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15 December 2019

Hello. You likely will never read this because you don't come here anymore. I decided to take a week off from anything Internet and it turned into a month or so. Tonight I came home from a dinner at the central mosque and I got back online.
I started cutting back my online life close to 2 years ago. I deleted all my Facebook stuff going back over more than a decade.

Then I deleted more places I was at. Finally I deleted most of my twitter stuff.

This was my last place on the nets.

I was early to online life with dial-up BBSs, relay mail, and text based services and then at the dawn of the WWW I started an early ISP. I thought it was going to be something it did not turn out to be.

Now a few large corporations control access and platforms and those platforms are easily manipulated by loosely coupled organizations and hostile governments.

Facebook is by far the worst but all the other platforms are terrible too.

I miss being part of small like minded groups but no one seems much into personal communication anymore and a lot of them say they do not want to be part of a community online. That is not why they use the Internet.

Way back when corporations controlled most communication using one to many platforms like TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. There were at least a few controls like fairness in coverage of political groups and controls on media ownership. Still a lot of groups did not have any real voice.

I was dumb enough to think that the Internet and the web would help change that with many to many opportunities.

Blogs and community blogs and other community web sites did grow and even thrive for a while but now seem dead. I never really got social media until one day I realized that social media is just one to many media for individuals and still controlled by big money.

People don't post to talk with others they post to tell other people something. All they want in return is likes and thumbs up and numbers.

Also social media makes it easy to spread things around that you likely would not do face to face. Just click like and or repost. I just got tired of it.

People I know and don't know would post jokes about immigrants and bullshit about refugees and casual misogyny and dumb religious stuff that uses stolen photos that do not accurately represent the people in those photos and garbage about how a person from Aleppo whose home was bombed and burned and ended up here gets $50000 a year from the government while your poor granny gets only $7200 and I just stopped.

A friend posted a fake quote from some famous figure and I messaged her and pointed out that the quote was from someone else. She was very upset that I had ruined her day pointing this out. She had posted it because "it made me feel good". Damn.

I was so blind to that. Governments are gaming the platforms and so are trolls and bad actors like racists and people just in it for money but for many of us all those bad and false things are posted and liked just because it makes us feel good.

'Mom is struggling and so are we and can I ever hope to pay for the kids education and hey fuck those fucking refugees taking advantage of us even if it's not true it makes me feel good to like that post.'

So the evening I had that revelation I just deleted my Facebook presence and never went back. (Actually I did go back after about 5 months just to see if I had any messages or anything and nothing had happened. I just disappeared and none of my 'friends' even noticed). So no real cost to me.

I used to post music here a lot and at Halloween this year I was going to post a Youtube playlist of 20 or so songs. Every year lists of Halloween songs go up and the same few songs are on most of them. I put together a list that I felt was in the spirit of the holiday but was likely stuff you hadn't heard before. I wrote the post and then asked myself why? and did not post it.

Back in July I spent a few hours on a Sunday putting together a list of Christmas songs to post through the month of December like I have done before But as I said I dropped out for a while.

I have since 1997 taken breaks for a bit. Sometimes a few weeks to a few months. But those times were different. I quit looking at anything where I could participate or comment but still looked at other things and communicated with people.

This time I quit it all. I have already quit all places where I could post or reply so I decided to give it all up. No news, no long form reading, no streaming video, no music, no email. No Internet at all (except for VoIP phone line).

I had planed a week but it just got longer. The one odd thing I have noticed is that with no Internet my days seem to fly by much quicker. It is 8 in the morning and then suddenly it is 2 in the morning and I can't believe how quickly the day went. The other odd thing is that my already low TV viewing time has dwindled to nothing.

In 1998 because of the number of people I talked with and worked with over the Internet I put together a list of people my wife could contact if something happened to me. I updated it every year or so until about 2016. I deleted it more than a year ago. I have gone from early adopter and heavy user to someone who really has no need for the Internet.

Metachat is/was my last home online but most everyone has gone. It was fun and if you were here to read this I would say thanks to you. Even the few I did not like very much.

Life goes on and we have had some deaths in the family and we have 2 new cats and a lot of other stuff so little else is different.

Be well long gone friends.
posted by arse_hat 15 December | 02:28
Shit I just realized I have to finish deleting Twitter and that dream-width thing and Linked in and a few more.
posted by arse_hat 15 December | 02:38
I hear you. I know in my gut I need to drastically cut-back on my online presence, and I don't have nearly the presence you used to. I have Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts, but they're more like placeholders than anything. I never use them unless I absolutely have to (like, when I need to know about something in our neighborhood because everything goes through the neighborhood FB page.)

Still, the online world is such a worthless time sink. I "work" from home, so it's almost a given that I am mindlessly online a huge part of the day. It's frightening how much time passes without being aware of it. I know being online is a huge contributor to so much of what's wrong with me, in terms of my mental health and general opinion of myself. I need to make art again. I know it. My friends know it. My loved ones know it. It's just a matter of finding the courage inside me to start again. *sigh*

I hope you find the peace you seek, arse_hat.
posted by Thorzdad 15 December | 06:31
I haven't posted here for years, but I still check in here nearly daily to see if there is anything new. I enjoy reading the stories from familiar old usernames. If weeks go by with no new posts, that's OK. My internet habits calcified years ago, and metachat is in my list of bookmarks I check while having my morning coffee. There's probably others who do the same. Or maybe its only me. I wonder what the site's visitor logs would show.

This is just to say the posts here are not unread. I like the little personal stories. And pics. More pics.
posted by DarkForest 15 December | 09:33
I check in here most days too and I should post more, to help keep this random little group going.

I'm on Twitter but rarely use it because I don't know how to follow conversations and it all seems so random and confusing. But I find Facebook useful because most of my friends are in the USA. I'm careful about what I post, I don't get into arguments with people, and the groups I'm on are special interest groups with like-minded people. Sometimes someone will show their true colours and then they're blocked from my newsfeed.

I work mostly from home now, so I need to make more effort to have a life outside the house. It's too easy to get sucked into the net.

I've missed your music, arse_hat.
posted by Senyar 15 December | 19:14
Thorzdad and Senyar, it is amazing how many hours I can be looking at a screen and doing almost nothing and learning almost nothing.

Senyar I was also careful of who I followed but it got very disappointing to see people I had known for many years post some nasty stuff and then be unable to discuss it. I tried unfollowing them but had to move to blocking them as you do.

I know what you mean about following groups with a common interest and I find it almost impossible to follow local music, dance, theatre, and almost anything local without FB. FB has taken the place of TV, radio, daily and weekly papers and also of almost all other online sources. Even phone and text. 'oh just check our FB page!'

It is hard not to follow all that but after three elections here and two in the US and two in the UK and that referendum I just don't feel right supporting those big platforms anymore. The manipulation is undeniable.

I am sad that I miss things like finding out you had a new cat. It was six months or more before I found out.

Still, the fact that I erase myself from online spaces and no one even notices tells me I haven't really lost out on a lot.

DarkForest, it is cool to see your name again. I hope you are well. Maybe I'll write about cats and post some pictures.
posted by arse_hat 15 December | 22:49
Oh and Thorzdad I hope you find your way back to art or even something else that brings you a sense of accomplishment. My younger son died more than a decade ago but much of my life has been just a sort of drift since then. I need to find a path.
posted by arse_hat 15 December | 22:54
Still, the fact that I erase myself from online spaces and no one even notices tells me I haven't really lost out on a lot.

You know, that's not necessarily true. I put food out for the fox who visits me and when I do, every single time I think about you feeding the stray cats and how they've come to trust you. And from time to time, I remember that you lost your son, and wonder if that wound will ever heal. No-one can tell how they impact on someone else's life, in ways they'll never know.
posted by Senyar 16 December | 05:43
Hey arsey, thanks for coming back.

I still meander through here every week or two to see if anything's going on. And I think of you all often, really often. In my memory, this site is kind of like a fun local pub or coffee shop, a place where I met a lot of people and still think fondly of them, even if they don't come by any more.

Lipstick Thespian and I were just having a reflective conversation a lot like this on Friday night. We were both of the mind that quality of life was probably actually better before the internet. That's not to say I haven't derived a tremendous amount of value on the internet, and met people I wouldn't otherwise have met (my husband included). At the same time, in the grand scheme, when we didn't have the internet we met other people in other ways - it's not like without it, we would meet no people and make no friends. We'd just have a different mechanism.

The thing the internet has done has been make it easier to find like-minded people and people with similar interests. It gives a lot of oxygen to niche communities. That has both good and bad effects - now it's easy to find people into your weird interest or favorite author or whatever, and before we had it, those kinds of things were a bit isolating, as often people around you didn't understand or care about the same stuff. It's good because it allows people to connect in new ways and wihout regard to geography; it's a great way to find people you like when most of what surrounds you is shitty and bad for you. But it's also what allows stupid ideas to proliferate and people to get together and do shitty things like build a functioning racist right.

When I think back to the 90s, though, so much was better about mental, emotional and social life. It was possible to be really and completely present everywhere you were. My mind was a lot clearer. Of course I was younger too. I journaled a lot and did a lot more creative stuff. I was comfortable being alone with thoughts and used downtime to daydream and think about plans and ideas. Having a phone in my pocket with internet killed that.

As far as the various media - I get some value out of them. Facebook I would throw off a cliff except for one thing: it's now the only way to find out about events. I'm active in all kinds of things and it has successfully become the replacement for every newspaper event listing, calendar, newsletter, etc. Things get posted on FB and if you didn't see them, tough luck. For both my professional and personal reasons, I want to know what's going on out there, and FB has channeled this game. I wish there were somewhere else to get a comprehensive look at what's happening in arts, culture, neighborhood. There's not.

As far as Twitter, I've used it exclusively to follow my professional community and stay engaged in the fieldwide discussion. I actually get a lot out of that, and some of the important movements and ideas in the field have circulated through Twitter, because we're all geographically spread out and pressed for time. Even when blogging was popular, people in my fiel really never could find time to sit down and write blog entries. Twitter enables a real conversation, so I don't hate it.

LinkedIn I have to be on for work too. Instagram I enjoy because I like to take photos and it gives me something to do with them.

So in terms of the value derived vs. attention commanded, social media comes in pretty low. But it's what we do. I don't think the tide will turn back but I do think something will eventually eclipse FB.

Anyway, I still hang out here and would be happy if conversation got more robust. We'll see.
posted by Miko 16 December | 07:59
I have wondered how LT has been. He beat me to leaving FB.

Yeah, I have just given up on most local events and local businesses. If FB is the main or only method for you to get info out I am just not going to see it.

The work thing is an issue but again if Twitter or FB is the only way folks are communicating then I'm not seeing it.

I am toying with the idea of setting up fake personae for following some things but haven't made up my mind on that yet.

Also some potential employers want to see your social media presence before an interview. You are welcome to look but it will just be blank profiles.

I really stopped using Linked in when they added open networking. It just become recruiter spam. People shotgun notes out to thousands of people with profiles that only marginally meet the job criteria. Those sort of recruiters don't really work to get you a good deal. They just churn and burn. As for my contacts, anyone who really matters to me connects with me by phone and email so Linked really lost any utility to me.

And I agree with you about the beauty of connecting to niche communities but if that is on FB or Twitter or any of the other major platforms I don't want it so I guess I just step away. Places like this are never coming back and FB and Alphabet and Diznee in the virtual world and Amazon in the physical are going to be the arbiters of things for the next 50 years or so.

Anyway, it's cool to chat with you guys for a bit.
posted by arse_hat 17 December | 23:07
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