Breaking The Chains

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” — Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

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Unshackled from the chains that keep us locked in unhealthy and emotionally damaging patterns, we are able to soar to towering new heights. Once free from the spiritual and psychological poisons that blunt our senses, dull our personal relationships and erode our social skills; that steal our joy and our breath, we become like animals uncaged, let loose in the wild to once again stalk our dreams and engage the extant world around us. 

Never before in the history of humankind have we been more distracted from reality than we are presently. A great deal of humanity is strapped down in armchairs of satiation, restrained from living in the now by a digital straightjacket that – at first brush – appeared harmless and beneficial but upon further examination has reduced us to human antennas that soak up electronic signals sent from out there, signals that lead us further and further down the road to ruin; further from our true ourselves. 

We are living inside a colossus machine, an extraordinary labyrinth of lies and deception. From our television, to our computers, to our phones and other devices, we are being manipulated and tracked. Social media platforms of all stripes keep us tangled and tied so tightly to one another they are distorting reality and choking out individualism. Our heads are being hollowed out and garbage dumped in; our brains reprogrammed. If you’re saying to yourself, this all sounds like tinfoil-hat conspiracy stuff. You’re right, it does. But it’s not.

The decision to cut the digital cord began with Twitter more than a year ago. After watching the rampant silencing of conservative voices – and once it became clear the platform was nothing more than a leftist echo chamber for its owner and employees – the social site quickly lost its appeal. It was easy deleting Twitter. Other than enjoying the wisdom and humour of actor and political genius James Woods and updates from a few of my favourite musicians, I felt restrained by the platform’s character limit. 

Deleting YouTube was even easier. Once a place to watch and share videos of all kinds, the site became bogged down with too many advertisements. My goal was not monetization my content but to have a place where I could share it. It was only after I deleted the videos I’d posted over the years YouTube turned a heavy hand and also began censoring users who didn’t fall in line with the ideology of the platform. A pattern was emerging among the social media giants.

I removed Google (which happens to own YouTube) from my daily life a number of years ago when it became apparent they were bent on making intellectual content free (as long as they were making money from it). For songwriters and other creatives, Google is a bully and an enemy. The search engine, once useful, turned into an out of control monster, a beast in need of slaying. When tech companies become bigger and more powerful than governments, we’re in trouble. 

Not only does Google track users (have you ever searched a product on Google and immediately started seeing adds related to your search on other social sites?). Like Twitter and YouTube they also censor content that doesn’t follow a certain ideology. I began using DuckDuckGo.com and found it easier to find all kinds of content Google appears to block. So far DuckDuckGo.com is non-biased politically and they don’t contact trackers when you’re on their site. 

Facebook was a completely different story. Back in October, after the egregious censoring of conservatives leading up to the fraudulent American election, I announced on my personal and music pages that I would eventually be deleting my Facebook accounts and moving to Parler.com and Rumble.com. I wanted to give my friends on both Facebook pages the opportunity, if they so chose, to follow me on these other platforms.

It was not my intent then, nor is it now, to try and influence what sites anyone uses. For me, personally, it was time to leave Facebook. Not only for the reason I just mentioned, but because of what I saw as an unhealthy amount of negativity and outright propaganda on the site. Throughout my years on the social platform, I often found myself drawn into the vortex of negativity; I became a willing participant in it. Facebook is not a place for uniting people, it’s the exact opposite – it’s a place of division. 

While testifying before the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee in September of 2020, former director of monetization at Facebook Tim Kendall dropped this bombshell (his testimony os available in an article published by BusinessInsider.com on September 24): “Facebook built algorithms that have facilitated the spread of misinformation, encouraged divisive rhetoric and laid the groundwork for a ‘mental health crisis’.”

“We took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset,” Said Kendall (and also quoted by BusinessInsider.com). “The social media services that I and others have built over the past 15 years have served to tear people apart with alarming speed and intensity. At the very least, we have eroded our collective understanding – at worst, I fear we are pushing ourselves to the brink of a civil war.”

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has been calling for the government to break up the social platform for years. Said Hughes in a 2019 article, “The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech. There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.” He added, “The American government needs to do two things: Break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”

The fact that Facebook tracks and sells our information, and willingly turns it over to the government when asked, should be enough to scare people off, but most users don’t realize the stranglehold the social media giant has on their lives. Fewer read or understand Facebook’s terms of service. The social platform knows everything about you. Every post and photo you share, every comment you make, every private chat is saved and accessible by Facebook (and anyone they choose to share it with).

Years ago, during a harrowing stop at the American border – a story covered in an old blog from another site that deserves to be resurrected and reposted here (and will be in the not too distant future) – I was told straight out by the border Rambos interrogating me that they could check my Facebook. “Even the private messages you’ve deleted,” one of the wannabe tough guys playing good cop/bad cop informed me. 

I should have deleted my Facebook account then. But as Tim Kendall pointed out in his testimony, it’s addictive. Think about how much of your time Facebook consumes in a day, a week, a month. Sure it’s fun to keep in touch with friends, but most of the people on Facebook are not real friends to begin with. It’s a fake playground, full of plastic people who live for those little notifications in the upper righthand corner telling them someone liked their latest selfie or meme. 

During the American election I was very outspoken about the censorship of conservative posts and information (not to mention the obvious propaganda being spread by the leftist zealots at Facebook). I even shared what I felt was relevant information about the election and the effect the outcome could have not just on America, but on Canada and the rest of the world. I watched my friend numbers decline. There was a mass exodus of far left ‘friends’, one I gladly welcomed. 

When I pulled the plug, I still had a number of Liberal friends, but these are folks who ca think for themselves and have the ability to debate the important issues without taking it to a personal level. We don’t agree on many things, but we can still respect one another’s opinions. The interesting thing is this: my leftist friends who remained are friends in real life, the ones who deleted me were mostly people I’d never met, or had met only briefly in real life. 

To quote Adrain Norman: “If you truly had the moral high ground, would you need to prevent your opponents from speaking?” 

So the day finally came. I had given my friends (and fans on my music page) ample notice of my departure. I also offered contact information and ways to continue to follow me and my music. Some folks I’ve known in real life for years and decades were sent private messages. Everyone was offered the chance to sign up for my ToddSterlingMusic.com/Blog email list and given an email address. A few friends and fans took me up on my offer, most didn’t.

Like I said, most relationships on Facebook are fake; about as real as professional wrestling. What surprised me were the number of longtime friends who didn’t even bother answering my private messages. Facebook gives the illusion that it keeps us in contact with people from our past, but does it really? Honestly, the best way to keep in touch is by actual contact, you know, phone calls, in-person visits, etc.

It was tough for the first week after deleting my account. There was a lot of time to fill all of a sudden, but I’ve rediscovered my love for writing long letters (emails), and the importance of talking to those closest to me on the telephone. What a concept, using a phone as a phone – not for selfies (I have only taken a few selfies in my life, and I must confess, it felt weird, and I looked weird – maybe I look that way all the time!). 

The power big tech exerts over us is dangerous. Since my departure from Facebook, I find myself becoming more and more productive. Clearer of mind. I’m putting in more time on things that actually matter, not jumping down endless rabbit holes that go nowhere and steal my time. I’m back into writing on a near daily basis. I read more than I have in years. Time spent on the computer consists of more than scrolling through reams of propaganda, useless memes and selfies from narcissistic individuals who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire in real life. 

The concerted delisting and shutting down of Parler.com in mid January by Amazon (who hosted the platform), Apple, Google and a host of other tech bullies – for supposed violations that Twitter has allowed on its platform (also hosted by Amazon) for years – proves that the censorship of one side is out of control. Parler has launched a lawsuit against Amazon. I deleted my shopping account on Amazon as part of my personal purge, as well as my gmail accounts. 

I have also pulled my music from Apple and Amazon, not that this will in anyway harm these out of control tech tyrants, but I refuse to support any company that pushes it’s ideology and spreads misinformation on its platforms and prevents equal voice and rights to both sides. I certainly don’t feel comfortable making money (no matter how big or small the amount) selling my music through these platforms.

The ones celebrating this pathological censorship from leftist oligarchs may cheer now, but they won’t be cheering too loudly when the censors come for them. This is only the beginning. We are in a psychological battle, a war for our minds. There are more chains to be broken and more freedom to acquire, but leaving social media behind is one of the best things I’ve done for my mental and spiritual health in years. I’m ready to once again stalk my dreams and engage the extant world around me.

(January 2021)