“They ‘trust me’. Dumb fucks.” - Mark Zuckerberg

Sure, Mark was 19 when he said that, but given Facebook’s history of wildly abusing the privacy of its more than 2 billion users, we have little reason to think that attitude has changed. Facebook’s history of privacy abuse proves this. The Cambridge Analytica scandal. Giving Netflix the ability to read your private messages. Allowing specific device makers to access lots of your data. Collecting data on you even if you don’t have an account Pick your poison.

We are, indeed, “dumb fucks” for trusting Mark Zuckerberg.

The Problem

All the Facebook stories, as well as the general disappearance of our privacy online, have lead me to believe the internet is sick. Facebook happens to be the largest violator of them all, and for me - the easiest to replace. Lots of apps sell your location data. Your wireless carrier is probably selling your realtime location data. This type of abuse is not what the internet was originally envisioned as. The decentralized, democratized utopia originally imagined has been co-opted into a privacy-abusing profit center for a small handful of companies.

And look, I get it. I get to use Facebook for free, and in exchange they let advertisers target ads to me. That’s the deal. But if that’s going to be the deal, then I have to trust that the holder of that data is going to do a reasonable job protecting it, and advocating for me against the people who might want it. And Facebook is failing horribly on that front.

Somewhere on its quest for world domination growth, Facebook forgot to ask themselves how they would protect the privacy interests of their users. Instead, they saw dollar signs, and greedily forked over as much access to data as anyone was willing to pay for, and desperately hoped we wouldn’t notice. And for a while, it worked. You don’t attract 2 billion people by making something they don’t want. At least, until what you built becomes something people don’t want.

You see, if I was still enjoying Facebook, I might be willing to ride it out. Tell myself that it’s fine, because I like this thing and the bad parts will get better soon. Indeed, mounting pressure from GDPR violations in the EU will affect Facebook. But until the US also creates some sort of data protection legislation, Facebook won’t change their practices in any meaningful sense. Given the current political climate, I don’t see that happening any time soon. I could wait it out, but for what?

Facebook was pitched as a great way to keep in touch with your friends, reconnect with old ones, and says its on a mission to “connect the world.” Noble as this intention is, what value is there in using this tool if we find that all it's good at is spreading bullshit? An algorithm feeding you information - the more inflammatory the better! After all, if you’ve dedicated the last 45 minutes to a political argument in the comments, your post has lots of “engagement” and therefore must be worth seeing by everyone you know! What was once a feed of photos of friends, family, and what you had for dinner is now a morass of shitty memes, political takes from any blog or Facebook page that agrees with what you already believe, and fake news mostly shared by Baby Boomers. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that website is free.

I used to believe in Facebook’s mission. I used to believe Facebook was good for the world. I used to trust Mark Zuckerberg. I – apparently – was a dumb fuck.

Let’s Keep In Touch

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking: “great, you’re quitting Facebook, who cares?” And that’s a fantastic question! I don’t really expect anyone to care.

Except for most people, Facebook is the de facto means of keeping in touch. Indeed, Messenger is the main way I communicate with a lot of friends from college. If I just quietly deleted my account, it would be a bit harder for those people to find me. Sure, the most important people in my life have my phone number, or my email address and they’ll be able to reach me. But what about the looser connections? I’d like a means to easily keep in touch with them too, if they’d like. And I’m “announcing” my quitting Facebook to let all those people know how to keep hearing from me, if they want.

I also just like having an outlet to share things to. But Facebook isn’t great for that these days. Whenever I share an interesting article, it won’t get any reach unless it pisses someone off and they write a lot of comments. My post needs “engagement” to get reach. Unless, of course, I pay Facebook to promote it…

So what do I do? I turn to my once-nemesis: email.

If you’re online today, you almost certainly have an email address. And you probably check it somewhere between once in a while and compulsively. If you want the kind of things from me Facebook was promised to be – mildly interesting occasional updates on my life – you can now sign up for an email newsletter from me. I intend to send one or two emails a month with things that I would normally post to Facebook. Think of it as you checking my Facebook profile a couple times a month because you’re curious, “what Josh is up to these days.”

Maybe you’ll find that interesting, maybe you won’t. And if you don’t want to get emails from me, that’s cool too. If you want other ways to keep in touch, here’s a few:

  • You can subscribe to my blog’s RSS Feed, if that’s more your speed.
  • You can follow me on Twitter.
  • You can follow me on Instagram (for now - it’s harder to replace than Facebook but as a Facebook company it’s also on my shit list)
  • Or, and this is wild, you can email me (I know, email goes both ways, it’s insane!)

Through 2019 I’ll be working towards a more private experience online. My quitting Facebook won’t impact the company. But maybe this will inspire you to quit too. And maybe, just maybe, if we all start quitting, Facebook can change. I’m not optimistic, but it’s worth a shot.