When I started this blog back in 2018, it was because I’d become disgusted with Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed the extensive compromise of user data. I left Fb for a month, thinking I’d use this space to write about issues I found compelling as I withdrew from social media. But after a month, when I cross-posted a blog post on Fb, I was hooked again. As much as it might provoke glib dismissal, I deeply enjoy the platform: I really like keeping up with far-flung friends, as well as colleagues’ work. And I’m really there for the kiddo pics (furred, feathered, finned–you name it). And yet. With the recent revelations of Fb’s cozy relationships with Republican operatives (including my Senator, the noxious Lindsey Graham), as well as their refusal to take down political advertising containing false claims, I’m leaving once again. This time I’m leaving in a different fashion, in an experiment in rehabituation. For the next while, I’m going to blog about things I’m working on in a rather casual fashion (with an occasional long post x-posted on Arcade). I will cross-post on Fb and twitter, but I’m going to try to stay off social media for the most part (not looking to learn another platform). In one sense, I’m going to be the most annoying social media user ever: the person who posts stuff but who pays little to no attention to the posts of others. Apologies in advance for the selfishness, but also know that this is me struggling to break free from a platform that uses my affection for you all for profit–to amass wealth and power for itself, but also to benefit political entities and activities that are reprehensible to me. For the next few days you’ll see me posting about my developing book project, Feminism Without Gender in Late Medieval Literature, and my current reading and thinking about Thomas Hoccleve’s The Seriesas this fifteenth-century multi-genre compilation might serve as a test case for my emerging claims. I’m on sabbatical, and my thoughts are very free-wheeling at present. As a consequence, these will not be fully-formed arguments, and I welcome input and discussion about the direction I’m taking this work. If this bugs the crap out of you, mute me, unfriend me, or do what you have to do.
So, here I am. We all knew, and have known almost from the beginning, that Facebook runs on a business model designed to peddle the personal data of users to those who are willing to pay. I was an avid user of Fb, so I always counted myself as complicit in the system that was surveilling me. That said, the fact that third-party apps accessed users’ data without permission, and then transferred that data to political consultants who worked for clients seeking to sway elections in Britain and the U.S., is totally unacceptable. When the conservative Financial Times asks, “Should not everyone who cares about civil society simply quit Facebook?” my answer is “yes.”
My departure is not part of the quit-lit genre that allows me to tell you how awesome my life is post-Fb. I miss my friends on that network, and I’ll be sorry not to keep up with the folks I’d re/contacted through that social media platform. Even so, Fb’s reaction to this crisis has been wholly inadequate, and I’m not willing to participate in its present structure. At the end of the day, it is not that complicated: I’m out.
In leaving, though, I’m trying to make something new, something I’ve been meaning to make for quite some time. This site is part of an intellectual and creative pursuit: it will be experimental, provisional, and hopefully stimulating. I welcome engagement, but I also want to acknowledge that this site is exploratory, and I will never claim to have all the answers to the questions I raise.
Some of those questions will be difficult, awkward, and just plain “wrong.” I plan to tackle issues of racism, regionalism, feminism, and class-bias in academia. All of this I hope to do while thinking through many of the literary texts I research, teach, and love. Let’s see how it goes…
Thanks for joining me!