The media brims with stories about Facebook’s evil. I won’t rehash them.
Bloggers I follow drop post after post about how they want to quit Facebook, but they can’t/won’t, and they know you won’t quit either.
That’s false, at least when addressed to me. I stopped using Facebook in 2010. To flip the ‘early adopter’ paradigm, I’m an early quitter.
For the first few years, when I told people I didn’t use Facebook, they looked at me as if I’d admitted to hating kittens. Why would anyone refuse Facebook? As time has gone by, the reactions shifted. For the past four years, whenever I tell someone I don’t use Facebook, by far the most common response has been, ‘Good for you, I wish I could stop using Facebook too, but [some social connection they maintain on Facebook].’
Why did I quit? Because Facebook bored me. It was that simple. No lofty ideals, no high moral grounds, nothing like that prompted me to quit. I just always had something more interesting to do than use Facebook. Such as checking emails. My personal experience (and yours may vary) is that if someone cares about keeping in touch with me and they have consistent internet access, then email works. Email is much better at nurturing the relationships which are worth my time.
Not everyone can quit Facebook without substantial damage to their economic or social well-being. Therefore, I think no less of people who stay on the platform. Their reasons may be excellent.
Does quitting Facebook stop Facebook from doing bad things? Yes, to a tiny degree. People who quit deny them some data, which evaporates a drop out of their ocean of power. However, that drop may be smaller than you think—because Facebook defrauds advertisers.
Facebook makes money from advertisers, and it’s been lying to advertisers for years about the numbers. I bet Facebook has been telling advertisers I’m still an active user even though I haven’t used Facebook in over a decade and my eyeballs aren’t falling on any Facebook ads. Despite the fraud, despite all the bad press about Facebook, advertisers aren’t budging. If Facebook fakes the metrics, and faking the metrics isn’t enough to make advertisers stop giving Facebook money, then how does quitting Facebook hurt their revenue?
The author of that essay speculates Facebook has corrupted the major marketing trade groups. Maybe that’s true. But there’s another explanation for why advertisers haven’t left the platform in droves: monopoly. Where would the advertisers go? Google? Google advertising is a terrible match for many businesses, especially since Google and Facebook came to an agreement that they would specialize in different kinds of advertising and not compete (also, Google ads have their own shitstorm of problems). Though Facebook fakes the metrics, many businesses still depend on Facebook ads to survive. They’re trapped in an unequal relationship.
Society would be better off if certain businesses which depend on Facebook advertising disappear. But not all of them. And even if society would be better off without particular businesses, as long as they buy Facebook Ads, Facebook keeps getting revenue.
How can we get the advertisers to leave Facebook in a way which doesn’t torpedo their businesses? I don’t know, or at least I don’t know any answers which scale. Breaking up Facebook by enforcing anti-trust legislation would help, but how much? Even if users leave Facebook en mass, they may move to platforms which don’t work for advertisers. Facebook may continue to lie about the metrics, and advertisers backed into a corner may continue paying them. Can we find a way for many of the better-for-society businesses to survive without paid advertising?
If you are contemplating leaving Facebook, here’s my advice: the first phase is the hardest. You’re rupturing social connections, and you haven’t yet filled them in with alternatives. But over time, you’ll cultivate the alternatives which work for you. It gets better.
Base your decision to stay on Facebook, or leave Facebook, or rejoin Facebook, or sign up for Facebook for the first time based on what’s good for you, not what’s good for global society. Without solving the advertising-monopoly problem, your choice to use or not use Facebook makes no impact on how much it perpetuates evil.