I joined Facebook in 2007 only because a girlfriend asked me to. Until early 2009, though, I posted nothing. I didn’t see why I needed this social media platform as part of my life.
After I started using Facebook, though, I became a heavy user as I connected with those who shared my political interests and then as I used it to promote the articles I wrote here. I fairly quickly reached the 5,000 limit on “friends,” but I eventually decided things were out of control with the angry arguments on my page.
Over the last few years, I’ve aggressively cut my number of contacts. (Let’s be honest. Most of them aren’t really friends.) I’ve cut it to just a few more than 500. I thought that might be enough for me to think it was worth sticking around.
I’ve recently realized, though, that I need to leave Facebook completely.
It won’t be today or next week. I doubt it will be next month. But sometime — in six months or a year, maybe — I will delete my Facebook account and move on. I want to explain why.
First, I don’t trust Facebook as a company. If you’re interested in the reasons why, you probably already know the details, so I’m not going to go too deeply into this.
Facebook has shown an incredible lack of interest in privacy or honesty. Company executives have made statements attacking the idea that we need privacy and they have been cavalier in their attitudes about the security of information they have about us.
User information is routinely leaked from Facebook and the company has done nothing to change its bad habits. I have to accept that this isn’t going to change, so I don’t want to stick around and get burned when things get worse.
In addition, the company has ambitions to take even more control over our lives. Not only does the company control multiple platforms (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp), it has just launched a project to design a new mobile operating system which will integrate its platforms and compete with iOS and Android.
Facebook already requires users to use its chosen browser for certain functions — such as going live — and I can see the day when it will make its own phone virtually required for the best experience. I simply don’t want a company which I don’t trust having that much control over my data and my online experience. So I’m going to disentangle myself before things can get worse.
Second, I don’t like what Facebook is doing to my mind and my attention span. This is a broader problem with the web in general and with all social media to some extent, but Facebook has become an incredible “time suck” for me and it has also trained me to spend every bit of downtime scrolling through shallow information which is essentially useless to me.
I might or might not withdraw from Instagram at the same time. I enjoy having a place to share my photos, but I’m not sure Instagram works as it was originally intended. Changes since Facebook bought the company have meant that interaction with other users is rewarded by showing your photos more often.
I don’t really want to make friends on Instagram. I just want to share photos for those who are interested — without having to pretend to be buddies with them. The algorithms on the service currently penalize someone who just wants to display photos for the world to see (without wasting time interacting with people he doesn’t know).
I will continue to speak online, although I can’t pretend to be sure what form that will take. As I’ve told you recently, I’m having a crisis in that regard, because I no longer have anyone to whom I’m speaking — in the broad sense — and I don’t know what I need to say.
I had high hopes for the effect the online world could have on public discourse — back when I participated in online message boards in the early 1990s — but those hopes have all been dashed. These tools don’t do what I had hoped they would. Somehow, I’m going to have to find ways to use different tools to connect more deeply with the people who I need to reach.
I’m not looking for a new social media platform, so please don’t write to me to tell me about whatever upstart Facebook competitor you’ve found. I’m simply not interested. It’s the shallow nature of the social media world which I’m escaping, not just the behemoth that Facebook has become.
There have definitely been positives to Facebook for me. I’ve connected with some people with whom I’ll stay connected and I’ve reconnected with people who I might have lost entirely otherwise. But the downsides have finally overwhelmed the upsides for me.
When the time comes, I will make an orderly exit. I’ll leave contact information posted there for awhile before I actually delete the account. I’ll ask for email addresses for people who would like to stay connected. I’ll give you plenty of warning before this all happens, once I have a plan and timeline in place.
But I’ve made the decision to disconnect completely from the digital clutches of Zuckerberg and Co. I’ll be happier when I quit wasting time in a virtual world and spend it working on things I want in the real world instead.