I’m leaving FaceBook – here’s why

This is Part 1 of 2. Today I’m discussing why I’m leaving Facebook. Within the next couple weeks I’m going to share how to do that in case anyone else is interested in doing the same.

About a month ago, I made my last post on my personal page and have tried to refrained from commenting or reacting since although I’ve lurked a little in the background as I tried to determine what was good about the social media platform that I might miss (and how I could fill the void).

Facebook became an addiction of sorts for me. I wrote about that last year. I knew deep down that there were much better ways to spend my time. Then proof came from this piece: You are the media you eat (Faris, Medium, Feb. 2018). Since joining Facebook over 10 years ago, I know I’ve been reading less books and getting my news and information – globally and from friends as well – based on algorithms, rather than what’s actually important or what and who I truly care about.

Political memes, “bots” and false information are harming democracy – and FaceBook is refusing to take responsibility or make any changes. This appeared in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week:

“The reaction to Facebook’s decision on political ads, presented in October by Mr. Zuckerberg as a commitment to free speech, largely broke along party lines. Most Republicans, including members of the Trump reelection campaign, praised the decision, while many Democrats argued the company should do more to potentially limit the spread of misinformation. In the 2016 election, political actors used tech platforms to spread misleading or false information to specific groups of people.” (“Peter Thiel at Center of Facebook’s Internal Divisions on Politics Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2019).

I’ve decided I don’t want to be a part of that. I’m also realistic about my ability to sway anyone away from an opposing view. I honestly miss the days of discussing politics in a meaningful way around the dining room table when I was a kid. Real discussions, in real time, with real people, that cared enough about one another to be willing to listen to other perspectives on issues; discussions that never ended in childish name-calling; discussions that I walked away from actually learning something.

And talk about childish – I feel like I’m back in middle school again with the “friending” and “unfriending” and “blocking.” It’s easy to see that Facebook was first developed for college students. But we’re adults! Okay, I’m not innocent. I’ve gotten caught up in the the friend-management challenge, too. I wrote about that here. I think we need to also stop pretending that we can maintain relationships with thousands, or even just several hundred, individuals. According to research, our bandwidth is 150, and our brains can only handle five BFFs.

But instead of pairing down my friend list, I’m just leaving. This decision wasn’t made lightly, because there was a lot of good that came from FaceBook as well. If it wasn’t for FaceBook I wouldn’t have re-established connections with many people including the man that has become my domestic partner, Kurt (who left FaceBook last month for similar reasons).  Several people with whom my previous relationships were minimal at best are now much closer – and real – friends thanks to our interactions on FaceBook. Finally there are the groups that use FaceBook to communicate with and convene members. 

But the negatives began to outweigh all that. Earlier this year, Forbes outlined some of the issues we should all be concerned about:

“Frankly, after a year of Facebook disasters involving political meddling, between 50-80 million users having their data stolen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, founder Mark Zuckerberg’s evasive and insufficient answers to Congresses (frankly insufficient) questions in an April hearing, nearly all 2 billion users having their data scraped in some way by “malicious actors” later that same April, 14 million users having their private Facebook statuses accidentally made public in June, secret deals with device makers to share your private data revealed the same month, 50 million more users having their data hacked by a mysterious third party again in Julya coverup of political debacles involving both Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, and even allowing hate speech to drive genocide in Myanmar, maybe it’s time we all cut back.” (Is FaceBook harmful to your health, Forbes, January 8, 2019).

While there is some evidence that FaceBook (and social media in general) can actually lead users to be less happy and more anxious (see Stanford University study), the bottom line is that it comes down to how we use it and using social media at all, we have to remember, is a choice. So while I’m certain that I will experience some FOMO and maybe occasionally miss some important news from friends, I’m choosing to leave.

I know where to find the people I care about most, and I’m still very accessible on the web, by text and by phone. I hope that if my close friends have something important to share, they send me a text or an email.

Stay tuned for what’s next…

Contemplative on the Chicago Lakefront. December, 2018.

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