2014 was a long year. If you are the sort of person who reads this blog, I doubt I need to say why. Instead, allow me to offer a brief personal take on the year everything went wrong and everyone was mad all the time.
In July, I took a break from Facebook. I’m on it still. I’d been writing about the emotional contagion experiment and I’d come to feel uneasy logging in knowing that I might be the subject of psychological experiments. It wasn’t that I objected to being experimented on. Instead, knowing about Facebook’s manipulations in the name of science made me uncomfortably conscious of its other manipulations in the name of increasing my “engagement” and selling me things.
I regret not seeing pictures of my friends’ kids; I regret hearing second-hand about the changes in their lives. But after a few weeks, I realized that these regrets were more than outweighed by the relief I felt at escaping Facebook news. I like reading the news, don’t get me wrong, but Facebook is a singularly infuriating place to encounter it. Someone is always wrong on the Internet; and someone else is always complaining about it on Facebook. I’d log in to Facebook to unwind for a few minutes, and it would wind me up instead. Stepping away was like remembering to breathe–at least until I checked Twitter.
I’ve always felt good about the way I engage with the world through this blog. It’s brought out the best in my thinking and my writing; it’s introduced me to some wonderful people. It’s everything I love and have always loved about the Internet–which is saying a lot after a year in which the Internet was so hard to love. In my experience, Facebook and Twitter are loud and exciting; blogging is slow and calm. But I think I’m ready for slow and calm again. So I’m going back to my circa-2004 social media.
Welcome to the Laboratorium, Second Series.