COLUMN: Is Facebook facing a fluffy demise?

Nanaimo - Will Facebook die a lingering death gagging on fluff and advertising?

A former co-worker posted on Facebook the other day that she’d had enough.

Enough cute kids and pet photos. Enough advertising. Enough of those philosophical/motivational posts and Internet memes and she’s pulling the plug on Facebook.

A few days later I notice she’s still posting.

I’ve wondered how tough it would be to ween myself off checking in to see if anyone’s responding to one of my posts. I figure kicking Facebook would be a bit like when I smoked cigarettes. If I had a pack in my shirt pocket they’d nag at me all day, but I never had a craving whenever I was forced into a situation when I wasn’t around them for a few days.

A couple of people asked why I haven’t been online much lately. Well, the weather got better, so after work by the time I finish mowing lawns, get in a bike ride, do little repairs around the house, eat dinner, watch some TV and spend time with family, it’s bedtime, when whatever book I’m reading hits me in the face as I nod off and cues me to turn off the light.

Some nights I remember to check my e-mail, but most computer time is spent online shopping for things I don’t need, but want because they’re great deals with free shipping from China.

I came into the Facebook game not long before another colleague was maliciously ratted out to her boss by an online “friend” for dropping the F-word expletive in a private, non-work-related posting. It also triggered an online tirade from me that I’m sure would pretty much nullify any aspirations I might ever have about going into politics or other public life.

But a lot of people enjoyed it and happily chimed in to denounce the “rat.” People do love a witch hunt.

Up until then I’d considered Facebook a place where friends, off the clock, could freely socialize. But the realization that freedom of expression carries consequences pretty much ended any form of even slightly controversial discourse, leaving behind a beige, bland virtual landscape of well, pet and kid pictures, memes and advertising.

Long gone are those rainy winter evenings when I’d indulge in posting good rants – or chiming in on someone else’s – about everything from politics to aliens and conspiracy theories filled with moronic commentary and instructions on how to make and properly wear foil caps to prevent government mind control.

Even my left wing, ‘Occupy Everything’ online friends – whose posts I’d gleefully jab at with right wing counter commentary just to see if I could get anybody frothing at the mouth – have scurried off somewhere.

In fact, the most fun I’ve had on Facebook recently is the night a friend and I carried on hours of conversation using nothing but Hannibal Lecter quotes from Silence of the Lambs.

I’m finding Facebook is offering less intellectual stimulation – even at its lowest, creepiest level – these days. Maybe it’s because I expect too much from it.

Social media has been credited with everything from revolutionizing advertising to  perpetuating revolution and social upheaval. Humorist, speaker and social critic Brandon Mendelson argues in his book Social Media is Bullshit, that Facebook and Twitter were not primary drivers behind world movements like the ‘Arab Spring’ and that, in fact, people shied away from using social media fearing government clamp-downs on the Internet and reprisals against users.

There have been numerous reports over the last year or so about Facebook users by the millions dropping out or just taking a break for a few months.

Why? In a survey published by U.S.-based Pew Research Centre, people polled commented that they were “… tired of stupid comments …” or “… I had crazy friends….”

Hmm … makes me wonder if I’m part of the problem.

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