A wise man once said: “Enough is enough. Shit, or get off the pot.”
Facebook is the communal toilet of modern society, and I’ve finally decided it’s time for me to park one last brick on it, then say my goodbye. Read on if you want to know more, but that’s the meat of the post.
The primary guiding principle of my life is to try not to be an asshole, then to make choices that do more good than harm. I want the world, overall, to be a better place because I was here. I know I won’t save a million lives, but if I can make more people smile than I make frown, save more animals than I harm, plant more trees than I cut, then I think I’ll be doing right for those who follow.
Facebook violates my guiding principle. It does more harm than good. My using it does me more harm than good.
I’ve been on Facebook for 12 years. I’m a notorious early adopter. I tend to jump onto services and products early in their life cycles. Usually, my interest in something is a sure-fire predictor that it’s a product that, while interesting, won’t resonate with consumers and will fail. Examples include my love of the original Microsoft Surface, the Zune, the Sega Genesis (which was great but soundly trounced by the Super Nintendo when it came out), and many others. Sometimes I guess correctly, like I did with Fitbit, Android, or Twitter. The jury’s still out on Oculus VR (yeah, I know who owns them. I’m still working through that.) Sometimes I’m wrong and it takes a long time for it to become clear why.
I was wrong about Facebook. I thought it would be a tool that would help people stay in touch, learn more about each other, and creep on each other’s profiles unobtrusively.
It’s actually turned into a hydra that’s tearing apart the very fabric of society itself. The fact that it’s an unintended side effect is irrelevant. Our dopamine-hungry brains aren’t wired and our food- and resource-based societal structures aren’t built to handle the constant barrage of personal (mis)information blasted out of Facebook’s many orifices.
To be clear: I know this isn’t a Facebook-specific problem. It’s a human one. But Facebook is the big daddy; they’re the ones doing the most harm in the mindless pursuit of shareholder happiness and growth, and they’re the ones whose services I am breaking with this evening.
Facebook has a long list of privacy violations. I think you’d be a fool to not believe there are far worse skeletons in its closet that haven’t been discovered yet, but even the skeletons we know about are hideous.
- It willfully allows hate speech to spread, even when it’s provably led to genocidal attacks.
- It allows farms of state-sponsored malicious users to create troll accounts to spread misinformation and division.
- It allows anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy nuts to peddle their snake-essential-oil with no thought to the ruinous effect on society’s ability to critically evaluate information.
- It harvested email contacts by demanding people surrender their email credentials to continue using the service.
- It harvested call and SMS data from users without consent in an especially flagrant violation of its own terms and policies, as well as the law.
- It allowed a firm to knowingly harvest zounds of information from users who never consented, which then sold that information to people who used it indiscriminately against Facebook’s terms and policies, as well as the law.
- When each of these things broke into public view, Facebook denied them before being forced to admit that they knew, typically for months or years, and did nothing.
- And so much more!
It’s an endless list of numbing shame. Type “Facebook” followed by something horrible into your preferred search engine and you’ll probably get results. Don’t try it with pedo stuff. Seriously.
In a world where the average Joe or Jane can’t distinguish between a real post and a fake one and technology has reached a point where you can use AI to create video of any person saying anything you want, what do we do? The only response is to leap from the platform itself and go back to basics. Against an enemy whose sole motive is engagement, the only weapon we have is to disengage.
Over the years, I curated my friends list from 400 down to 97 people, most of whom I’d term acquaintances or coworkers. Half or less are actually people I’d go have a beer with after work. I’m picky and introverted; sue me. I decided to read back over the last 1000 items in my Facebook news feed. Of that thousand items:
- 239 were sponsored. That’s 24% ads.
- 491 were from groups I’m a member of, posted by people I don’t know directly. Some of it was relevant or interesting. Most of it wasn’t. I have my groups curated to only show posts from a small handful that represent things I’m interested in. Just shy of 50% of the things I saw came from interest groups.
- 87 were things from Facebook suggesting new people or groups to look at and join or become friends with. 9% consisted of Facebook advertising itself to me, basically.
- 183 were actual posts by people on my friends list. Most of those were things they shared, rather than original content like a picture they took, or a blurb they wrote. 18.3% of the content was “real.”
18.3% of the content I saw was from people I know. That’s not a slam on my friends; they wrote and photographed and did a lot more than that 18.3% would lead you to believe. Facebook only let me see that 18.3% because that’s what the algorithm decided would result in my engagement.
I know that my experience is likely unique. I have a highly curated friends list. I only Like things I actually like and want to hear more about and I unfollow or hide things that are not relevant to me with savage regularity. My Facebook news feed is probably far more curated than the average user’s is. But even with everything I could to do minimize unwanted content, only 18.3% came from the people I want to see.
I could go to my friends’ pages and see all of their content, or change settings to make sure they all show up first together, but the ads will still run rampant, and the algorithms will still cut out a great deal of content in its blind need to drive my engagement profile up.
Facebook itself would continue to make money from my browsing and my viewing. It would continue to allow people to freely broadcast hate, fear, and misinformation to a global audience that’s ill-equipped to handle it. It would continue to silence discussion and promote a world where everyone lives in a pure bubble, safely surrounded by opinions and views they already agree with.
Facebook is a parasite that leeches the soul out of our stories to further bloat and enrich itself. We never needed Facebook to have adventures or share memories. With the number of other options out there (email, text, this website, postal service, you name it), there are a million ways you can share them with anyone you want without helping to tear society apart. They might be more involved, but things worth doing usually are. For me, living without Facebook is worth the extra effort.
I didn’t make the decision lightly. I looked over the past 12 years of my posts. So much has happened. We lost pets and got new ones. My mother died. Heather got pregnant and we lost our bun. We changed jobs. Heather launched a business. We clawed our way out of poverty and bought a home. We adventured across the continent. Heather saw Yellowstone for the first time. We witnessed a total solar eclipse that I’d waited 17 years for. (Someday, I’m going to finish that write up and post it.) I broke my leg and kept walking on it for 8 months. There are so many memories and moments of time captured in the thousands of pictures and posts I’ve shared on Facebook. How can I walk away from all of that history?
It’s easy, because it’s my history. It always was, and it always will be.
We’re done, Facebook. You don’t get to participate anymore.
If you read to the end, congratulations. You get a cookie. Come by the house and get it whenever you want. If you don’t know where we live, you can email [email protected] instead and we’ll see what we can work out.