I posted the following to my FB a day before deleting it forever. I thought I would feel at least a twinge of regret over the lost connections. But I don't - the important friendships are stronger than FaceBook. And people managed to have fun random interactions with folks they'd lost contact with well before any social media came along. We'll all be fine.
I've been thinking a lot about social media lately, especially Facebook and Twitter. Fake news. Russian meddling. My attempts to avoid their algorithms to just see posts chronologically, attempts that have been continually thwarted as they update their settings, telling me they know better than I do what I'm interested in. And how it always comes back to the same place: most of what I see is either stuff I really agree with, in which case I'm likely to chime in happily and will walk away without having learned much, or stuff I vehemently, viscerally disagree with, in which case I'm likely to bull in feeling angry and defensive and will walk away ... also without having learned much.
That's the platform working as intended. After all, what makes FB money? It isn't fostering human connection exactly. It's getting you to interact in SOME fashion, because those numbers of interactions are what they show advertisers. And those two things, increasing interaction vs increasing connection, they look the same enough that it fooled a lot of us for a while. But they aren't the same, they never will be the same, and the fact is that Zuck's public hand-wringing about fixing the platform will never amount to anything more than superficial changes, because the very financial model of the site depends on increasing interaction, and at the scale it's now at, that will always be an incentive at odds with the public good.
Facebook is a wholly unregulated, unsupervised curator of information. A news source with no accountability for the accuracy of its news. A messaging system with no accountability for the harassment inherent in the messages.
It worked ok when it was smaller. If you're linking memebers of communities who already have a lot of shared interests, the Venn diagram of increasing interaction and increasing connection is just about a circle. But as FB got bigger, as the communities who joined became more ideologically diverse, cracks formed. And now whenever I come onto this site, for every update I see that actually tells me about something important to my life, like say a family member's health, I see twenty more links designed to outrage me; the only variable there is whether they are designed to outrage me in the same way as the person who posted it or in the opposite way. But all that ends up just being value signaling, not community building.
Facebook is and will continue to be an irresponsible steward of the vast amounts of information for which so many people have come to rely on it. Every time I log in I'm implicitly supporting its irresponsibility, I'm telling it "Hey, even though I think you're doing a piss poor job, this account is too important to me to lose." And it isn't anymore. FB is no longer the way I want to interact with my friends. Not given what it's costing us.
Once I delete my account, this post along with everything else will disappear, so I'll leave it up for a bit. I'd take it as a kindness if a few people would even share it - it's set to be only visible to my friends, so you shouldn't be bothering anyone that doesn't know me (and advance apologies if that's another setting they've mucked with in the interests of increasing interaction at any cost), and given the aforementioned algorithms there's no reason to think more than a few of you will see this initially.
We'll be in touch. Drop me an email! I'd love to hear from you. And if not, well, all the best. It's been fun.
PS - if you're curious, my approach to Twitter is a bit different. There, after all, the expectation was never about connecting with friends, it was about being pithy and entertaining, so the blight is different. While FB will never cure itself of promoting fake news and fostering discord, Twitter will never not be a place where Nazis get to self-promote. So there, rather than disconnecting, I've refocused my account on amplifying voices of the oppressed.