personal & miscellany

Preparing for life without Facebook

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Next month will mark ten years since I opened a Facebook account, a powerful tool that has served me well, both professionally and personally. Relationships with old friends and family have strengthened, and new friendships have formed. I love to share, document, and dialogue, and am endlessly curious about the day-to-day lives of the people I know. I treasure photos of loved ones, their families, and their travels. I value all that they have to teach me about the work they do, their views on the world, and the things they’re passionate about. It’s kept me current, fostered new interests, and helped me stay connected to the organizations and communities I care about. Certainly there are things I find vexing about it, and issues related to my personal privacy aren’t among them. On the balance, Facebook has been a force for a lot of good in my life.

Over the past year, however, plenty of evidence has emerged that it is also a force for a lot of bad in the world. I admit that I’ve been trying for a long time to ignore it, holding firmly to the belief that if individuals took more personal responsibility for their digital privacy, the economy of Facebook would right itself. After forcing myself to do some long-ignored reading and watching Frontline’s recent investigative series, I’m reaching the conclusion that this tool I hold so dear has become dangerous. And that my activity on the platform is in itself a form of currency being used in some pretty frightening dealings that undermine our democratic ideals and, ironically, the important principles of free and open access to information. I’m deeply invested in Facebook, and don’t take the decision to deactivate my account lightly. It’s a utility that I rely upon in ways big and small, and leaving will have consequences. So I’m packing up carefully, and not burning any bridges on my way out.

I’m no Luddite. I sincerely hope to maintain as many personal connections as I can in real life, one-on-one, and via other online communities as well. I just joined Goodreads (finally). I’ll still be on LinkedIn (and maybe I’ll start to really use it?). I’ve updated my RSS reader, and added additional sources to my news app. I’ve maintained a few different blogs since 2007 – something I’ve always enjoyed, but have often neglected given the ease of communicating through microblogging platforms like Facebook – and hope this new page may serve a different means of sharing with my personal, academic, and professional connections. But at least for the time being, it looks my days on the major social media platforms are over. Instagram is owned by Facebook. I haven’t deleted my Twitter account, but rarely use it because I find the environment so unbearably hostile. I’m reading with interest about emerging social media platforms, and remain hopeful that a viable and safer alternative will surface. Perhaps it will be a reinvented, regulated version of Facebook itself. In which case I’ll happily return.

I’d love to hear any other ideas you have. How do you keep up with the world, and the people you care about who live in it?

6 thoughts on “Preparing for life without Facebook”

  1. But if reasonable people abandon Facebook, then there will be no balance. No righteousness to counter the evil. It will only serve to perpetuate hatred and lies.

    I’ve been mostly a lurker on FB. I’ve kept most of my family life out of it, mostly sharing helpful or funny things. Generally non-political. But when I see posts that are not true, then it is time to post a reply. Snopes is my best friend.

    Maybe I will change my mind when I see that Frontline report. But for now the value of FB to maintain contact with people I would otherwise have no contact with seems to outweigh any pitfalls.

    1. But the converse is also true: if reasonable people don’t abandon Facebook, the company has no incentive to fix their significant problems. And no one else has the incentive to develop a viable alternative. Our mere participation is fuel for some seriously destructive activity, regardless of how we conduct ourselves individually. I want out of that economy, and feel no personal responsibility for saving it.

      I have come to appreciate slow food, slow clothing, and even slow medicine! So I figure I can adapt to slow communication, as well. I’m confident I can still find the people I need to without Facebook, and that they’ll be able to find me, too. On that note: I’m so glad to hear from you, James! Thanks for sharing your perspective with me. Metric is touring soon, you know ….

      1. Keep in mind that almost half of our country voted for Trump. FB will have enough business with or without us. Without us they would have even less incentive to reform. Like it or not, social media has supplanted written letters, phone calls, E-mail, text, religion, TV news, and newspapers in one fell swoop.

        Metric seems to stop by LA quite frequently… go again?

      2. In fact I like it a lot – I have benefited greatly from Facebook and other forms of social media personally, professionally, and in ways I’m probably not even aware of! I have no objection whatsoever to social media and its growing role in these various areas of our lives. My objection is to the practices of Facebook specifically, and as a consumer I really only have one way to respond, and that’s by choosing not to participate.

        I’m seeing Metric when they’re in San Diego on March 5th. But I could probably be convinced to go up to Anaheim on the 9th too ….

    1. Oh absolutely, I couldn’t agree more with Sen. Schatz: “This is literally what government is for. This is what public policy is for. We need a federal law.” I’m not leaving Facebook because I think I have the power to influence them. But I may have some power to influence my representatives – who could do the right thing, and use their power to influence them. I sincerely hope the federal government steps in, as I think that’s our only hope of salvaging Facebook. And in the meantime, while it’s broken and dangerous, I just choose not to participate. I don’t see it as that large of a personal burden to bear. I don’t actually identify with the #DeleteFacebook movement; my concerns aren’t their concerns, and I’m not trying to convince anyone else to leave. I really just wanted people to know where I went, when they can’t find me on Facebook anymore! 🙂 But this is a really interesting perspective, and I enjoyed reading it – thank you for sharing!

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