On the advantages of quitting social media

Why I left Twitter and Facebook, and you might want to consider doing the same

by Massimo Pigliucci

Until recently, I was very active on Twitter and Facebook, sporting a somewhat enviable (my publicists tell me) following of about 50 thousand on Twitter and regularly participating to a popular forum on Stoicism, with 100 thousand members, on Facebook. Then I suddenly quit both. Or so it seemed from the outside.

In reality my decision to leave those virtual spaces had been a long way in coming, and had matured as part of my philosophy of life practice, which these days I think of as a type of skeptically grounded Stoicism. Stoicism teaches that the chief good in life is one’s integrity of character or, in an alternative formulation largely due to Epictetus, one’s sound judgment (“prohairesis”). Everything else, certainly including one’s number of followers or “friends” on social media, is at best a preferred “indifferent,” meaning that it may have value, but it doesn’t affect our character or judgment.

Or so I thought. You see, I always considered (most of) technology to be morally neutral. Sure, atomic bombs are very bad and vaccines are very good, other things being equal. But the good or bad that derives from much technology lies in how we use it, not in the tech itself. … (continue on Medium)


  1. I have taken occasional timeouts from Twitter, and even more, from Facebook, before, and am eyeing another one from Facebook. And, being exactly the same age, by years at least, perhaps we’ll go beyond those 79. That said, my dad died before that from one of the more ugly ways to die outside cancer — COPD. I can tell people why they should quit smoking.

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  2. I was at my dad’s house the night he died. I could tell, when his wife (late adult remarriage) woke me up in the morning to say he’d died, it looked like he had been struggling for one last breath and just couldn’t get it. He was on supplemental oxygen and still couldn’t quit and stay quit of cigarettes.
    And, being a good conservative Lutheran pastor? I saw some of his journaling on a legal pad. Kicking himself for “sinfulness” over this.
    Had I not been a pastor’s son, and the psychology of “deconversion” during seminary been hard, I might have done the Ehrman route and gotten a PhD, but … I was “dyed in the wool” on family belief systems and just couldn’t go through with it. (I was a classmate of Jeff Kloha at Concordia-St. Louis, who’s now the director of Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible and trying to clean up some of their worst stench while still being a semi-fundamentalist Lutheran.)

    On the social media? I’m also on MeWe. Somebody (I don’t know who) gathered up the “floor sweepings” after Google shut down Google Plus a few years ago and made it into a new site.

    I’ve long lamented that Mozilla, of the Firefox browser and affiliated with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, never did a social media site with Mozilla/EFF privacy standards. I think they blew a big opportunity.

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  3. Hi Massimo,
    I completely agree with your points and have done the same. I also did this with Whatsapp. I summarily abandoned the platform and opened a Telegram account instead, without notice or explanation. This proved to be a marvellous filter as only the people who cared followed me onto Telegram. Ahh, peace of mind.

    We are tool using animals. We use tools to shape the world and in turn our tools shape ourselves, and therein lies the problem. That is because they have the potential to enable the unhealthy and undesirable motivations that lie in ourselves.

    Now if the tool I am using is a chisel on a sculpture, mostly I will put it to good use and rarely, if ever, use it to attack a fellow human being. But the gun I use for hunting is a different story altogether. The savage gratification of this use enables everything that is worst in me. To control and restrain these impulses is a severe test of character.

    The social media have become the virtual gun to the head of society which lacks the character to restrain its use to good ends.

    Then there is the question of declining social capital, so well described by Robert Putnam in his book ‘Bowling Alone’. The social media contribute little to social capital but they enable our withdrawal from physical social life, contributing to the alarming decline in social capital.

    Keep well Massimo, I remain your admirer,
    Peter (aka Labnut)

    Liked by 1 person


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