I’m about to lose touch with a lot of people. Tomorrow I will ‘unfriend’ all my contacts on Facebook, delete all my content, and finally remove my account. Not that Facebook will actually remove my account, they’ll keep all my data in case I have a change of heart, and they will continue to monitor my online movements in the service of their creepy advertising system, even though I’ve asked them not to. I’m not the first to do this, and indeed many before me have written posts like this one. As such there’s nothing new in this post. But I still think it’s important to outline the reasons why I feel Facebook has become such a negative thing in my life.
The dopamine hit
Facebook’s service is obsessively engineered by some of the best software engineers and designers in the world to be addictive. The algorithm used to order items on your timeline, the notifications you get, the specific animation you see when you ‘like’ something – it’s all designed to keep you on the site and looking at ads. What I’ve noticed is that this addictiveness often makes me feel tremendously unhappy after an hour or two on the service and I’m not the only one – I’ve had many conversations with friends that centred around the fact that Facebook was making them unhappy.
All those ‘like’ buttons on almost all websites I visit these days are not there primarily to allow me to share content on Facebook (that’s just an added bonus) – they’re present so that Facebook can track what I’m looking at even when I’m not logged in to Facebook. The company is proud of its ability to collect information on its users allowing advertisers to ‘target’ their ads to my interests and behaviour.
Facebook has become a force for bad in the world
Even if I was happy to trade the creepiness and the addictiveness of Facebook for the ability to keep in touch with lots of wonderful people – there’s still the undeniable fact that Facebook is enabling poisonous ideologies and repressive regimes to spread. Dark ads, fake news and other things that I don’t want to be a part of anymore.
Thankfully the internet is still (just about) designed to be open. I’ve had my phone number, email address and location of my house online for the past 15 years. I publish articles like this one on my own site that I control. Recently I set up a ‘microblog’ that I also control. I’m still on Twitter for the moment (although that platform’s role as a harassment vehicle is giving me second thoughts) but now I publish all my status updates on my own site first. There is a new service, micro.blog, that I joined recently which simply shows me a list of updates from people that I follow, in time order, with no ads. They even charge for the service so I can be more confident that I’m a customer of the service, not a product of it. Hopefully I’ll still get to be ‘social’ on the internet, but without the downsides.