Delete your Facebook account. No, but really.
This is not the exhortation of an internet troll, but rather the earnest advice of someone who has peered deep into the blue and white abyss and found only varying degrees of despair.
Facebook is unlike any other social media offering in numerous important ways, and while some of those differences add value, the whole ends up being depressingly less than the sum of its parts.
This, however, is not the story of a confusing user interface, or a diluted brand trying to be everything to everyone — it’s much bigger than that. This is about how Facebook is actually bad for you, and it’s past time that we admitted it.
Let us count the ways
Who of us hasn’t at least once threatened to delete our account? The impulse is nearly universal, although the reasons for it can differ as widely as Facebook’s approximately 2 billion users. But some truths are so singular that not even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can escape them.
Let’s dive into all the reasons that Facebook should be relegated to the trash bin of your social media life.
The most recent headline-grabbing stumble by Facebook comes down to the infamous filter bubble.
The idea that Facebook silos off conversations between like-minded individuals, creating a harmful feedback loop of self-reinforcing nonsense, isn’t new, but it came to particular prominence following the 2016 presidential election.
Despite the highfalutin talk of its founder and CEO, “making the world more open and connected” is only the company’s mission as long as it serves the higher purpose of profit. When it benefits Facebook to do the opposite, by, say, feeding users exactly the truth-free garbage they want in order to drive engagement, Facebook seems plenty content to do just that.
In the case of the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, what many users wanted just so happened to be false stories about the Pope endorsing Trump or Clinton selling weapons to ISIS. And Facebook notoriously obliged, permitting the widespread sharing of disinformation.
Facebook clearly did the tens of millions of people that saw these and other equally bogus stories a huge disservice, and arguably the country suffered as a result. Zuckerberg belatedly admitted the problem, but his promised solutions to so-called “fake news” fall short.
And yet the easiest way to be rid of Facebook’s filter bubble is actually quite simple, though you’ll never hear the Zuck proffer it: Delete your account.
Facebook is a shady company
Zuckerberg’s questionable quest to chat it up with regular folks in all 50 states notwithstanding, the company is shockingly out of touch with what it means to be human. And no, we’re not talking about the company’s push to move everyday interactions to the virtual world. Instead, a repeated failure to grasp basic human decency comes to mind.
Facebook’s employees have demonstrated over and over a willingness to exploit their users in ways that demand remembering. In one such case, the company was called out in 2014 for running a study that manipulated unknowing participants’ newsfeeds by showing either a disproportionate number of uplifting or depressing posts. The idea was to see if the content of the newsfeed could alter the moods of users.
Essentially, Facebook was curious if it could make their users sad. So they did. That’s some seriously shady stuff.
But that’s not all. The company was forced to apologize in April of 2017 for allegedly allowing advertisers to target the emotional states of children as young as 14. Facebook reportedly claimed it could identify when teenagers “need a confidence boost,” thus suggesting they were primed for advertisers.
If this sounds awful to you, that’s because it is. Facebook got caught intentionally manipulating users’ emotions, and then later allegedly developed ways to target ads to users feeling down in the dumps.
Another reason to delete.
Decluttering your social life
How many “friends” do you have on Facebook? Three hundred? A thousand? How many of those people do you actually care about?
With Facebook, a large social network all too often equals a bogged down social network. While the company’s algorithms attempt to filter the social signal through the event-notification noise, Facebook stopped being about true connectivity ages ago.
Instead, it is now primarily a place where you are forced to confront the odious political beliefs of your once high school friend, or get shamed by a relative for some photo a friend tagged you in, or get harassed with event invites from an obnoxious coworker insisting that you’d just love his one-man show.
It’s a chore, in other words, and one that for far too many years has been thankless.
This is not an argument in favor of becoming a luddite or shunning your fellow man. To the contrary, ditching the passive hovering of Facebooking in favor of emailing, calling, or texting someone is a way to use technology to engage with those you actually care about — not just those you felt obligated to “friend.”
Many people hold off on deleting their Facebook account for fear of missing out. But here’s a dirty little secret: There are plenty of ways to get photos, invitations, and notifications other than Facebook.
All it takes is establishing a new, preferred method of communicating with your friends. Try reaching out to them via text, instead of Messenger, and chances are they’ll respond in kind. It’s a remarkably easy thing to do — and something you definitely should do.
As you ponder whether or not to delete your account, it’s worth considering at what point a tool crosses from the realm of useful to that of burden. Because whatever that point is, Facebook long ago passed it. Take it from someone who hasn’t had a personal Facebook account in years: You’re not missing much, and once you’re free of Zuckerberg’s clutches you’ll wonder how you stuck it out for so long in the first place.