Luxury and privilege

Sarah Jeong writes on The Verge that it's hard to give up Facebook because of what it has become:

"It’s hard to pin down what Facebook is because the platform replaces labor that was previously invisible. We have a hard time figuring out what Facebook actually is because we have a hard time admitting that at least part of what it supplanted is emotional labor β€” hard and valuable work that no one wants to admit was work to begin with."

It's so ingrained in modern life, it's a one stop shop for managing relationships and events. You can do everything else it does elsewhere but have to use myriad tools. Facebook integrates everything under one banner using one identity. There is no one true competitor, only a hodgepodge of services with no integrations.

While it might seem crazy, quitting Facebook is (certainly in some circles) akin to committing social suicide. It goes back to the isolation I mentioned before; in many cases you are potentially, and wilfully, ostracising yourself from friends and even the flow of society.

In a moment of serendipity James asked "is deleting Facebook a luxury?" He quotes that there is "inherent privilege required to abandon a technology.”

I was lucky - it was easy for me to quit.

This is where I joke about not having any friends. Well, I would except it's not a joke. I don't keep in touch with any old school friends - I never have. I don't keep in touch with old workmates, heck, I don't even socialise with current workmates. I wasn't friends with them on Facebook and am not in the communal WhatsApp group. I've never used that either.

I don't have an extended family to keep in touch with; my mum is a technophobe who doesn't have an internet connection and I'm estranged from my dad.

The only times I ever recently used Facebook was in a private family group for immediate family members (my wife and kids) but we now communicate via iMessage, or more recently Telegram as my wife is still, temporarily, using an Android phone.

In a way, Twitter was harder to quit but I'd stopped using it a year before I finally deleted my account. I was heavily invested in it for years and it felt like part of my identity - even after I'd stopped tweeting. It was a bigger lurch to kill that account but not because of any social aspect of the service.

Sarah uses the adage "everyone is on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook" and admits, that despite not liking it, she finds it nearly impossible to leave. She asks if it is because we are now unwilling to do the hard work, the emotional labour of keeping tabs manually when Facebook can remind us of birthdays and when we became "friends" in its eyes.

With the network so ingrained in our lives and in our psyches Facebook relies on this unwillingness, traps us within the network effect where friends, families, groups and communities all engage and plan. From small businesses to residents groups to school committees, if you want to be a functioning member of society you have to be on Facebook so it's easy to understand why not being a user can be seen as a luxury.

For years now there has been talk of social as a utility, like water or electricity. Utilities are generally seen as necessities and that people have a right to access them. The way things have gone the comparison is obvious: Facebook has become a virtual necessity so to not be on it implies elevation above the concerns of most.

Mark Zuckerberg talked about Facebook helping people build supportive, informed and civically engaged communities, and people laughed, considered it nonsense that a social network could replace established governance or create real word social infrastructure. Well, the reality is it's happening - not due to any feature or focus from the company but from normal usage by people who submit ever more of their lives within its remit.

Why? Convenience.

Zuckerberg, however, also wanted to help build safe and inclusive communities but Facebook's very nature makes this almost impossible. The algorithms create filter bubbles, exclude alternative views while propagating abuse and hate.

Even when millions are affected by potential misuse of data user numbers continue to rise. Why? Convenience; because to do otherwise is too much like hard work.

But I don't feel privileged to have quit, just extremely lucky that I didn't have ties effectively forcing me to remain. Some will see that as sad, that my life is somehow incomplete.

Perhaps I should feel privileged.

Perhaps it is a luxury to be able to set up my own site and have enough knowledge to integrate indieweb tools in the way that I want. Perhaps it is a luxury to be able to pick and choose where I want to connect with people on the web because nothing is limiting me to a single network.

Some might ask, at what cost?