Why I gave up on Facebook 

Those of you who know me will know that I have recently, as a pre-New Year’s resolution, deactivated my Facebook account. I’m not sure how long this will last. There are things I will miss about Facebook, some of which I miss already. Keeping up with the lives of friends who live in other cities, provinces, countries. Keeping up with family, who I don’t see often enough. But there are things I will not miss, and which made staying seem like a losing proposition.

The things I will not miss can be divided largely into two classes: platform ‘features’ that have annoyed me, and more serious, societal issues not limited to the platform, but facilitated by it.

Annoying as they were, the platform features would not on their own have made me give up on Facebook. These include

  • Filtering out of some friends from my news feed, without asking me whether I wanted them filtered out or not;
  • Defaulting to “Top Stories” rather than “Most Recent,” as if Facebook knows better than me what I’ll be interested in (they don’t);
  • Repeatedly suggesting pages they think I’ll be interested in, and people they want me to be friends with (seriously, I was never going to “friend” my boss);
  • Constantly asking me to “like” Mark Zuckerberg (don’t you have enough friends?)

As I said, on their own these things would not have been enough to make me abandon the platform altogether. They were annoying, but nothing more.

More insidious is the memefication of thought, the denigration of fact, and the substitution of innuendo instead of argument. This isn’t unique to Facebook. It is arguably worse in some other spheres, like Twitter. But I see it as being more pernicious on Facebook, perhaps because I care more about what my friends think than the 140 character nonsense from strangers.

This problem has been going on for some time on Facebook. I think David Wolfe, Britain First and others, who use empty platitudes and cheap emotional appeals to build their brands and influence were among the first signs I saw. Everything could be reduced to a meme, lacking in substance, but ostensibly supporting preconceptions, such as “natural is good” or “our veterans should be honoured.”

The problem became more pronounced, with highly spun “news” stories began to be shared and liked faster than they could be read. Many of them, upon close examination, were nonsense. And yet, they would be vigorously defended, largely on the grounds that they came from an alternative media organization whose perspective aligned with that of their defender. The “mainstream media,” after all, cannot be trusted. They are inherently biased, generally toward whatever you oppose. If you are conservative, the MSM are liberal; if you are a progressive, they are right wing; and so on. Whereas alternative media, so long as it aligns with my prejudices, must be true. Facts are suspect, if they do not support my ideology. We saw the effect of this during the recent U.S. election.

It has become impossible for me to see much of this and not comment. Those comments always bring rebuttal, not based on fact, but on perceived orthodoxy. One must believe the right things. Arguing against orthodoxy is almost always a losing battle. And recently, I began to think of Nietzsche’s aphorisms about the “flies of the marketplace,” from Zarathustra. Specifically, I thought of the line: “It is not your destiny to be a fly swat.” Yes, I thought, that is true.

And so I’m saying goodbye to Facebook after nearly 10 years. I have better (or at least more enjoyable) things to do with my time.

“The Lark Ascending” on a foggy morning

It’s a foggy morning at the end of a long, cold, flu-ridden December. Outside balcony door, everything is shades of grey. A cacophony of crows and gulls squeal and caw a kind of call and response, all rhythm and no song. The cat stares out the window, fascinated.

Adele gets ready for work. Every now and then I hear her coughing. She isn’t really able to take sick days. Who would open the store? Who would close it? Who would mind it in between? Never mind there will be very few customers on a day like this, at the end of the year. There is no one to cover for her. The store needs to be open. She has to go in, sick or not.

I sit listening to Vaughan Williams on the turntable, and drinking coffee. I can take sick time, although technically I’m on holiday, and have been since a couple of days before coming down with the flu. And at this point, I am nearly over it. I will have recovered completely by the time I return in January, a year older and no wiser for it.

By most measures, 2016 was not a good year. Whether it was the endless parade of talented people to their graves, the election of The Donald, terrorist attacks, the war in Syria, or even just the thoroughly crappy fall and winter we’ve had in Vancouver, it’s hard not to look forward to a new year with a mixture of hope and dread. On the one hand, one thinks, it has be better than what we’ve just come through. On the other hand, Trump will soon officially be president; the still-living talented are that much closer to joining those who went before them; war and terrorism seem probable on a number of fronts. Everything seems poised on a razor thin precipice.

But, I remind myself, there was much that was good, too. Just this month, my niece, Abigail was born. Her parents, my brother and his wife, were married earlier this year. Adele came through her heart procedure without issue, and stronger than she’s been in over year. One of my best and oldest friends survived not one, but two traffic accidents without long term disability. It’s worth remembering at a time like this that there is birth as well as death; that illness can sometimes be overcome by healing; that we can survive injuries and move on.

As I write this, the fog outside is beginning to lift.

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Welcome

To paraphrase E.E. Cummings, the posts that are to come are for you and for me, and are not for most people.  Most people have very limited interests. Yours and mine are many, are diverse, are sometimes incongruent, are often out of the ordinary, off the beaten track, or as my former boss once put it: “You’re quirky. But in a good way.”

On any given day I may choose to write about politics, poetry, motorcycles, travel, restaurants, bars, books, sculpture, ideas about time, the mind, the body, whatever. I may choose to write about nothing at all. Or just not write.

And on any given day you may choose to read what I write, to like it, share it, comment on it – or just skip it. Who knows? maybe you don’t like poetry, or politics, Beethoven. Whatever. What you choose is your business, just as what I choose is mine.

Why a blog? Why “premeditations”? Look what good questions you ask! I knew you were the right reader for me.

A blog, because it helps me to focus, to maintain the habit of writing, and because writing without readers is little more than masturbating with a dictionary. (I like words, but not in that way.) It also helps me to maintain the habit of thinking out loud. Anyone can think anything in the cozy confines of their skull. But when we think out loud we invite others to join us – to agree, to disagree, to question us, and to answer us. That is what I’m doing here.

“Premeditations,” because I like the ambiguity inherent in the word. These posts will be premeditated, planned to some degree in advance. Not just off-the-cuff riffs like you might find on social media. They will also be in some way “pre-meditation,” in the sense of being prior to really deep thinking about whatever topic they purport to address. (In other words, don’t allow your expectations to get unreasonably high on me. It won’t be good for either of us.)

So, welcome. Pull up a chair. Stay as long as you like.