I am not a number, I am a free man. It applied to Patrick McGoohan’s character and it applies to me. Today I took a step I should have taken years ago. I deleted Facebook. I exterminated that permanent little grey cloud nagging in my phone and computer. It was not easy. Despite resolving to do this a couple of weeks ago I dithered. Despite the fact that I have not used it for ages I struggled with the end of the addiction. At the critical moment I gulped, experienced a brief feeling of dread of “missing out” on some unspecified something, and pressed the delete button.
Liberation has not yet sunk into my mind. I have for good measure deleted every other Facebook product on my computer and phone. No more Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram. Why? Plenty of reasons, some long standing, some recent. The long standing one is simply that despite it being a so called social media where people are supposed to talk, communicate and keep up, it is in fact a narcissistic wasteland of backbiting and one-upmanship that no sane person needs. It appears to me that social media has made people crazy. It has certainly made them much more intolerant.
I am a libertarian, so for me this intolerance is a problem. I don’t need to be attached to a space that censors and abuses people with differing views. I might find your opinions strange, unlovely or even deeply offensive but I don’t believe, so long as those views are legal, in censorship. Facebook, it would appear, does. They pretend to be an open forum, then control what appears, what you can see, who can be there. This is the role of a publisher, which is fine. I buy a newspaper because, in general, I agree with its world view. The traditional media is no less an echo chamber but at least they are honest about it. If you are a Conservative you take the Telegraph, if you are a socialist, the Guardian. This is honest and respectable. I have friends with political and social views across the spectrum and no one has a monopoly on the best ideas or the rightness of their arguments. In many cases people of all stripes mainly agree and bicker about the finer points. Traditionally this has been done with more or less respect of people’s views and the ability to dislike the idea without attacking the person. Not so on social media. You must belong to the tribe, wholly. No divergence from the groupthink. If you have a “bad” idea you are by definition a “bad” person and must be destroyed to further the march to ideological perfection. This is very dangerous – are you not a human being? Do you not have your own hopes and dreams? You own opinions and feelings? Who is setting the agenda that you are told you must follow? Why should you be punished and threatened if you don’t agree with every point of their ever evolving position?
Difference of opinion is only a problem in a totalitarian country and these new cyber countries are not on the side of the angels. They exploit their customers and enslave them for the profit and power of their executives and their political friends. Well I am Winston Smith. I have dug my tunnel and I have sniffed the air outside of the wire. I am not a number, I am a free man.