I joined Facebook when I was 17. It was the cool new thing as I was starting college. But over the last year I’ve reduced my usage to logging on once every 4-6 weeks or so and today it’s time to log off for good. This is my last post:
“Bye, Facebook! It’s been a wild 17 years. I’ve spent my whole career in one incarnation or another of tech. In the last 5 years, I’ve sought to be more intentional in this career and what purpose it serves, and part of that reflection was my use of Facebook. Here’s where I landed:
As with so much emerging tech, Facebook started as a useful novelty; a way to connect with people and communities more easily. A lot of it seemed to be innovation for the sake of innovation. Innocent enough, right? “Let’s solve Problem X because no one ever has before!” At its core, engineering is problem solving.
In 2009-2011, as Facebook gained users and popularity and prepared to go public, the question on everyone’s mind was “Sure it’s a great platform, but how will Facebook be profitable?”
Uh oh! Turns out Problem X was turning a profit and its solution was increasingly sophisticated algorithms, complicated policies, insidiously clever optimization of how to sell its biggest commodity: us, the users. Our data, our attention, our resources. It wasn’t innovation for the sake of innovation anymore (if it ever really was), it was innovation for the sake of profit (read: capitalism).
At its best, technology can serve diverse communities. It can improve racial equity, bridge wealth and access gaps that have existed for generations. It can be built accessibly and inclusively! Good tech can provide transparency and hold powerful public and private institutions to account. But if profit is the priority, none of these good things can be. And we’ve seen time and again that Facebook will go several steps further and act in bad faith if it can make a buck promoting hate speech or misinformation in its algorithms.
Look, there is a lot of nuance that I don’t feel the need to explore here. The problem is bigger than Facebook, but Facebook is a huge part of the problem. It will continue causing harm with one hand and making paltry attempts to minimize it with the other. It will do this in perpetuity, probably. And I will continue engaging with the internet and social media and the great wide world in other ways. But I want to minimize my usefulness to Facebook as something to be bought and sold in the form of data and clicks, so I’m deleting my account this evening.
I’m grateful for all the personal connections Facebook has facilitated. If I speak to you regularly, I’ll talk to you soon. If not, I’d love to connect a different way. I got bad about snail mail during the pandemic, but I’m reviving it slowly. Maybe we can be penpals someday. Or hit me up if you come visit NYC and we can get into whatever trouble you want.
I still have social media, including other Facebook-owned platforms. But none that I’ve posted on for half my life. I’m more judicious about things now and will continue to evaluate which are worth keeping and which I might jettison.