We All Need Pellets!

Rat Eating by jarleeknes

We Disconnect: To Reconnect #3

This edition of We Disconnect: To Reconnect is going out a bit later than I initially planned. I think 7 am-ish may fit my life a bit better for Sunday morning distribution since I can’t schedule a send time on Tiny Letter.

Plus today I had to get up early to finish putting things together. Oh I suffer so!

We All Need Pellets!

Disconnecting from social media seems to be a big topic. A lot of folks feel like they’re on social media platforms way too much for their own good. Some even feel like addicts.

Solutions include apps to keep one off social media while online, social media vacations and periodic destruction of one’s social media accounts.

This seems particularly true for Facebook though I see the same things said and done with Twitter. For my part, though Twitter has occasionally been a problem, Facebook is the network with which I have the most complicated relationship.

Facebook can be a powerful yet disconcerting platform for connecting with others. In one sense or another everyone is there even those that aren’t. They always know about Facebook and they have a reason for not being there.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Facebook for a number of years after refusing to join for quite some time.

I’ve killed an account, made an account under an alias and come back to a real name account.

I’ve gotten back in touch with old friends and made new ones.

I’ve learned a lot about the people I know and what they’re up to wherever they may be.

I’ve publicized a variety of projects and found out about many others.

I’ve done business on Facebook.

I’ve met potential dates.

And I’ve also destroyed some relationships along the way.

But the one thread that unites all these connections and disconnections is that of pellets.

My friend Jeb Bishop, among other things a renowned improvisational jazz trombonist, calls all the little reinforcements such as likes and emoji responses “pellets.” I’m not sure how far he’d push the concept but I would include reposts and comments as well.

Of course Jeb’s use of the term pellets comes from lab experiments with rats that are given pellets as rewards to reinforce behavior. Same thing with dog treats.

In the case of humans, signs of positive response from other humans are powerful pellets. At least some of them set off biochemical responses causing a dopamine hit in the brain.

When combined with such features as desktop and mobile notifications, sometimes called “hooks,” a powerful cycle of checking for hooks that lead to pellets results and one is drawn deeper into a compulsively repetitive process that helps feed the social network.

Facebook rewards this activity by pushing highly pelleted posts higher in your feed.

For some of you, dear readers, the term pellets may seem to trivialize a manipulative process designed to turn our lives into monetizable content but the idea has been powerful for me.

It’s helped me recognize what’s going on and get a bit of a chuckle out of it. Which is good. Seeing something funny keeps the game from being an overly oppressive surveillance nightmare and allows one a bit of room to figure out how to break free.

Since the election cycle I’ve found it easier to stay away from Facebook and reduce my usage to checking occasionally for pellets in the site’s notifications and then browsing a handful of posts in my feed.

The truth is, though I do need to spend less time on nonessential activities, I didn’t make a heroic break from an oppressive system.

The truth is I’m just not getting the pellets I need to be deeply immersed in Facebook.

The truth is that’s become a blessing in disguise.

The truth is we all need pellets so I’m heading to where there are much better pellets to be had!

Featured App:
Freedom blocks distracting websites and apps

“Use Freedom to block distractions so you can break your digital habits.
Block what you want, when you want, and remember what freedom feels like.”

Why Use Freedom?

“It’s easy to say ‘just turn it off’ or ‘just quit it’, but research shows that it’s not at all easy to do. Our brains crave the rewards triggered by digital distractions – the tiny hits of dopamine that keep us checking, responding, nibbling away.”

You Don’t Have A Facebook Account?
Beware, Tech Abandoners. People Without Facebook Accounts Are ‘Suspicious.’
Kashmir Hill

“The idea that a Facebook resister is a potential mass murderer, flaky employee, and/or person who struggles with fidelity is obviously flawed. There are people who choose not to be Facebookers for myriad non-psychopathic reasons: because they find it too addictive, or because they hold their privacy dear, or because they don’t actually want to know what their old high school buddies are up to. My own boyfriend isn’t on Facebook and I don’t hold it against him (too much).”

“But it does seem that increasingly, it’s expected that everyone is on Facebook in some capacity, and that a negative assumption is starting to arise about those who reject the Big Blue Giant’s siren call.”

But How Do You Keep Up With Your Friends?
On Facebook: Why won’t the company let us truly filter our feeds?
John Battelle

“Taken together, the Facebook newsfeed is a place that I’ve decided isn’t worth the time it demands to truly be useful. I know, I could invest the time to mute this and like that, and perhaps Facebook’s great algos would deliver me a better feed. But I don’t, and I feel alone in this determination. And lately it’s begun to seriously fuck up my relationships with important people in my life, namely, my…true friends.”

“I won’t go into details (it’s personal, after all), but suffice to say I’ve missed some pretty important events in my friends’ lives because everyone else is paying attention to Facebook, but I am not. As a result, I’ve come off looking like an asshole. No, wait, let me rephrase that. I have become an actual asshole, because the definition of an asshole is someone who puts themself above others, and by not paying attention to Facebook, that’s what I’ve done.”

The Time Sucking Obligation
Rand Fishkin on Twitter

“Nailed it @johnbattelle. Re: Facebook, I’m both afraid of the time suck & unwilling to subject myself to the obligation of the feed.”

Here’s One Solution
Quitting Facebook For 99 Days: An Experiment In Digital Happiness
Selena Larson

“Part of the reason I couldn’t quit was because Facebook provided a way to connect with friends in my former community and other parts of the world I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Even though my news feed was overrun with noise, it was still a vital tool for communication among different friend groups. Eventually, instead of quitting altogether, I unfriended the people who were ruining the experience for me. Now, Facebook really is a place for friends, and I spend a lot less time scrolling through status updates.”

Key Point
How To Beat Facebook Addiction
KeriLynn Engel

“Facebook can get in the way of real life. Rather than ‘like’ an event in someone’s life, BE a part of their life.”

[Originally published at We Disconnect on May 24, 2017]