We must accept social media is media. And it’s gone off the rails.
I am a big fan of voting with my wallet. Unfortunately, we don’t pay directly for Facebook. We pay for Facebook by using it—its advertisers depend on us checking it many times daily. The more we check it, the more money Facebook makes. As such, I am withdrawing from regularly using Facebook, and encourage others to consider doing the same.
Why I am (mostly) leaving
There are many such reasons to consider this action, such as:
The reverb chamber: Facebook’s promotes items that are “liked”, reinforcing groupthink among your friends while drowning out items that are not popular. Inherently, we also only see things from our friends, so we are not aware of viewpoints from people outside our social circle.
Use of Facebook as an actual news feed: the reverb chamber effect is probably fine for your vacation photos, but it is harmful given so many people have come to rely on it for their source of news.
Fake news: pizzagate proves fake news itself needs real attention beyond social media corporations. But Facebook itself should be at the forefront of this correction. Without the reverb chamber, fake news would not have a foothold on real life.
The network effect: Messenger, Groups, and Events are useful tools, but we should not be so reliant on these technologies to force others to this platform, particularly when it has so many other faults.
Only the News Feed matters to Facebook: Facebook itself is great at pushing us the news feed (that’s how they make money), but most other Facebook functions are frustratingly complex. Tuning notification preferences, modifying your privacy settings (especially for previously posted content), or removing that content altogether is difficult. It’s bad software, and we shouldn’t use it.
Privacy and inability to opt-out: Opting out of Facebook entirely is impossible, as Facebook will build a profile about you whether you use it or not. This is absolutely unacceptable.
The time we spend: Facebook thrives on us using it constantly, and that means tons of time wasted scrolling through its news updates. I am repurposing that time for better purposes—real news, periodicals, books, podcasts, writing, exercise, etc. (Just kidding, I am checking Twitter instead.)
Yet I am still here
All that said, I am not yet inclined to fully remove my account but I am on the fence. For all its faults, Facebook would be fine if curtailed to its original intended use cases.
Sharing photos and family updates
Using Facebook as a social graph
Related social tools like Messenger, Groups, and Events (though these have their own faults)
Genuine grassroots efforts
So what am I actually doing?
I have uninstalled the Facebook app (but not Messenger)
I do not receive any Facebook notifications through any medium (though Messenger is excluded–for now)
I ocassionally check Facebook via the web interface, perhaps about once a week, mostly to catch up on any notifications (e.g. posts from “close” friends and events)
I treat Facebook like Twitter and assume no privacy when posting; I will post limited content (very few photos) and my posts will be fully public
I trust professional journalists, not friends, for news. I read or listen to The New York Times, PBS News Hour, and The Economist, as well as NPR and the BBC.
Is Messenger evil?
I’m not sure. It’s useful as a cross-platform tool for group chat, and there’s nothing inherently bad about its implementation, aside from forcing read receipts. We should all be mindful, however, that people are entitled to take as much time to respond as they like (or not at all) even if they’ve read your message. Sending a message does not obligate someone to respond.
What about Twitter?
I still like Twitter, as it has an inherent lack of privacy, and the unfiltered feed (which paid apps use) is not biased by likes, advertising, etc. The reverb chamber applies somewhat to retweets, but this effect is fairly minimal. However, we should be mindful that whom you follow can severely limit your exposure to different viewpoints.