It’s been a week or so since I pressed the delete button on my Facebook account. I’m someone who is interested in people and I’m aware that through deleting it, there’s a strong risk that I won’t hear from those people again.
The thing is…. I’m just not friends with Facebook.
It started about a year ago or so when I heard about how the company had allowed Cambridge Analytica to behave as they did. This bubbled within the IT industry like a swamp gas. Like most niche press markets, I guess it took a while for it to hit the big time… and when it hit, woo, did it hit.
As the great and the good met, pressed their flesh (that’s called a handshake on this planet, I believe), certain members of the company were called to give evidence and explain themselves. Sometimes, though, they didn’t, because – well, meh – we’re a multinational, so F you.
I did – as you would no doubt expect – some navel-gazing about my relationship with said company. What am I getting out of this? What would life be like without it? What am I giving up to use it?
I was reminded of talking to an old school friend I’d not see in decades (he now lives in London), and when I asked him if he used Facebook, he said: “No, I’ve done some work for them and I don’t like what they use your data for.” Thing is, T isn’t a tin-foil-hat / conspiracy nut type. To be honest with you, I brushed off his comments (not verbally) thinking that some folk don’t like some software companies. Yet, that experience of his did not leave my mind but swam deep within like the shadow of a shark. Odd in a way that that line wasn’t a predator, but something that needed to surface, and was something I needed to understand.
That day, I uninstalled the app from my phone and put in more privacy trackers on my browsers. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I have an Android smartphone, a Google account, and I’m using Blogger (owned by Google). I’m fully aware that my footprints around t’interwebz are being collected, measured, and ads (those that get through uBlock anyway) are being aimed squarely at yours truly. Sure, using DuckDuckGo instead helps, but there’s always cookies. Indeed, there’s even Google Surveys which occasionally pop up on my phone and ask about my life. I’m finding it less interesting to engage on those, even if I enjoy my newsfeed telling me about certain sci-fi shows, lifestyle posts, and politics that match my views. Hello, bias confirmation. 🙂
But, with Facebook, it felt a little more insidious and after removing the app, I found myself checking my phone a lot less. Previously I would scroll through what people were up to, maybe post, or re-share things I’d read that I’d found interesting. So, time given back. BTW, I should point out that I now use the Chameleons’ Forum more, so maybe I’ve swapped one network for another. The thing is with that, is that I do see these people. It’s not a replacement for friends, but something that helps me talk to them. There’s no tracking or ads, either.
I had also got into a trap – and perhaps it’s by design – that I was checking for who liked what I’d put. Now, admittedly, this is very much my problem and I’m not judging anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s your life, you do as you wish. I can only talk about me here…. here being this free-to-use-because-of-adverts platform. 🙂
The like thing, at least for me, felt as if the higher the count, the more valid or relatable that post was. But really, does that count? What does that actually mean? Sure, it’s a tap to the pleasure circuits in the brain, but is this doing me any good? Once a doubt had started to form, and once I was out of the app, I became less and less interested in it.
One other thing I noticed was that previously I would take *ahem* amusing photos and share them, or create a meme about the day. Now, I would talk to others in the office, or in my family about things. I began to take the route that not everything needed to be shared. Not only that but not everything needed to be done right now. The thrill of the immediate, if you will. I see it – or, more accurately – hear it in the radio news. The analysis, the what-happens-next pieces; but I wonder, is some news better slow rather than constant?
The most difficult part was knowing that I would, in some odd way, be turning my back on friends. Yet, Facebook is a platform to serve ads. I am the product and I’m trading my privacy – and possibly my family’s privacy – for that service of sharing photos or “keeping in touch”. Plus, there was the whole political scandal, which had now expanded to include what had happened around advertising and Brexit.
I was conscious of the phrase that you only have so many friends. Many folk on my ‘friends’ list were people I’d met a few times, maybe worked with, but, and if I’m brutal about it, I didn’t see day to day and our interactions were only very light through Facebook. Hell, I don’t email or text these folk. I know this may sound coldhearted, but what exactly is that relationship doing? I felt that those in my life I would keep in contact with, I’d do by talking, emailing, or texting. Something a bit more ‘real’ if you will, than tapping an emoji.
Part of me feels that the whole friends thing is – and perhaps I was massively naive previously – just a mechanism to keep you stuck in that system. Emotion blackmail that pulls at the heartstrings, but really, only exists to keep you as a source for selling you sh** you probably don’t need.
So yeah, I don’t regret deleting my account. I’m glad of GDPR and the rights we have to have our data removed from a company. I don’t really miss the platform, even if I know that some folk I won’t hear from again. But, I feel…. I feel like I’ve got more time on my hands. I find myself with more patience, with wanting the immediate reward less (I’m reading more), and, I feel that when I chose to be social – like with the forum or email – then it’s more on my terms.
You may, of course, feel different, and by no means do I look down on anyone who likes Facebook. Wee Man recently joined Instagram and a few mates are on Twitter. I, however, am not…. and, perhaps oddly for someone who used social media quite a bit, I’m enjoying not using it.