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01/23/2020

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Zuckerberg’s the enemy

I’ve never had an FB, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media account. I find the companies pretty immoral and the sites themselves just full of people looking for attention. I really wish I didn’t believe some of the stories I have heard about philosophers on social media, and how they treat each other. It’s despicable.

But I recognize I am in the minority here, and I think it’s simply because I just don’t feel the desire for interaction with other philosophers online. I love talking philosophy with colleagues and students in person, but in my opinion at least the internet is a poor medium for the sorts of meaningful discussions I have with actual people. Beyond social media, I have noticed that the less time I spend on the internet, the happier and more peaceful I feel (irony of making that statement on the internet recognized).

Filippo Contesi

DISCLAIMER: I left Facebook a lustrum ago or so, but I use Twitter.

Apologies for the hastily written comment.

In my possibly overly naïve, socio-philosophical view, philosophy networking these days is largely a bad practice, for both moral and collective-academic reasons.

However, I am not sure one or another platform is the main culprit. The way one uses platforms is more important.

For one thing, Twitter (and no doubt other platforms (including blogs) and customs, not only social-media ones) share many of the same negative aspects (to differing degrees): i.e. possibly all of 1 to 5 and, I suspect, plenty more besides.

It should also be considered that moral and collective-academic reasons are not the only ones there are. There are also individual-academic reasons, e.g. securing an academic job, which many of us will keep in mind.

Martin Cooke

I used to like the Philosophers' Carnival, and did not like it when it moved to FB. I was not surprised when it died there. This place is what the internet was supposed to be about. FB is what happens to good ideas. FB is to Stalinism what we are to social justice. I am glad that you are still here. This is a quiet place to share ideas in a classically academic way.

former user

I deactivated facebook over two years ago, and permanently deleted it a little over a year ago. There are things I miss: the community with friends who live in different cities, the stored memories, the opportunity to network (though I rarely used my feed for philosophical things, with the exception of teaching questions, I was reassured by the idea that I was known by famous people in my field), and access to the Philosophical Underclass group (a faster version of ILL).

But it was nonetheless worth it for me to quit. More than issues of privacy/political influence/etc, the primary reason I quit was the addictive element of facebook. People spend hours a day on it! And I would find myself typing 'f' into the URL space for no reason, at random times. Since I've left, my attention span has increased, I feel more resourceful, and my confidence has gone up. I just feel...cleaner, for lack of a better word.

Jonathan Reid Surovell

I also deactivated my Facebook account a couple years ago. (The only social media accounts I have now are LinkedIn and Academia.edu.) I really don't miss it. I've gotten very good stuff out of deactivating and what I've lost feels pretty insignificant in hindsight.

I think that a fair amount of time I put into FB now goes into more worthwhile things, like interacting with close friends (text, email, Messenger, face-to-face) and parenting-related stuff. You're right that it's not sufficient for significantly reducing technoference. But, if it's not necessary, it at least helps. Significantly reducing technoference in one's life will take work and a bit of research but it can be done. (I hope we, as a society, will also make progress in our understanding of technoference as a public health issue; as you point out, it risks disproportionately harming the poor and people with mental health problems.)

As for the what I've given up: the research shows that social networking sites increase people's ("bridging") social capital. Maybe that's the case with me. I have fewer people to, for example, ask about teaching techniques. But, as I think back on how I used that social capital, when I had it, I don't think it's very important. It could be that I just don't know how to exploit or cultivate social capital as well as others.

As for the people I haven't kept in touch with: why should I should stay in touch with them? Why think that the kind of connections Facebook enables is preferable to old-fashioned losing touch with people and being happy/surprised when you run into them somewhere? I think it's easy, in this particular social and technological context, to unreflectively come to value a certain kind of connectedness, including connectedness to The Philosophical Community. For me, that hasn't survived reflection. In fact, I suspect it's a harmful aspect of modern culture.

Rob Hughes

I deleted my Facebook profile about a year ago. From a professional point of view, this was an easy choice.

The productivity gains from eliminating a source of procrastination outweigh whatever networking benefits I might have gotten from staying on the platform. It wasn't even a good form of procrastination! My Facebook feed was often entertaining, but there were a lot of anxiety-inducing posts. I don't need that.

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