One of my new year’s resolutions is to try and be more intentional about the way I lead my life. That includes a close look at habits and deeply wired-in behaviours.
Last year I had the epiphany that whilst chocolate, ginger nuts, IRN BRU and sugary comestibles were very enticing and almost unthinkable to give up, I’m far better off without them in my life. I’ve known this for at least 15 years, but last summer I actually did something about it.
A few years ago I decided not to post anything new to Facebook, but I have continued to participate in conversations. The second epiphany came in December. I decided to log out and not to log back in again. Nearly two months later I’ve stuck to my guns, except one or two forays look something up.
The world didn’t end. In fact, though Facebook used to be a habitual part of my life, I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. Kind of like sugar.
I’m not going to try to convince you. But I feel like I should at least enumerate the reasons and justify myself:
- The user interaction design is manipulative. The newsfeed is designed to keep you scrolling. It’s a waste of time. It used to be fun.
- Facebook collects a huge amount of data. Why do they want to know who my friends are, which shops I visit in real life, what news I read? Why do they want to track people who aren’t even Facebook users? It all seems much less innocent than when I signed up in 2005.
- It isolates groups and keeps people in social media bubbles and echo chambers. Brexit was a massive shock to me and a lot of my friends. Social media bubbles played a big part in this. I think that if 2016 taught us one thing, it was that we should look outward, not inward (and maybe raise our eyes from our phones toward the horizon).
- It enables vast data collection and manipulation by third parties (see this New York Times article about Brexit and Trump and targeted personal data collection and advertising).
- Facebook collects too much information about me, and shares it with organisations I don’t want them to. Here’s Facebook’s page on the subject. Experian also has a page on how marketers can exploit Facebook audiences. I don’t want my social media profile shared with credit agencies.
- There are better ways to keep in touch. I’d rather have a phone call or a chat over a pint.
If you want an actual analysis, this very good blog post by Vicki Boykis does a good job of describing precisely what Facebook can, and does, do.
All of this adds up to Facebook being a very negative and abusive thing in my life. Like refined sugar, it seems so deeply ingrained, pleasant to consume and inconceivable to give it up, but I have somehow managed to find nutrition and enjoyment elsewhere.
I’m not quite at the stage of deleting my account. This is partly because I might want to log in for some reason or another in future, and partly because it will have no practical effect - Facebook and its partners already have data on me and I have no hope of them ever deleting it.
I’m sure I’ll miss out on some of the gossip, which will be a shame. But I hope I can maintain (and improve) real friendships. Give me a call!
I’m on Twitter at @joewass if you’re into that sort of thing and want to keep in touch.
I wish you a happy and intentional 2017.