Type 'meta' or 'social media' into any reputable stock photo site, and you'll see so many people joyfully staring at their phones or enjoying their VR headsets, you'd think it was all completely harmless. Their happy digital lives are quite the contrast from reality. Because who could endure any more of what we've experienced over the last decade?
Amazingly, like many of you, it took a global pandemic and somewhat absurd video by Mark Zuckerberg on Meta to realise that whatever happens next, I'm doing all I can to extract myself from the digital world. Sure, I'll keep this blog. And I'll run my ventures online and main social accounts. But I'll do so with as much control and healthy boundaries as possible.
For instance, despite being a huge gamer, I don't yet own a VR headset. I don't want it. It's bad enough staring at a television screen. Neither do I want to continue an unhealthy relationship with my smartphone. I'm also taking steps to remove myself from social media or make the platforms I use for business more manageable and private. And I'm researching technology to see if I can live with a basic mobile phone, so I'm not tracked. I've got a long way to go.
I've yet to review apps like Strava, Google Maps (the most excellent of map products), Apple Fitness, Ring – tools and platforms that I feel really enhance my life. These I might save until next year, as it really is one step at a time.
I've got a few more jobs on my list before Christmas. Looking specifically at Meta, I'm currently in the process of "unfollowing" everyone on Instagram, although Meta is making life difficult. I keep getting blocked temporarily and have to wait patiently for the app to work again. Honestly, it's like they never want you to leave. My personal Instagram account was deactivated last week, and today I deleted it for good, having not missed it. WhatsApp is a bit of a problem, as it's the thing everyone still uses to communicate, and I don't want to cut myself off entirely. This is why I have Signal, too, and I often encourage friends and family to make the shift.
Of all the social networks, Facebook certainly feels like the worst. It's the most challenging to "control", as unfollowing people and deleting private messages alone involves so many hurdles, you can understand why so many don't bother to spring clean their feeds or inboxes.
But when Instagram announced that it was no longer a photo-sharing app, I think something in me clicked, and I realised I just couldn't be bothered with it anymore. You have to wonder if Facebook chose the right time to unleash these updates and re-brands, given that it's reminded so many of us why we've fallen out of love with it (not that I especially liked it in the first place). However, with engagement noticeably reduced and the pace of followers slowing down, it seems Instagram now has the same approach as Facebook.
And hey, I know! With my venture, I should be paying to access the same audience. But I don't trust Facebook, and I wouldn't say I like how it tracks people. Besides, the platform is now so gigantic that I'm not sure advertising offers the best value for money.
To conclude, I'm glad I listened to a wise friend ten years ago who said, build your own platform and email subscriber list. That's because we have no control over Facebook or any social media network. We don't know what they're going to do next. I'm not sure we can trust them when big data is so lucrative. And as a business owner, I'm not ashamed to admit that the whole online world makes me miserable. It's just too much to worry about and manage. I've done it for nearly 13 years, an unlucky number for some. And now I'm choosing a different path.
It's not quite goodbye to Meta yet. We've not fully broken up. It's still got its things at my house, and I'm waiting for the right time to have someone pick them up. I'll put up with Meta until I bravely remove my business accounts completely. That's the next big step. One that many individuals, freelancers and companies have already taken as, like me, they don't want to rely on Facebook, Google or marketing techniques that fuel surveillance capitalism. I want to be below the radar. Not just to protect my own privacy but others, too. What will 2022 bring? I really don't know, but I'm confident it won't involve Meta.