I’m pulling the plug on Facebook next weekend (June 13). As a person with a tech background I thought I’d write a final post on why I’m doing this, in the hope that it brings a couple of data points to the conversation on what to do about Facebook. If it triggers you to do the same, or to share the data points with others, that’s even better. As a historically infrequent user of Facebook, I might thus accomplish more in deleting my account than I ever did in subscribing:-).
I’m deleting Facebook because the moral issues of their leadership and their founder just crossed over from being a concern to being an active threat to the average person.
That Facebook’s founder has a history of being unethical is not news. In the past BusinessInsider.com has reported on how he used Facebook’s user data to guess email passwords and access private information of rivals. And, Facebook’s unethical approach to privacy – by making money off luring people into giving up something that they didn’t realize is valuable – is not new either.
The fact is that FB does provide some (arguably, too small) service by helping you stay connected with others. And the privacy concerns are usually more an annoyance than an immediate hurt for most people.
So, the cost-benefit equation of deleting the account was never very clear. The cost – in terms of taking specific actions to delete the account, and losing social updates – versus the benefits in terms of a moral victory, was a fuzzy equation.
Two things have changed.
First, the everyday person is starting to actively get hurt. Whether it’s the innocent person in India lynched by a mob over false information, or the innocent person in the US getting harmed due to misleading or unethical content – the stakes have gotten much, much higher. The average person – you and I – is starting to hurt.
Here’s the thing – the Tech Industry did, and still does play a valuable role in connecting people and information. And, they critically facilitate transparency and information access. The early, innocent days of Facebook, MySpace and the Internet were wonderful because tech provided a great value proposition to humanity. Some of them still do so now.
The ones that do, recognise that with great power comes great responsibility.
To ignore that social media has developed a darker side that hurts people, by hiding behind the principle of freedom of speech, or by insisting that it’s the role of governments to legislate, is to avoid that great responsibility. And, to continue to grow personal wealth and power by evading that responsibility is worse – bordering on criminal negligence.
The second thing that’s changed is the number of options available to connect with others. We now have zoom calls, TikTok, free phone services, Twitter and (perhaps too) many other options. Many of these (e.g. Group FaceTime or Google Hangouts) actually enable higher quality conversations. Thus, in the fast moving tech world, Facebook may be guilty of a sin that’s almost as bad as immorality It’s become as stale as yesterday’s pizza.
My earlier point that evading personal responsibilities borders on criminal negligence, was of course aimed at Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s leadership. But, it applies to us in some measure as well. I feel that I would bear some weight of responsibility if I committed the sin of omission by being too lazy to act.
Of course, as can be expected of someone who makes money off you, Facebook makes it hard to delete your account. It offers to Deactivate, rather than Delete. And the steps to Delete are complicated. I’d like to share that I’ve come across what seems like a good guide to deleting your Facebook account.
Even as a poor social media user, if my decision affects your ability to contact me, I apologize. That’s honestly something I regret. I hope to stay in touch with you all on more ethical platforms.