Facebook is a Cancer. It Will Destroy Your Soul
Facebookers are living representations of Thoreau's most caustic insight into human nature: "The masses of men live lives of quiet desperation."
“The only people who have proof of their sanity are those who have been discharged from mental institutions.” —Marshall McLuhan
To save you time I’ll cut to the chase and share my motive in writing this article. It’s to embarrass you. People hate being humiliated. I learned this tactic from my Aries father, early on—that the best way to disarm someone and cut them down to size was to laugh in their face. Especially when you’re in the middle of an argument. Laughing at someone is a scathing way of humiliating them. My aim is to humiliate you and embarrass you and then get on with my day. I’m an equal opportunity sadist. If you’re up for that, read on:
HUMANKIND HAS ENGAGED in a battle with cancer since before the first Hippocratic oath. And despite modern medical ‘advances’ and new life expectancy statistics for those who are ‘living with the disease’, cancer has yet to be conquered.
Facebook is cancer’s latest iteration.
And, like any viral happening within technology, if you’re engaged with Facebook you are both carrier and victim. And like cancer, Facebook shows no signs of being defeated.
Facebook will kill you first rather than diminish its headcount by severing its umbilical that feeds off the hole in your soul.
I know, I know. The melodrama.
And yet it’s a fact. And worse: You know what I’m writing is true!
If you thought half of the American population was brain dead during Donald Trump’s presidency, you’ll be happy to know that if you’re an active ‘member’ of Facebook, you now belong to a similar pool of imbeciles. Or as Mark Zuckerberg considers you, as one of the ‘people’ within his autocracy.
(Good news! No more links will pepper this post.)
Nor any crossreferences to the scathing whistleblower revelations that dominate the current news cycle. Besides, you’ve seen or read all of that shit before. And you still don’t care.
The best you can do is put the onus on someone else by Tweeting or texting a link to this or that damning expose.
This appeases the part of your conscience that should be ‘worried’ or ‘alarmed’. This allows you to log into Facebook and start taking this morning’s array of quizzes—Name your favorite song from your high school prom. What’s the stupidest conversation you’ve ever had with your cat? Where is Anna Nicole Smith now?
No-brainer prediction: The only thing ‘new’ about the next dump of scathing Facebook disclosures will be how much worse they are than the previous batch.
But who cares? This cancer is electronic—and travels far and wide instantly. 2.9 billion monthly active users are infected. And it’s mutating. What’s one more (i.e., you) casualty?
Why aren’t we fazed by all of the forensics compiled by top-notch journalists and social critics? Why don’t we assert ourselves and return to our lives free of the compulsions—the narcissistic hunger, the voyeuristic need to spy and scan other people’s lives?
Our situation is similar to an oxycontin addict’s accrued tolerance to opiates. After COVID, Facebook is the second greatest global pandemic.
Modern technology has stranded human beings within the echo chambers of their need for engagement and recognition. These are human traits—drives actually—that psychologists define as the social, survival, and sexual instincts.
Technology has disrupted, distorted, and reframed these impulses. And given us, as a palliative, and in their place, social media. Or more specifically Facebook.
But again, you’ve heard all of this psychobabble before.
Your need to post that new baby pic outweighs the violation of your privacy and the destruction of democracies—present or future. And, oh, damn! Debbie’s aunt just passed away last night. Why don’t you post some emojis of a lit candle and a tiny angel (surely the aunt’s in heaven now). Debbie will know you’re busy—but still care.
Our compulsions to ignore the disasters wrought by social media are on par with our need to use electricity. We can’t stop turning lights on and off—and why should we? Facebook’s a utility too—or so we’re told. The truth: Facebook will never allow us to throw the switch.
Facebook cracked the code on quelling the deepest of human needs—to be seen, acknowledged, and feel like one’s life matters by broadcasting this or that about it.
And yet the more options the network offers us to ‘be seen’ the more invisible we feel. The more ‘connected’ we’re supposed to feel, the more distanced we are from one another. And the more disembodied, too.
This condition—the perpetual compulsion to post and share and like—reminds me of an ancient Indian teaching story about a dog that finds a dried-up old bone. Excitedly he begins chewing. But gets no results. He chews harder until his gums begin to bleed. Assuming he’s reached the bone’s juicy center he gnaws even harder and, well, there’s that batch of photos that your X just posted from his trip to Mexico with his new wife. Damn, the bitch is so skinny!
The other day while reading a story about a TikTok discovery—a guy that’s amassed 34 million followers by posting videos of himself cleaning swimming pools—I was initially charmed but then—in a heartbeat—horrified.
We are now so desperate for reminders of simple human acts that no longer involve our phones that we’ll watch a guy clean his swimming pool as a way to reorient us to our Homosapien baseline.
Over on YouTube, you can watch videos of a woman eating tuna sandwiches with a microphone placed against her cheek so the sounds of her chewing and swallowing are amplified to epic proportions.
Why does this woman have 4 million subscribers to her channel? Because eating is a universally relatable act of being human. The intimate sounds of her chewing and swallowing are akin to watching porn—always a crowd-pleaser.
The ‘tuna sandwich’ woman is another mascot for how desperate we’ve become in our super-connected isolation. Alone together—listening to a flesh and blood woman smacking on and consuming her lunch.
This isn’t good. If you can remind yourself: Please stop.
The Canadian media guru and prophet, Marshall McCluhan told us—way back in 1967 that:
“The electronic environment of information is an incubus. It settles upon the human sensorium like a fungus. It transforms every mode of our experience totally. This terrifies people. They prefer to forget.”
When Thoreau wrote that line in Walden about most humans living lives of quiet desperation he was advocating for the power he discovered by returning to solitude. The power of sovereignty, self-reliance, and dignity.
His moving away from the city was his way of renouncing the technology of the time—of escaping the same forces that, over time, forged a clusterfuck network like Facebook. Thoreau was the very first Mark Zuckerberg defriender.
As of a couple of months ago, I started using Facebook’s ‘memories’ function to incrementally, day by day, delete, post by post, my entire footprint on the network.
When I finally cut the cord, I will have left my entire feed a wasteland. Sure, I know the platform has all of my posts stored away in some underground salt mine in Utah.
But just on principle, I’ll be happy to know that—symbolically at least—I extricated myself thoroughly from the pitiful, quietly desperate, cancer-riddled realm.
A cancer survivor!
But where will I post my good news?
Screencap from When A Stranger Calls, 1979