I’ve reduced my use of Facebook down to about 1% of what it used to be and here I give 7 reasons why you should quit Facebook too.
My criticisms of Facebook could be applied to other forms of social media including those in which I’m still active, like Twitter, but if I’m to untangle myself from the knots of cyberspace then I have to start somewhere, so Facebook it is.
Furthermore I’m not judging others for continuing to use Facebook. It contains many useful groups and there is much to be gained from it if you use it with strict discernment but the home feed no longer holds any interest for me.
So why quit Facebook? What follows are my personal reasons. Many hundreds of millions of people will continue to use this platform and derive some benefit from it, so good luck to them. However, I’m reaching the end of the road and for me it’s time to spend my time doing other things.
1. Facebook time is not recreation
It’s often thought that scrolling through newsfeeds for hours is no more or less harmful than sitting in front of the TV and I’m inclined to agree, but I don’t think either practices are necessarily harmless. Obviously you can choose what TV programs to watch and likewise you can tailor your Facebook feed to certain degree using several options:
- Choosing which of your friends to follow
- Choosing which pages to follow
- Joining or leaving groups
With a little tinkering you can create a newsfeed that’s more to your taste but what you can’t prevent are the endless adverts, suggestions, and the nannying announcements about Covid or anything else that the Facebook AI thinks you should know about.
Time spent on Facebook is no longer a form of recreation, if it ever was, it’s just more time for Facebook to learn more about you and to expose you to more advertising.
2. Facebook time drains your energy
What’s the first thing you do each morning when you reach for a phone or a keyboard? Chances are it’s not to check your email but to check social media and scroll through updates and feeds. The longer this continues the more time and energy is wasted.
One of the things that we all have in common is that we all have 24 hours in a day to spend. How much of that time you spend with yourself in charge or with some Artificial Intelligence controlling you is up to you. I would suggest that if you want to achieve anything each day then avoid social media until the task is done or at least limit your time to the minimum so that you’re not left wondering why it’s already lunchtime and you’ve achieved nothing.
Facebook is a massive distraction and by giving it attention you replace those fresh thoughts in your mind each morning with whatever Facebook has decided you need to see.
3. Facebook generates pointless arguments
The old gags about cat videos and getting into arguments with total strangers on Facebook are as true to day as ever before. People see something that triggers them and they post a comment. Perhaps someone will signal their agreement with a like or perhaps another will argue to the point, and so another Facebook argument begins.
What has been achieved? Absolutely nothing of value. Arguing with strangers online simply entrenches opinions because people become immediately defensive in public debate. It’s very rare that anyone says, “That’s new information and thanks to this fresh insight I’ve changed my views on this subject.”
Instead, what tends to happen is that it draws the participants back to either look for more endorsements of their own viewpoints or to have the last word and by doing so feel better about themselves. It’s all a bit pathetic really, isn’t it?
4. Facebook is a data harvesting machine
Facebook is a private business, not a public service. It’s business is the harvesting of data and selling it to advertisers who pay in order to reach a certain demographic. If you’ve ever created any ads of your own on Facebook you’ll know that you can tailor your ad to reach, for example, 18-25 year olds who are single, live in Wisconsin, and who are interested in fly-fishing.
How does it know so much about people? Because they all willingly supply their information by completing a full profile and by monitoring their activity while they use Facebook. Every time you like, comment, or search your actions are recorded and all those billions of pieces of information feed the AI which then works out what ads and suggestions your feed should contain.
Does this really matter? Well, if you’re comfortable willingly revealing every detail about yourself, your life, and your habits then no, it doesn’t matter, but there’s a more sinister reason as we’ll see in the next point.
5. Facebook is not a free speech platform
Facebook’s collection of user data and the AI monitoring of user activity extends to what users say about certain topics. This has lead to people having their accounts temporarily restricted or to being banned altogether.
Where this is reflective of those things that are illegal anyway within society then I think most people would agree that it’s a good thing to have this level of censorship but it doesn’t end there. As many have found, a particular political viewpoint or an opinion about a subject that effects all our lives like the Coronavirus pandemic has lead to automatic censorship by the AI, and while it’s possible to appeal against these decisions it’s nevertheless indicative of the machine-learned bias in the AI that causes the suspension in the first place.
On appeal and review by human Facebook employees some have had the ban upheld while other more distressing and anti-social content remains in place. These contradictions reveal poor standards of management of the platform as well as a bias in favour of certain types of politics and religions while being critical and censorious of others.
6. Facebook can manipulate you and your opinions
Facebook can use all it knows about you and your activities to influence your opinions. The more data about you that the AI collects, the more accurately it can predict what you’ll do next and what opinion you might have on any given subject.
This power enables Facebook and its advertisers to subtlely alter you opinions by what it introduces into your feed. Instead of changing your mind because you’ve read significant and well researched articles and books you might find yourself thinking along certain lines because of things you’ve seen on Facebook. Is any of that information verified? Where did it come from?
you may also find yourself in agreement simply because it’s what all the people you know on Facebook think. This herd mentality is well known and it’s sometimes very difficult to break out of it. It’s not easy to be the lone voice of disagreement, particularly if you’re not totally sure of your facts. It may just be that your instinct tells you that something isn’t right and you steer the other way only to find yourself alone on a different road.
7. Facebook fosters an unhealthy feedback loop
Probably one of the most unhealthy aspects of Facebook use and one that is common in most social media is the way it encourages you to seek validation and endorsements.
The likes, loves, hugs, smiles and other reactions that can be given to anything you post can become slightly addictive, so much so that young users in particular can feel aggrieved if their posts receive few likes or are ignored altogether.
The positive reactions to content added to Facebook confirm an endorsement by others, be they friends or strangers. These endorsements can be augmented by positive comments. Consequently the user looks for more opportunities and more content to add to gain additional endorsements and the cycle continues.
The result of all this is that people are spending more time collecting content for their social media feeds than they are participating in life. How many times have we see the auidence at a gig (pre-Covid of course) filming the band instead of enjoying the show? What is the first thing people do whenever they see some drama unfold in the streets? They film it of course because they want to be the first to upload it and gain the maximum attention and likes online.
There are so many ways in which we can occupy our time more constructively. Wasting it on social media can be the equivalent of watching junk TV or eating junk food – instant gratification while putting your mind in neutral. I’m not suggesting giving up social media entirely but don’t let it rule your life. Make sure you use it and it isn’t using you.
I still have a profile on Facebook but that’s only because I have several business pages and groups that I will continue to administer for now. A lot of what gets posted to the pages is done so automatically anyway.
I’ve stripped my profile down to its bare essentials and remove all my previous posts dating back several years. It’s oddly satisfying doing this, rather like clearing the clutter at home. You should try it.