and trending posts from people I'd never met. I noticed that it was affecting my personal happiness. When I saw pictures of old friends having a good time together, I felt sad that I was missing out, even though I was perfectly content before I saw the pictures. I decided that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. A few years ago, I logged off and only rarely resurfaced.
More recently, I've been concerned with personal privacy. I'm uncomfortable with the amount of information that large tech platforms have on me. I've lost trust in their ability to protect my data and not use it for nefarious purposes. I don't have evidence that this has occurred, but I view the possibility as too great for comfort.
In the end, it was an easy decision to delete Facebook. Instagram was even easier and LinkedIn the easiest. But I still held on to Twitter.
I started using Twitter regularly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the only place to find truth about what was happening. When public health institutions were telling us that there was "no evidence" of airborne transmission or efficacy of masks, people who actually understand real-world risk modelling were on Twitter encouraging people to wear masks in public places. When the news media labelled the lab leak hypothesis as a xenophobic conspiracy theory, thoughtful people were discussing the very real possibility on Twitter and its implications on future virology research. It's now thought that a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a likely cause of the pandemic, though it's not proven.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Twitter was the best place to find out what was going on, outside of Russian-language Telegram channels. If you want to be at the bleeding edge of AI research and debate, you need to be on Twitter. This appealed to me for a while, though it doesn't any longer.
Finding the helpful signal on Twitter takes a great deal of effort. It's an ocean of garbage with a few gold nuggets sprinkled here and there. Thus, it takes a lot of time, and spending a lot of time on Twitter is a good way to lose faith in humanity. I'd rather spend time with my family, reading good books and high-quality writing, not scrolling Twitter trying to find the bleeding edge of the Current Thing.
Elon Musk's recent attempts to monetize Twitter using Twitter Blue and creator subscriptions clarified my feelings. I would never pay $8/month to use Twitter, and it's inconceivable to me that I'd pay Twitter users directly to subscribe to their tweets. Even the best user tweets mostly garbage. Of course, you can still use the platform for free (with the caveat that if it’s free, you’re the product). But if I’m not willing to pay for it and it’s wasting valuable time, the calculation is simple: Twitter provides negative value to my life and I’m better off without it.
I’m done with social media and it feels good. I still have a little corner of the internet to call home. This site will someday hold an online CV to make up for the lack of a LinkedIn profile. This blog will present the ideas I wish to share publicly, albeit with a shorter reach than I’d achieve on Facebook or Twitter. I’m quite satisfied with that. If someone wants to find me they still can. Perhaps it’s less convenient than a social platform, but at least it’s more intentional.