Here’s why you should finally #DeleteFacebook in 2020
It’s the one guaranteed response I receive from readers whenever I’ve published a story critical of the social media giant over the past few years.
I, however, have resisted the calls to #DeleteFacebook. As a reporter, it would be hard not to follow what’s happening on there. It is, after all, the world’s largest social network, with billions of users around the globe. There are also some relatives on there that I still like.
That said, I also understand and empathize with the #DeleteFacebook sentiment more so than ever before. The revulsion many feel towards Facebook is unmatched among the big tech titans. But it’s not unwarranted. Data privacy violations, bizarre political ad policies, and a multitude of other questionable business decisions have led to this visceral distaste for Facebook.
Yes, other major tech players — Google, Apple, Twitter, and Amazon — all have issues, but it seems Facebook is intrinsically linked to its flaws in a way those companies are not. YouTube is still a place to follow your favorite video creators despite problems with its recommendation algorithm; and Twitter is still the place to get your news, even though it gives Trump’s terms-breaking rhetoric a pass. Unlike Facebook, however, the utility these companies offer users outweighs most any shortcomings and public foibles.
Facebook, then, seems to be defined by its problems — and for good reason, too! When it comes to the social network, it’s not an isolated instance of mishandling user data or a single bad policy… it’s that the company has repeatedly mishandled user data. It has continuously made bad policy decisions, and even doubled down on them when criticized by experts and the broader public. Some of Facebook’s most pressing issues have been a problem for the better part of the past ten years!
So, as 2019 comes to a close, ending our first entire decade with the Mark Zuckerberg-founded social media conglomerate, here are some reasons why you may want to delete your Facebook account.
The site that started the social media madness
Image: Juana Arias / The The Washington Post via Getty Images
Facebook’s original purpose is dead
Before Facebook was a social network, it was FaceMash, an Ivy league version of Hot or Not, where users were able to rate students based on how physically attractive they were. That’s right, Zuckerberg’s first swing at connecting the world was really just an effort to bolster his popularity on Harvard’s campus and pick up girls.
Anyway, Zuckerberg then pivoted to create a college student-centric social network known as “thefacebook,” which shortly after morphed into Facebook as we now know it. When Facebook became known to the world outside of elite, moneyed college students, its main purpose was as a platform to connect with friends and relatives you fell out of touch with.
To put its growth into perspective, consider that at the end of 2004 — the year the company was founded — it had around 1 million users. Today, Facebook boasts a user base of more than 2 billion globally.
The revulsion many feel towards Facebook is unmatched among the big tech titans. But it’s not unwarranted.
Still relatively new in the mid-aughts, the point of early Facebook, after expanding into a broader social networking platform, remained unchanged: connecting with people. The novel idea to initially only allow people to join with a .edu email address helped spark even more interest when the site opened up to the masses. The focus on the News Feed, where all your friends’ and families’ latest posts would appear on your Facebook home page, also helped users stick around once they were sucked in.
But as technology continued to integrate more and more into our daily lives across all generations, being on social media rapidly became the default. Now, no one asks if you’re on social media anymore. Because of course you are. You’re an outlier if you’re not.
Younger millennials, Gen Z, and future generations have already friended, followed, and subscribed to everyone they care to know. Reconnecting with someone no longer involves searching to see if they’re online; it’s now as simple as pulling up your contacts and sending them a tweet or DM.
It’s ugly as hell
Direct your browser to Facebook dot com. Log in. Just stay on the page for a minute and take in what you’re looking at. What is up with that user interface? How many of those links in your sidebar menu have you ever even clicked? Do you even own an Oculus VR headset? How many people do? Yet, right there on every user’s menu bar is a dedicated Oculus button.
It’s incredible how little Facebook has changed its main design characteristics over the years, being that it’s so terrible. The color scheme is a bore: a dull shade of dark blue with a depressing gray background. The layout is out of date. But, most importantly, the site is a mess. Crowded sidebar menus, a nonsensical newsfeed display — information overload is just everywhere on the page.
Try writing a simple post, for example. You are bombarded with a multitude of options piled on top of one another. Do you want to include a GIF? A poll? Share your mood? Maybe you actually wanted to start a livestream or financially support a nonprofit when you clicked the dedicated area to input text!
It feels like there are options to be chosen within options, making it all so difficult to figure out how you chose your various settings. Is your latest Facebook post public, or private, or somewhere in between? Some of this is intentional, done to obfuscate privacy settings and, thus, benefit Facebook’s bottom line.
But, it can’t all be intentional. Look at a product like the company’s YouTube-competitor, Facebook Watch. It’s still unknown to so many of Facebook’s users despite having prime placement at the top of the site’s sidebar menu.
Sure, Facebook is a step up from the days of glittery GIF backgrounds on MySpace, but at least those designs were user created. This is a multi-billion dollar corporation actively making a decision to design its platform in this way. It’s as confusing as it is atrocious.
Even Zuck is mad at Zuck.
Image: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg filed a lawsuit to force hundreds of people on a tiny Hawaiian island to sell their land. The Facebook founder had already rubbed the locals the wrong way when he started building a massive wall around his $100 million property on the island, cutting himself off from the community and blocking the views of the ocean. Eventually, after waves of criticism, he dropped the lawsuit (although, apparently Zuckerberg backed a local who bought up some of the properties he was after earlier this year).
This may not sound like a direct reason to #DeleteFacebook, but it says a lot about the character of the person who runs the show and calls all the shots.
“Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.”
Mark Zuckerberg said those words just days after Donald Trump won the 2016 election. The outright dismissal of the idea that Facebook, which makes billions by selling the idea that its platform can sway people to consume whatever it is an advertiser is selling, couldn’t also sway an election is preposterous.
The Facebook CEO later said he regretted making the comment and took responsibility for the role his company played in spreading disinformation. But, the episode, like so many others, speaks volumes to Zuckerberg’s character.
Who could forget Zuckerberg’s abysmal handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal? The Facebook CEO is still being cagey about how much the company knew of the data mining operation before the news broke and when exactly it was made aware. Oh, and remember the time it was revealed that he personally ordered that anti-competitive measures be taken against other social media platforms, such as the one that kneecap’d Vine? Every single issue mentioned in this piece and beyond is a function of one person’s choice: Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s too damn big
The social network has a stranglehold on the market. Sure, there are some “competitors” that aren’t really in the same space, like YouTube and Twitter. There are platforms like Snapchat and TikTok that have become extremely popular with the younger audiences Facebook would like to get back on their network. But, in terms of a global social networking platform, Facebook stands alone.
Part of this is because Facebook has gobbled up growing social media services whenever it can. The company acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion. Two years later, to assure worldwide domination, it purchased WhatsApp for $16 billion. These services are entire platforms in their own right. Instagram and WhatsApp have more than 1 billion active users each! And Facebook sets the terms and collects the data on all of them. Now Zuckerberg wants Facebook to run its own digital currency? It’s just too much power.
Libra. ‘Nuff said.
Image: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
You can’t trust Facebook
It’s hard to imagine trusting your financial information with a company that plays fast and loose with its users’ data. But that’s what Mark Zuckerberg wants you to do with its digital currency project, Libra.
Facebook has continually made the decision to put profits over people’s privacy, as proven by the myriad breaches and leaks over the year due to the company’s own data mishandling. Leaked private information, passwords stored as plain text, third-parties with access to an inordinate amount of user data — the list goes on.
Facebook has continually made the decision to put profits over people’s privacy.
And that’s all without mentioning one of the company’s biggest scandals: Cambridge Analytica. In case you need a reminder: A political consulting firm was able to acquire the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users, originally harvested by a third party, and then use the data to promote Brexit in the UK, and help the Trump campaign win in 2016.
To top it off, this year, the FCC fined Facebook a record-breaking $5 billion as a result of its privacy violations. Now, this sounds like justice being served — until you learn that the fine amounts to just one month’s revenue for Facebook. It’s basically a slap on the wrist.
A threat to democracy
A kind read of Zuckerberg’s 2016 quote denying the power of fake news, spread by his platform, as an election-tipping tool would be that he just couldn’t believe the reach of his own pet monster. But if someone came to the realization that their creation led to profound harm, they’d do something about it, right?
Not if you’re Facebook. A few months ago, the company rolled out its new political advertising policies which explicitly allow politicians to lie in their Facebook advertising. Zuckerberg and co. have hidden behind free speech in order to defend the rule. Free speech could make for a reasoned explanation as to why you’re allowing certain content posted organically on your platform. But, as a defense for making money off political advertising? Ridiculous.
Facebook has already shuttered ad campaigns from Adriel Hampton, a California gubernatorial candidate who made it known he was going to push the limits of the company’s political ad policy to prove a point. Facebook even went so far as to suggest Hampton, whose campaign is officially registered in the state of California, was not a real candidate.
We are now more than three years removed from the last U.S. presidential election and fake news is still a major problem for the social network. The company routinely announces its latest foreign influence campaign discoveries, often purging hundreds of coordinated propaganda accounts from its platform each time.
With 2020 just around the corner, Facebook has shown that it’s just not ready.
If you think the erosion of our democracy due to fake news is a problem, wait until you hear what’s going on around the rest of the world at the hands of Facebook.
The United Nations has stated that Facebook played a role in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The platform has been used to spread hate speech and disinformation about the Rohingya Muslim people.
To underscore how serious this issue is, consider that, for some countries, Facebook is effectively the internet thanks to its Free Basics (formerly internet.org) initiative. This program provides free mobile web access to users in developing countries. But there’s a catch: Facebook basically decides what content is freely available to these users. The program has been roundly criticized, leading some governments to end its participation in the Free Basics program.
Image: AMY OSBORNE / AFP via Getty Images
An openly partisan platform
I recently explained in detail how Facebook has become the right wing’s preferred social network. For example, the social media giant has been bending over backwards in recent years for those who falsely claim there is an anti-conservative bias on the platform. To prove those accusations as false, all one has to do is view the top-performing news publishers on Facebook, which is routinely dominated by right-wing outlets.
The idea of being a partisan media outlet is not really the problem here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with progressive and conservative media existing, as long as they are upfront about it.
The problem is that Facebook is supposedly a neutral platform and acts as a gatekeeper for publishers, politicians, and users regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. This bias from Facebook is effectively swaying its platform in one direction while pretending to be something else.
If someone came to the realization that their creation led to profound harm, they’d do something about it, right?
Recently, it was reported that Mark Zuckerberg had a private dinner with President Donald Trump. Again, the CEO of a major American company meeting with the president is not surprising. The secrecy surrounding it, however, certainly is. What’s especially problematic is knowing how Facebook embedded itself within the Trump campaign to help the then-presidential candidate leverage the platform for his run.
On top of that, Trump backer and Facebook board member Peter Thiel was in attendance at this dinner. And that’s far from the only overlap between Facebook and the right. The company has hired three top executives whose resumes are filled with past experience in the Republican Party.
One such executive, Facebook Vice President for Global Public Policy, Joel Kaplan, received media attention in 2018 after appearing in support of Brett Kavanaugh, the then-Supreme Court nominee who was facing sexual harassment allegations.
Not only did Kaplan throw a party for Kavanaugh when he was confirmed, but just this month, Facebook sponsored an event where the Supreme Court Justice was speaking. The gathering was hosted by the Federalist Society, a powerful group of influential right-wing legal minds that counsels President Trump on judicial picks. It’s hard to imagine Kaplan not having a hand in that sponsorship decision.
Facebook doesn’t care about you
Everyday, countless users are scammed on Facebook. Sure, it’s a problem all internet platforms face. But the level of fraud on Facebook is so brazen, it seems implausible that the company couldn’t do more to weed it out.
Scammers pay Facebook directly to run ads that sell their snake-oil schemes straight to its users. Fake accounts trying to bilk people out of money with counterfeit goods or Facebook’s own currency are a platform staple at this point.
Plus, when users try to help Facebook out and report these things, they’re given little feedback or sometimes treated even worse.
Zuck in what’s become a familiar backdrop for the CEO
Image: Aurora Samperio / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Surely older people should have a place to congregate online, too. I’m not saying this to be ageist. But, some of the company’s biggest problems are an effect of how its growing older demographic uses the platform. And Facebook is happy to enable this crowd for the almighty dollar.
For example, why does fake news run so rampant on Facebook? Because boomers.
Studies have shown that the boomer generation is more susceptible to online disinformation. One particular study found that the boomer generation is seven times more likely to share fake news than people under 30.
There’s a reason why the platform’s top news publishers are almost all conservative news outlets, a suspicious turn of events after years of complaints from the right over Facebook’s perceived liberal bias. Boomers.
There’s a reason why scams, which are able to micro-target susceptible users, run amok on Facebook. You guessed it. Boomers.
More engagement on the site equals more time spent on the site, which means more advertising revenue for Facebook. If boomers want to share their fake news and right-wing propaganda, what incentive does Facebook have to interfere?
Pull the plug
So, did this finally convince you to leave Facebook? If it did, what was the final straw for you? The carelessness with your private data? The enabling of lies and propaganda? Maybe a combination of everything? The boomer takeover certainly had something to do with it, didn’t it?
Well, I wouldn’t worry about missing Facebook too much — especially if you’re under the age of 55. Most of your friends are probably on Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok anyway.
Here’s why you should finally #DeleteFacebook in 2020
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