Mr. Charlton Gets Rid of Facebook

This is one of those blog posts that I had a hard time writing. The kind where I would pump out seven hundred words, only to look back and realize that I was a rambling mess, ranting off in the distance without any kind of coherent structure to my ideas. It was a random train of thought, one that derailed into a small community and exploded into a fiery mess of anecdotes and half-witty remarks. The people I was writing for would be reading with a mouthful of coffee, slowly swallowing as their eyes narrowed; “What the fuck is Mr. Charlton talking about?”. Well, today he’s ranting about Facebook.

I got rid of it, finally.

If you’ve read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll know I have a deep-seated hatred towards Facebook. I’m not a fan. In fact, it’s come up in about ten percent of my writing. That’s a lot, considering that Facebook is free. And there’s a pretty strict rule that I’ve been adhering to, especially recently as I’ve gotten older.

Don’t ever complain about something you’re getting for free.

Being the hypocrite that I am, I’ve been complaining about this free service for years. I’m not alone in my complaints; tons of people like myself dislike social media, especially Facebook. So then why are we using it?

Understand that Facebook, and a lot of other tech giants, have worked tirelessly over the last decade (even longer in many cases) to integrate themselves into the fabric of our society. You might convince yourself you’ll be missing out on something if you refuse their services. Truthfully, you will be. Without Facebook, there’s a good chance I might miss events that are organized there. And that’s a shame.

But…

The party is still taking place. That get-together is going to happen, it’s simply no longer convenient for the host to invite me. They’ll have to get a hold of me some other way. They’re going to have to send a carrier pigeon. They might try and put a message in a bottle, casting it out to the ocean in the slim hopes it washes up on my shores. Or, heaven forbid, they might have to use the telephone app on their smartphone and call me to arrange the party. Facebook is convenient.

Iphone-HomeScreen

A ten year old asked me why the phone app was a ‘C’ shape.

Facebook is too convenient.

It’s so convenient, in fact, that you can have a social media relationship with someone you don’t know. I had a little over three hundred people on my friend list. At least a third of them? People I had met once. One interaction, years ago, was now something that Facebook convinced me was valid. It’s really easy to add people, over the years, over a pint at the bar when you’re four drinks deep and now everyone in the pub is your friend. Now your free social media page needs work. It needs to be culled every now and again. You’re social media image is something you’re going to have to manage.

Years ago, it used to list your friends post’s chronologically. Now Facebook has determined that you want to see what the hottest topics are. Those are the posts that keep you looking at Facebook, your eyes open on the screen while ads fill the sidebars. You know what posts seem to gather the most attention?

The controversial ones.

If you’re wondering why Facebook in particular seems to have gotten more mean-spirited in the last couple of years, it’s not because you’re getting older and more cynical. It’s because the easiest button to push in the emotion panel of your brain is the anger / outrage button. The social engineers at Facebook know this, and capitalize on it.

They’ve also figured out how to give you a dopamine hit when you participate in conversations. Someone says something wrong? On the internet? Fire back a snappy comeback, then watch as like-minded people support your post with likes and LOLs. A thirty second reply takes thirty seconds, but Facebook knows you’ll spend up to an hour or more seeing if anyone else validated your opinion.

All of your rage, your laughs, your accomplishments, your highs, your lows, everything you post to social media is facilitated by companies who are trying their hardest to manipulate your emotions. And they’re doing it because for every hour you spend on their site, they might make half a penny. Don’t quote me on that number. The point I’m trying to make is that your attention isn’t worth a lot to them, so they’re going to milk your attention for everything that it’s worth.

I’m picking on Facebook, but they’re not the only ones doing it. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur. They’re all competing for your attention.

If you’re wondering what happened to me, well, they ended up getting too much of my attention. They got so much of it that my only solution was to turn it off completely. It wasn’t the Cambridge Analytics issue, it wasn’t Zuckerberg having to testify in front of a bunch of congresspeople he was already donating campaign money to, it wasn’t Russian bots trying to undermine democracy. It was the simple problem of spending too much time on Facebook and Reddit, and not spending enough time writing, making games, learning new skills, and enjoying life.

Zuckerberg

“I swear, your honor, that I put my pants and my flesh mask on just like the rest of you homo sapiens.”

I’ve lost the convenience of easily connecting with people. But I don’t think it should be easy to connect with people. It should be tough. It should be a little bit of work. Out of the three hundred friends I had a week ago, it’s plummeted to roughly sixty. I’m alright with that. Even though it’s going to be a little more work to connect with people, I have at least an extra hour a day to it. And maybe a five minute phone call would be better than liking a photo of them online.

The internet is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused. Stirring the pot to get peoples attention on the internet is like smearing the walls with shit to get your perfume to stand out. It works, but people are going to eventually get sick of the poop smell, even if the perfume is free.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m four days in of not having access to social media. It’s been pretty zen so far.

1. Image taken from https://news.sky.com/story/five-questions-mark-zuckerberg-needs-to-answer-in-congress-11325242

 

 

Mr. Charlton – The Laggard

I sit on both sides of technology. One one hand, I spent my Wednesday evening ranting about how the internet has turned everyone into some sort of huckster. That Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of narcissists who are screaming at the top of their lungs to look in their direction. I also know that’s pretty disingenuous coming from a guy who has a website with his name as the address. The irony is not lost on Mr. Charlton. But it’s true that I’m completely clueless when it comes to social media.

On the other hand, I spent my Thursday evening creating procedurally generated terrain in JAVA. I can replace the processor in my computer, even making sure the thermite paste is properly applied. I can create 3D models and have them sent to a 3D printer. I have a number of computers. Two of these computers run Linux. I have, at one point, had a computer with three operating systems on it. Mr. Charlton has spent decades now breaking computers, and I’m at a point where I can safely be trusted with one.

The picture I’m trying to paint is I both love and hate technology. I love computers, but I hate carrying a cell phone around.  I think the internet is a wonderful, fantastic tools for communicating and sharing ideas, but I absolutely loathe Facebook, Instagram, and Google. I think new gadgets are neat, but I’m convinced that if you can’t open a device and fix it, then you don’t actually own it. I should also mention that almost all the technology I own is really old.

Which puts me in the camp of, what Kat has labeled me, the laggards. The late adopters of technology. I’m using an old Galaxy SIII for my phone. Both my little lappy and my tower PC were bought in 2009. I didn’t actually own a cell phone until 2006. The only thing I own that’s even relatively new is a laptop that Kat’s parent gave to me. Either than that, everything I own is crazy old, in terms of tech progress.

The thing is, I don’t actually need my computers and my cell phone to do more than they’re already doing. The only thing I haven’t been able to install on my phone has been Pokemon Go. My computer can’t run the newest and greatest games anymore, but everything I play is pretty old school. My computers are almost exclusively used to write and design stuff, and they do that just fine. Truthfully, I’m saving my pennies right now to upgrade the beast of a tower I have, but I’m in no rush. Until it bursts into flames, the workhorse is still sitting happy besides my desk, churning out the polygons. Why am I so damned adverse to change?

I thought about this long and hard, and it boils down to two things. I hate being pestered, and I’m a minimalist.

Let’s start with being pestered. I don’t actually like having my cell phone on me. Sure, it’s great for emergencies, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the last time there was an emergency that needed my immediate attention. For the most part, it’s an electronic invitation for someone to pester me. And it’s not a human that’s usually being a bother, it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or maybe it’s…

“Mr. Charlton! Neil DeGrass Tyson just tweeted a picture!”

… look, this is what I’m talking about. Alright, I’m turning the push notifications off. How on God’s green Earth do you…

“Hey! One of your friends just spammed a massive invite to everyone they know on Facebook! Are you able to go to their party taking place 2000 kilometers away from you tonight?”

Goddamnit! How do I turn off every one of these stupid noti….

“Man, someone from Instagram is at the gym. They want you to know they are at the gym. Here is a picture of them at the gym, in gym clothes.”

Turning off the push notifications on my phone wasn’t easy, but I managed to get it done. Still though, I don’t need to be connected to the network at every goddamn second of the day. The way apps are designed, you’d think it these programmers used to be crack dealers. The people who work at places like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest use various psychological tricks to keep you coming back to their sites. How many times have you checked Facebook today? Five times? Ten? Is it more?

On the minimalist side of things, I’ll put it bluntly. My phone, for me, isn’t a sign of status. I don’t care if you have a better phone than me, or if you have a MacBook Pro, or if your computer has way more RAM than mine (it’s important to point out that most people rarely need over 8 gigs of the stuff. Anything over that is overkill). Some people like to call it ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. I refer to it as ‘The Biggest Dick Waving Competition in the Universe’. The only time the brand name is important is if I’m working for that brand, and they are paying me to sell it. This rarely happens in my life.

I’ve caved recently, though. I’ve given up the idea that I can succeed as an adult without social media. If this is how the world is going to be, then I have to accept it. So feel free to follow me on twitter @SandyCharlton. Twitter only allows me to use 140 characters, so that might be a problem. Brevity is the soul of wit, and you’re about to find out how witty I’m not.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. LinkedIn is also a weird one for me. It’s like Facebook, except with less ignorance and racism.

p.s.s. I actually don’t have an Instagram account. Those people who are social media savvy, is this something the hip young kids are using?

p.s.s.s. Social Media Savvy is code word for narcissistic sociopath.

A Steaming Pile of Internet

There’s another reason I didn’t post anything for two weeks. It’s because I didn’t have anything interesting to talk about. Nothing I was doing was particularly interesting at the time. I wasn’t reading anything worthwhile, I wasn’t examining any fascinating new articles. I was staying inside and playing video games and watching television. I needed a break from brain thinking, and loaded up my mind space with cerebral junk food. There’s nothing wrong with that, except, it left me with nothing to scribe about and no desire to make something up. I own a small slice of the internet, though. Not a very big slice, mind you, but a slice non the less. As the proprietor of this tiny slice of web zone, I’m now considered a “content creator”. This is where we enter bullshit territory. So pucker your assholes, because Mr. Charlton is going to rant for a bit.

See, before the internet, the world was filled with musicians and writers and designers and inventors and artists and a whole mess of crazy people who made things. They usually worked with marketers, entrepreneurs, publishers and another heap of humans to package and sell these things. These marketers, entrepreneurs, and publishers were the gatekeepers. They decided who got to be successful, and who didn’t make the cut. For years, this seemed to work in favour for the latter group. There’s always been this undercurrent of hatred for this group, these so-called suits. They’re business people at their core, and they’re interested in making money, not making dreams happen for artists. Fair enough. Then the world wide web took off, and soon it became easier for the painter, the poet, or the filmmaker to create art and sell it without the middle man, these so-called suits. We entered a new world, where people who created things got to deal directly with their fans and the purchasing public. Awesome, right?

There’s a problem, though. Back in the day, the artist used to think “You know what, these gatekeepers have shitty taste. If the people could only hear my music, then I’d be able to be successful. I’d make it if I just had the chance.” Those artists were wrong. It wasn’t the gatekeepers who had shitty taste, it was the people. I wrote a post years ago, on the old blog, about how people have lousy taste. That includes me. I have abhorrent taste in music. I have a soft spot in my heart for terrible movies. My idea of decorating a house is minimalist, in which I don’t decorate my house (the added bonus of not having to dust shit is also nice).

The internet is steaming cesspool of pop-culture refined sugar, not because that’s what people want to make, but that’s because it’s what people want to consume.

I’m going to give you a choice. You can either get a fast food burger once a day, or you can splurge at the end of the week and get a three course meal at a fancy restaurant. The only caveat is you can’t have both. Most people are going to go for the first option. There will be a few people who’ll wait for the crazy amazing meal, but not everyone is into fine dining. The internet is taken this to heart, and the term is ‘content’. In order to be a viable website, you need to have new content. Every. Day. Even if it’s not particularly good content, people still need to be able to come to your space and find something new.

Truthfully, this has less to do with people’s shitty taste, although I will defend to the death that I’m right on the money with that. It actually has to do with how the brain is hardwired. The brain likes being rewarded with stimulus, and will fire some dopamine in your direction when it gets what it wants. The same pleasure centers fire up when you get a message, or a text, or a Facebook like, or browse a site and get something new. That’s why websites like Facebook and Instagram are constantly updating. It’s why people are constantly checking their feeds every ten minutes.

If you’re a massive organization, like let’s say Buzzfeed, you just need to churn out crap everyday. And that’s what Buzzfeed does. I’m not certain how many people contribute to Buzzfeed, but it’s got to be a couple dozen. If you’re flying solo, like myself, you have to make a conscious descision. Do I churn out crap everyday? Or do I try and have some standards and at least put together a legible article?

Here’s the thing. Even what I’ve just written here is pretty trashy. I haven’t solidfied my research, but rather just took a bunch of ideas I’ve been pooling in my head and vomited them out onto the page. Which is maybe why I haven’t been writing as much, ’cause I hate churning out crap.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse. The artist isn’t just an artist anymore, they’re a ‘content creator’. They now have to be selling themselves at all times. I like putting shit down on paper and online. I do not like adding a million hashtags to what I’m doing to try and whore myself out. Anyways, rant over. I’m going to get back at something more interesting later this week. I promise.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. You know what happens if I break my promise? Nothing.

p.s.s. Maybe it’ll be ’34 ways people are using the internet the way junkies use heroin’.

p.s.s.s. #writing #writerslife #doIreallyhavetodothis #Igetitsaneasywaytopromotemyself #anditsfree #butseriously #everytimeIseeapostlikethis #Iwanttostaplemydicktothebackofacar