Several weeks ago I began to contemplate whether or not I would leave Facebook completely or reconfigure my relationship with this on-line platform. On the one hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting old friends, making new friends and interacting on topics ranging from travel to politics. On the other hand, I am increasingly distressed by the activism of the trolls and bots. I despise the drive-by “shooting” of people intent on tossing hand grenades into a polite and respectful discussion—just to aggravate or initiate a back-and-forth froth of anger. I have learned from those I disagree with and hopefully I have brought a new point-of-view to some.
I also am dismayed by the relentless tracking, pushing of advertising and lack of control over what I see and what Facebook sees. Even with ad-blocker software, Facebook manages to get in my face with its in-line messages; pages that I did not ask to like; and disallowing me any opportunity to order the posts of my friends. I increasingly feel like a tiny pixel in the torrential river of pixels driven by algorithms to sell, sell and sell. Also, the way the algorithms are designed ensure you are hooked into the system.
Its design is intentional:
- Facebook makes it easy to stay involved
- knows that I am interested in news and what shapes our lives and my community
- it gives us instantaneous positive feedback
- we can discover and positively connect with past friends and love ones—thus holding out hope there are more past friends
- reinforces our socio-political echo chambers which creates a sense of being understood
- we can connect in ways that are unbounded by time and geography
- introverts can connect without having to actually talk to someone
- it cleverly replaces a few high-quality relationships with many superficial ones
- it’s subtle design makes it seem that what one is doing has meaning and therefore one can not leave
- finally, it knows that we all need somebody to listen to—it is designed to be the place where you can be part of something larger. To leave will jeopardize that sense of belonging.
Of course, all this intentionality begs the question. What was my world like before Facebook—only 10 years ago? The answer is simple: both better and worse. Therein lies the conundrum. So, I have decided to restructure my relationship with Facebook beginning April 1, 2018. This date is coincident with our move to Portland.
Facebook News Feed
I will limit my posts to my moments of zen and arts and other news items that I think might be enlightening to my followers and friends—but are strictly related to my own world view and understanding. I am going to radically limit my reposting of others people’s posts and memes since I have been trapped too many times by false ones. I will also continue to auto-post to my Facebook news feed photos from my Instagram account, articles, my twitter feed and new art from my art site. When appropriate, but not as frequently, I will make posts on matters that are crucially important to me philosophically, politically or personally. I am going to wean my acquisitions of “news” from Facebook’s feed and move to rely more heavily on my paid subscriptions to The Guardian, The New York Times, New Yorker, The Atlantic, NPR, Politico, Mother Jones, The Nation, BBC, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Pro Publica, etc. I will continue to read my dear friends posts since they bring me fresh perspectives and information that they have personally curated—and I trust them. Finally, I will be purging my friends list of people I do not know or who never interact on my feed (just lurk.)
- The most important group is family and extended family.
- People I have known (in person) for a long time and love to stay in touch with.
- People that are politically active and real students of history. Through their posts I learn about articles, books and podcasts that have been useful in expanding my understanding of our complex world. These are people who care about the same issues and that I can learn from.
- Authors that I like and am interested in following to read about their thoughts, lives and work.
- Friends from other countries, cultures, races, sexuality and gender. Through their world-view I learn about humans, and the human condition, in ways that I not normally would be exposed to.
- Folks from the design community and my former company, MSR Design, who help me stay connected to the architectural and design world. I love seeing the progress of projects; but I especially like how younger architects and interior designers who I mentored are blossoming.
- Former clients
- I taught design and professional practice to about 1,200 students from 1978 to 1998 at the University of Minnesota College of Architecture. Many of these designers now run their own practices and/or are beautifully contributing to the world of design. I love following and celebrating their successes.
- International “friends’ who I will likely never meet in person but bring an important perspective to my world view.
- Because of my long relationship with the national and international library community, I have dozens of librarian friends. These folks are heroes to me and I will always follow them to see how they are changing the lives of people daily on the front line in their community libraries.
- Art and artists. Facebook is brilliant at letting me keep up with events, galleries, artist’s work and techniques.
- All of the others: they will be purged from my “friends” list over the next year. I am going to be very picky in accepting any new “friends.”
We shall see if this is the final step in my migration away from social media. For now I will be there in a more focused, yet less often, way. I am also touched by the many people who asked me not to leave Facebook. It is those relationships that will keep me involved in this new way. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to reach out and ask me not to leave Facebook.
Regarding who I will or will not tolerate on Facebook:
I can learn something persons who are fundamentally interested in the well-being, equality and safety of all humans—regardless of color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender or political view—no matter their personal political or religious persuasion. If a person (or troll) is intent on dismantling institutions or hatefully cutting down persons dedicated to preserving independence, freedoms and human rights, then I will supply them with zero oxygen. If dignity, respect and civility prevails in the dialogue, then I will keep that person as part of my learning environment.
Jeffrey Scherer – Artist Page on Facebook
This page receives content from my art website. Each time I post an article on my that site it will be posted on this page. I will not fall prey to Facebook’s relentless pursuit of me to “boost” my page. The term boost is one of those obnoxious terms which actually means paying Facebook to promote my site for several dollars a day to extend the reach. The pay-for-play problem is that I have no control over who they decide “sees” the promotion. As one who would be making these payments, I will not participate unless there is more transparency and control over the algorithms that determine this reach. As a former CEO of a company, and one who was deeply involved in marketing, this is an insult by facebook and I will not feed their voracious money-monster. So, this will be a passively managed page. Hopefully, it will bring folks to my own site—which I pay to have no advertising.
I recently closed my blog site (www.espirittudemerida.com). This was originally opened to be a site for the process of moving to Mexico, designing our house in Merida and living in Mexico. Since we have decided to leave Mexico for Portland this no longer makes any sense. In addition, I am spending most of my energy producing artwork that I give away in exchange for the recipient donating to their local library. This is a very rewarding activity—and it allows me to paint whatever comes to mind. The “blog” portion of the espiritudemerida site as been fully migrated over to the schererworks site. I am no longer using the term blog—which I find a bit “ugly” and not indicative of what I want to do. I have relabeled my posts articles. I am now producing at least one a week—but when we move I plan to make regular posts on topics ranging from politics to philosophy with plenty of arts related content in the middle. The articles will be automatically be posted to my normal Facebook feed and arts page. It will be less about day-to-day giving and more philosophy based musings.
If anyone is interested in getting updates when I publish an article, you can subscribe to my articles directly on my website. You will get a weekly update with the posted articles.
Thanks to everyone as I work through this important transition.