This place sucks — Anonymous
Also, said nobody ever.
We’d vaguely heard Gautam John had quit. Facebook. Twitter. And also Instagram (owned by Facebook). John is the director of strategy at Nilekani Philanthropies, the not-for-profit foundation instituted by Rohini Nilekani. So, we reached out to him, with a simple ‘why?’ What happened?
“I quit Facebook first—I think I deleted my account just before the Indian elections,” he replies on email. “While the proximate cause was an utter mess of a newsfeed driven by the elections, it had been something I was toying with for a while. Facebook had long ceased to be a platform for friends and family alone. I had over 3,000 ‘friends’, if you can call them that.”
The ambient awareness of this many people, he says, together with the fact that he was addicted to the newsfeed and groups sent him into a downward spiral when it came to time spent on Facebook. And that was just one platform.
“I think I was staring at rock bottom when it came to social media and decided I needed less toxicity, algorithm-driven engagement and social disasters in my life. So I quit. Facebook doesn’t make it easy to quit—they are like a clingy ex that won’t let go and reminds you of all the good times we shared and forgetting the garbage fire that the relationship was,” he says.
John went on to abandon Twitter “when the Russian bots took over just during the US elections and when I realised I lived in an algorithmically created bubble.” The changes to the Twitter timeline from chronological to algorithmically sorted had also diminished its utility, he says, adding, “The final straw was when I realised that I had become reactive rather than considered in my responses. Twitter is very good at structuring conversations for immediate rebuttal rather than well-thought-out replies.”
And Instagram? “I deleted all followers and stopped following anyone I did not have a real-life relationship with and deleted the app. Oh. I also took my account private because I post the occasional picture of my family. I only use it via the desktop browser.”
The point of this article is, you could be John.
Or you would like to be him. But don’t know how. Not yet.
And then there is a secondary point for this piece to exist. That is, John isn’t alone.
The BUMMER world
Jaron Lanier has been a part of the Internet long enough to actually understand how it works. A computer programmer, in the 1980s, Lanier was working towards making virtual reality less virtual and more of a reality. He got some distance and is now widely known as the father of virtual reality.