Slacktivism and why I quit facebook

Two months ago I quit Facebook. Why? Primarily it took too much of my time and brought too little benefit. Whenever my mind wandered from the task at hand I would go to Facebook, peruse the news feed or look at some photos. Of course, a reasonable person would have been able to control himself, but I could not.

I considered quitting for some time, but had hesitated for fear of lost friends, missed business opportunities, and a reduced influence among my peers. The decision was tough, but I took the plunge. Two months out, I have little desire to go back. Since quitting, I now stay more in touch with people I care about. Personal emails, phone calls, postcards and visits have replaced photo albums, likes and comments. Am I in touch with less people? Yes. But the people I am in touch with I feel closer to. The problem with online communities is that you are online.

I still love the internet and everything it has to offer, but sites like Facebook and the online petition site¬†Avaaz.org allow you to feel like you are doing something concrete, when all you are doing is posting comments and emails. This is the essence of slacktivism, the mix of slacking and activism – where you pose meaningless actions that take no sacrifice or effort, but feel good because you are supporting a worthy cause (i.e. cancer ristbands, save Darfur petitions, greenpeace blog post,…). As previously discussed, to revolt against something requires sacrifice, the less sacrifice, the less impact. Can emails and comments lead to something concrete, perhaps, but they are not very tangible to the people who need our help.

To make a difference, you need to see and talk to people in person, you need to mobilize and organize. Sitting in front of a computer, as I am doing now, accomplishes nothing but self aggrandisement. So, with this post, I commit myself to more citizen action and a greater contribution to the society around me – the offline one.

Now, my next online habit to kick is HackerNews, way too much time there as well.

P.S. Having hundreds of friends online does not mean anything, they are not really your friends and you cannot count on them in tough times, which is the definition of a friend if you ask me.¬†This wired article describes how social networks break-down beyond a certain size. Studies demonstrate the human brain is limited to friendship with 150 people, beyond that we start to lose that sense of “connection” with the other person, in essence they are no long part of our community.

Published on April 16, 2010