• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >

Cutting the connection with social media

By Monday, Jun 24, 2019 Letters 16

To the editor:

I left social media behind after reading “Life without Facebook: Deleting my account” by Deborah Golden Alecson here on The Berkshire Edge. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… if you don’t have an account in these social media networks you have at least heard of them an infinite number of times over the last several years. Social media is made up of web sites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Social media is a relatively new term, at least to me. I started learning computers in an era when dial-up bulletin board systems (or BBS’s) were the first form of “social media” before the term was even devised.

I had hosted my own BBS for a while which had three phone lines, two to dial in and one to dial out, and my BBS was connected with a few other BBS’s along the eastern seaboard. We had a text adventure networked called “LORD: Legend Of the Red Dragon,” along with the standard message and file sharing systems built in, of course. The endless hours spent in that world were a blast for a geek like me! Back then my friends were jealous of my 52 Kbps dial-up connections, unheard of in my neck of the woods.

Not long after BBS’s came Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and instant messaging. Both accompanied the World Wide Web that is the still-living ancestor of the Internet that we use today. It was WWW that put the final nail in the coffin for BBS’s around the globe; sure, a number of BBS platforms became web-based like WildCat and CompuServe. Some are still alive today, like the messy ad-filled AOL Desktop Gold browser.

For me, the BBS years were the real “social media” years. People were more personally interactive back then, weighing in with more person-to-person messages and emails, versus today’s blasting of worthless statements and overused images to millions of strangers. To see our online world evolve from valuable online interactions into a blizzard of ridiculously publicized chaos is more than disheartening to me.

My first experience with “modern” social media, as most of you would define it, was with MySpace… in its infancy it was actually quite an interesting place to hang out and to share and chat with people, until it became overly commercialized, saturated with porn, malware and other filth. At that point it was no better than a run-down bar after 1 a.m., and I happily left MySpace before it disintegrated. Facebook captured the same key ideas that MySpace was originally based on, except Zuckerberg basically stole the ideas from his own friends, at least according to the “documentary” film I vaguely remember.

A fairly common pattern that I see with social networks is that people get really excited and overjoyed when they first join a network, first befriending their friends, then their friends’ friends, and finally plenty of strangers they don’t even know. After a while, people get tired of seeing creepy and socially-awkward posts that people they hardly know have showing up in their news feeds, so they quietly de-friend them. Then, people will stick with a core group of peeps for quite a while, lazily scrolling through what everyone else is posting and sharing until they nod off before bed. People end up getting bored and even irritated with their social networks… to the point where they feel obligated to keep an account just so they can try and keep in touch with a bunch of people whom they cannot (or will not) contact via email or phone. And finally, some people (myself included) give up and pull the plug, deleting their accounts.

Since I am in business for myself, I of course had to have at least a presence in the major social media networks, but over the last few years my participation in them has been next to nothing, other than syndicating my own news updates. With so many real-world responsibilities in my personal life and trying to survive self-employment, I have hit a point in my life where I have little time to use any of my computers for entertainment purposes, other than maybe streaming old sitcoms to doze off. When you no longer have time for social media and you lose interest in it, you finally realize how much of your life it has wasted once you step outside the box and see it for what it really is… a huge waste of time, electricity, and bandwidth!

Despite leaving Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn I’ll still be burning the midnight oil on computers… after all, it’s hard to avoid when you’re fixing Windows PCs for a living. But those hours are almost exclusively spent on emailing clients, invoicing, finances, deposits, taxes, browsing endless PC news articles and self-education to stay fluid… all of the enjoyable aspects of being your own boss. I still have a random thought on occasion of logging on to my YouTube channel but never get around to it… maybe someday I will. Until then I think I’ll be focusing more on trying to be a better husband and father than wasting my life away on social networks; I thank Deborah Golden Alecson for inspiring me to quit!

Arthur Dellea