In part 1 of my look at Facebook as part of the wider Social Contracts series, I examined some of the issues caused by Facebook and how it's turned into an almost unstoppable machine. Up next, I'll look at my personal experience using their networks after nearly a year away, before discussing how to #DeleteFacebook.

Stepping Back

Over our Christmas holiday in 2018, I stepped away from social media. I felt I was overusing it and deriving little benefit in return, at the cost of much of my free time.

In the intervening year, it's been refreshing. Often weeks go by where I don't even open the apps.

It's allowed me to blow my reading goal of 40 books out of the water: 54 done and dusted.

Quickly Checking In

Just before Christmas, I opened the apps again.

The first thing that struck me about Facebook was the abundance of ads. More than half of the posts in my feed were "sponsored"; most from companies I haven't heard of before.

Unlike the good ol' days of ads, these aren't just random. Advertisers very explicitly target them based upon a range of factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual preference
  • Location
  • Political persuasion
  • Religious belief
  • Who you're friends with
  • What websites you visit
  • What apps you use
  • Who you work with
  • Where you eat
  • Where you go
  • What you purchase
  • What you Google

And so on.

This is how Facebook collects data on you even if you don’t have an account
One of the more interesting takeaways to come out of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s multi-day congressional testimony last week was confirmation that the social giant collects data from people online even if they don’t have a Facebook account. And there’s little you can do about it.

Even if you don't have a Facebook account.

Many of these are things we don't discuss with our friends, family, or colleagues. So why is it OK for advertisers to know them?

Bear in mind that I run a Pi-Hole that sends things like ads and trackers into a black hole. I routinely reset advertising identifiers. I run ad-blockers on my devices. And yet, there are hundreds of native ads in my feed. I can't have Facebook without ads (although, all of those tools allow me to have the internet without ads).

So that's annoying.

The second is how, for all of the differentiation in individual pictures, everything on Instagram looks the same. Instagram was supposed to be the new Flickr. The fun, easy way to share photos with friends and family using quirky filters. (Incidentally, Flickr is awesome again now that they're no longer part of Yahoo.)

Instead, I get pummelled with hundreds of posts of beautiful beaches and mountain ranges and fancy meals. It all looks fantastic, and now I have FOMO! But, this isn't real life. It's just make-believe. And, clearly, "influencers" are happy to charge a lot of green to post these photos, even if it derives little benefit to the "influenced" business.

So, while these photos all look incredible, they're still just ads. They may as well say "Flight Centre" or "Entertainment Book" in the bottom corner.

If I want to watch ads, I'd just watch the TV Shopping Network. No thanks!

Bowing Out

On reflection, how can I be at peace using Facebook, given the atrocities they commit or are a party to?

I cannot subject myself to a carnivorous diet knowing the treatment that animals realistically receive.

I cannot continue buying products with microplastics or microbeads, knowing they end up in the ocean and consumed by marine wildlife (which humans then consume).

I cannot stay on the fast fashion bandwagon, knowing the cost fast fashion has on the environment and women.

Ergo, I cannot stay on Facebook and be at peace.

Will you do the same?

Getting Started on Getting Out

If you'd like to get started, you can delete your Facebook account. It's a surprisingly tricky option to locate!

If you run a business or community group, there's something for you too. Basecamp is a company that creates a rather opinionated project management application. Their similarly strong-standing blog Signal v. Noise has an article where they discuss their decision to become a Facebook-free business.

BONUS - 100% Facebook-Free | Rework | Episode 33
After yet another round of revelations about Facebook’s use of customer data, Basecamp has decided to become 100% Facebook-free. We’ve actually been off Facebook proper for a while, but on Wednesday we decided to remove the company from Instagram and WhatsApp as well. This is a conversation with Bas…

Basecamp also hosts a podcast called Rework, where they have a follow-up episode about that announcement. You can be free as well!

Support a Democratic Society by Supporting Journalism

One of the most important things we as members of a free society can do is to support independent, quality journalism. By support, I mean subscribe, donate, or provide some other measure of financial support. Some organisations worthy of your time and hard-earned dollars are:

Hat tip to The Juice Media, who've been producing some eye-opening videos for the last couple of years highlighting what the Australian Government is doing. They have a Patreon page if you'd like to support their work.

Staying Social without the Overlords

The essentials of a good conversation.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

With Facebook out of the way, what are some ways you can stay in touch with people?

Telegram is a wonderful little chat app. Unlike Facebook Messenger that reads your messages, Telegram is privacy-focused, heavily encrypted, and messages can self-destruct.

It's easy to set up groups with friends or entire communities of all sizes. You control what people see. It's free, and available everywhere (except that old Amiga you have lying around).

Feel free to say hi!

How comfortable are you with your social contract with Facebook? Jump in to the comments below to discuss!

The Facebook-Free badge has been released under Creative Commons by Basecamp.