Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Antisocial Experiment

Last weekend, I severed my link to my last online social network. Plurk had been a source of amusement for more than two years, and I met some kindred spirits there that I wouldn't have found elsewhere. But when you gotta go, you gotta go, you know.

I'll admit, it was a painful decision, and one I did not easily arrive at. Unlike Facebook, my Plurk had a much smaller community, and I had greater control over who I wanted to interact with. Unlike Twitter, I could follow discussions easily. And one other hook: it used a system of karma points, which went up with every action and went down with inaction.

So why did I quit? In the main, I finally got bored. At the same time, I felt that it was sapping my creative energies and that, small community notwithstanding, I was starting to get annoyed with the herd mentality of social networks.

Boredom: I had to step back and examine the value that I was getting from social networks in general, and I found out that, entertainment aside, I really wasn't getting anything much. Oh, from time to time, I would get a link to a read-worthy article, but it comprised only a small fraction of the messages I had to process.

Yes, I know, brevity is the soul of wit and all that, but really, how much value can you get from 140 characters? It's fine for small snippets, but many times, you more than just the headline. You want the meat underneath.

Creativity: ever since I got into online social networks, I found that I was writing less and less. You only have to look at the entries on this blog, or lack thereof, in recent months. The act of writing is a psychological release, and by posting my thoughts to social networks, I was leaking out all these energies. I had lost the will to write.

It's not just me. I've seen a general decrease in writing activity. Blogs of friends I used to follow have been abandoned. I no longer see the volume of submissions to the literary folio that I edit. Even entries to contests and applications to workshops that we're running have gone down over the past year.

And finally, the herd mentality: perhaps the most insidious innovation of social networks is the "Like" button. With social networks, you no longer really have to work anything out on your own. All you have to do is find a post that you agree with and click "Like". Then you rest easy in the thought that 16,487 people such as yourself agree with you. And on the off-chance that you came up with something wholly original, you won't feel the affirmation of your thoughts until some other friends "Like" what you posted.

Online social networks will herald the death of free, independent, and original thought.

So that's why I decided to get off the online social network train. I wanted to save myself before it plunged down the precipice I see the tracks are leading to. And if by some chance it doesn't, if by some chance I get left behind in that journey to the golden utopia of whatever-that-is, I don't very much mind. I don't want to live there.

* * *

I'll be honest, I haven't deleted my Plurk completely, nor my Twitter either. There's still some value in staking presences there, if only to head off identity squatters. (For Plurk, I wrote a small script to update it with a daily greeting, just to keep my karma up.)

But for all intents and purposes, I am off the train. I don't check those sites for updates anymore, and though there were the expected withdrawal symptoms, the experience has not been as bad as I feared it would be. Facebook, which I deactivated in March and deleted in June this year, I don't miss at all: good riddance, I say.

Disconnecting from online social networks, though a little painful at first, is easy, so remarkably easy. Here's my two-step method.

Step one: you unfollow all your friends.

Step two: you get a real life.

Try it.


  1. I could imagine what you mean by something sapping your creative energies. As for herd mentality -- one could reject it. On my timeline I've had interactions with people who have differing opinions on stuff. That's why after a certain point, I had to step back and think about certain things, time and again.

    Blogging is something, I have to admit, I miss. Work was too much but Plurk was quick and easy lol. Though, seriously, sometimes I realize that some plurk updates are better off as blog entries. Except that I'd rather post them in private so that I could only choose a bunch of people who could read the said posts. Lol. I only recently found a way to do that.

    I guess for some social networks give the illusion that you could still share information/thoughts/etc. within a limited group only. That might be causing herd mentality to rise all the more?

    Disconnecting is pretty easy once you decide to stop and let other interests and matters be your focus. After all, those who want to find you, they all probably know how to. ;)

  2. Yeah, Plurk is losing its spark.