If you’re not a fan of Douglas Adams sci fi series, you might not get the joke at the end of the headline. No worries. I’m sure you understood the first part.
Starting this weekend, I will be taking an indefinite leave from Facebook. When and if I’ll return, I don’t know. What I do know is that I no longer find Facebook entertaining or useful.
Now I know that in publishing there’s a rule that writers MUST be on social media as a way of building a sense of community with our readers. Authors who have large names, or who went all-in on Facebook early on, have tremendous communities. They chat with hundreds of readers every day. Sadly, for authors at my level, this isn’t the case. Facebook’s complex algorithms are weighted in favor of paid placement. This makes organic reach nearly impossible. At best, my posts are being seen by a tiny percentage of my followers. (Even those authors with large followings aren’t reaching everyone.)
I have other reasons for leaving as well. The fact that it’s a time suck, for example, or the fact I don’t have any set content strategy. Mainly though, I’m leaving because Facebook isn’t good for my mental health.
Years ago, there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which Commander Riker is given the extraterrestrial equivalent of a video game**. The player tries to drop a virtual disk into a virtual hole (or something like that). Each time a player was successful, they experienced an amazing rush of pleasure. Needless to say, players wanted to keep feeling pleasure, so they kept playing. Soon almost the entire ship was addicted.
Facebook is like that video game. Every time your post earns a reaction (a like, a favorable comment), your brain gets a little shot of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that helps us feel pleasure. The more dopamine hits, the more pleasure we experience.
Now I’m not saying Mark Zuckerberg is an evil alien intent on taking over the human race (at least I don’t’ think he is), but he is a billionaire whose goal is to make as much profit as possible. His success rides on our being glued to our Facebook newsfeeds. (Note: If you haven’t watched the documentary, The Social Dilemma, I highly recommend you do so. You have no idea how dangerous social media is to society.)
I’ve decided that I’m done chasing dopamine hits. There’s too much cost attached to the downside of the chase. I don’t know about you all, but I have enough depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues without adding to them.
And so, I’m taking a leave of absence.
In the spirt of transparency, I’m not leaving social media altogether. I’ll still be on Instagram. I have my issues with that platform as well, but the pictures are pretty. It also gives me a place to announce new blog updates. (Not to mention that the 900 or so followers of mine who think I’m an actress on the CW’s Riverdale, would be crushed if they couldn’t get pictures of my cats.) If you want to follow me, my account is @BarbWallaceWriter.
I also plan to continue blogging. About books, about writing and whatever else comes out of my head. Because I like blogging, even if no one else reads what I have to say. Although, I’m really hoping you all will participate in the conversation by leaving comments. My promise in return is that I’ll try to post on a more regular basis. My goal is to post every Monday. Let’s see how I do with my promise.
In the meantime, thanks for reading. You all are the best!
** “The Game”, Season 5, Episode 6, 1991