I’ve wanted to delete my Facebook account for several months now, and now I’m finally going to do it.
I’ve had a Facebook account the entire time I’ve been an adult, so in a real way, this feels like removing one of my vital organs.
And I cannot say it’s been all bad: I met Katie on Facebook, in a group that was created to connect people with a very specific set of niche values and experiences. For that alone, I am grateful that Facebook existed and that I was a part of it. (That group, ironically, also recently became a place I felt was toxic, and I left.)
Facebook has afforded me professional opportunities, allowing me to share my creations and projects with more people. And it’s been a platform for original creation as well.
But when I look back at the whole time I’ve participated in Facebook’s rise to global power and infamy, I see breaches of trust going back to the earliest days.
How Facebook lost my trust
Facebook has been chipping away at my trust in it from the earliest days. When I joined, you had to be a verified college student to make an account. When that opened up, it made sense to me, but it also was not what I signed up for. I went along with it.
I remember being alarmed when one day, the entire format of the platform changed. Instead of a personal “wall,” it was built around a “timeline,” and people were encouraged to go post about things that happened in the past. That was not what I signed up for. But I went along with it.
Every change Facebook has ever made has been in its own best interest (obviously). It has never had its users top of mind — its users are not even the customers who they have to work to keep happy. Facebook answers to its paying advertisers and its paying investors. It is several steps removed from any incentive to respect its users.
Every time I search for something online (or sometimes even just talk about something out loud) and then immediately see it advertised on Facebook, I remember 1) why I am valuable to the company and 2) how creepy the company’s methods for making money are.
I have been disappointed by Mark Zuckerberg’s performance as a person who holds great power. He is not trustworthy. His performance before Congress made me want to have nothing to do with his products. I believe he does not care about privacy or security, even national security.
From fake news to fake accounts, Facebook is full of lies. Facebook has dealt a detrimental blow to journalism by becoming a news source for millions (myself included) but holding no journalistic standards. A media company with more consumers than NBC but that thinks of itself as a technology company, not a media company, is a terrifying force. And it is terrifyingly irresponsible as a player in society.
Far from the ideal I imagined it to be at first, Facebook is a toxic place for the spreading of ideas.
When Facebook created a secret algorithm to decide what information it would put in front of me, it not only created a perfect environment for the spread of misinformation during the American 2016 presidential election, it also lost my trust: I didn’t like that I could no longer easily grasp the mechanism of how Facebook showed me what it showed me.
(But I went along with it.)
I have been considering a question my friend posed (on Facebook) recently: Have I ever changed my mind because of an argument on Facebook? My knee-jerk reaction was “Yes, the open debate of ideas has been an intellectual boon for us all,” but as I examined more critically, I have to answer no. Or at least, not relating to anything important. Even if I have changed my mind because of a Facebook debate (and I recognize the complexity in the fact that I was prompted with this idea because of a Facebook post), open dialogue is not the norm in my experience.
The norm in my experience is that Facebook creates bubbles and echo chambers.
Facebook has been a bad thing for my personal relationships (other than, you know, the time it was where I met my spouse). I can say that my relationships with several (many?) extended family members are objectively worse because of my connection to them on Facebook, and because of my choice to use Facebook as a means of sharing personal details about myself.
That’s because the connections made on Facebook are superficial and totally devoid of meaningful content. My relationship with Katie started on Facebook, but quickly became in-person and real. My relationships with family members I rarely saw started in-person and real, but became strained only because of Facebook miscommunication and incomplete projections.
Put simply, Facebook takes more away from my life than it adds.
Facebook does not deserve my trust. And it never has.
I predict that Facebook will make changes, as it always has. Some of those changes will seem nice. I hear there will be changes to make Facebook interactions more closed and private (another massive redirection from what people have been signing up believing Facebook to be).
But whatever changes Facebook makes, none of them will have me in mind first. They will just be more ways the company can grow and appear safe. And (as is a trend for Facebook) “appearing” is all that will matter to the company.
So where will I go?
I’m not dropping off the planet. I’m not shutting out social interaction. I’ll be using my phone and email to communicate, I’ll continue to share and create via my website, and (for now) I’ll be on other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. My goal is to eventually separate entirely from everything Facebook owns (including Instagram), and to be more of a critical participant of the corporations and affiliations I willingly participate in. But I’m taking one thing at a time.
Of all the toxic corporations and affiliations that I see as bad for me, I’m starting with the easy one: I’m letting go of the platform that does the least good for me and does among the most bad. Everyone has to make that calculation for themselves.
See you around, Mark.