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My relationship with Facebook: “It’s complicated”

It is part of the global Internet infrastructure now.

Safiya Noble, a University of Southern California professor and author of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

I often fantasize about deleting my Facebook account.  I don’t think I’m the only one: between the “timesuck” factor and the constant security breaches, the #DeleteFacebook hashtag has risen in popularity. Despite the fact that I’ve written several books about social media, I’m emotionally so done with Facebook.

Yet, I can’t leave it. It’s not even just a matter of connections to friends, families and colleagues, although losing the convenience of having them all centrally accessible would a tremendous problem for me. Facebook is also the place where I can get support for various medical issues that my family is dealing with. It’s where I connect to other practitioners of my hobbies and interests. (It’s also the only place to really find out where some Irish jam sessions (seisúns) are happening around the Northeast Ohio area.) I’m pretty sure I could live without more pictures of puppies, memes, or dinners. But too many people use it to communicate and organize ,around too many things, to simply walk away.

Let’s be honest: do we really want to go back to the days of emailing lots of people and hoping for a response? I ask myself if I could go back to treating every group social interaction like a listserv, and it makes me shudder. When it comes to putting all of the social “stuff” of my life in one place, Facebook can’t be beat. And that’s why I struggle with the #DeleteFacebook movement.  Facebook’s totally irresponsible with my data. And I’ve no expectation that will change. I suppose I’ve resigned myself to a sort of “Oh well, I’m screwed anyway” attitude and just keep moving on with Facebook.  But, underneath, every time I scroll through that feed, there’s an uneasy feeling of wondering how long until a big enough shoe drops…and, by then, will it be too late for me?

I’ve cut way back on posting to Facebook over the past several months, and I feel a strong sense of guilt every time that I post. After all, posting is feeding the beast. Just logging in is feeding the beast, too, since Facebook gets more data about what kinds of posts I spend time on. Even if I decide to personally break up with Facebook, I’m also responsible for managing several Facebook Pages and groups, including for my job, so abandoning Facebook is not something I can do right now. Maybe never. And every new scandal or security breach just adds to the frustration and remorse.

I’ve fallen out of love with Facebook. Even while it serves me, I know that the long-term prospects for my relationship with the platform are poor. What now? I have really have no idea.

What are your thoughts about using Facebook now? Share in the comments!

There are 2 comments

  1. I’m in the same boat, but for slightly different reasons. Do I like that companies can target me based on my Facebook data? No, but I kind of feel powerless to stop it, and I’m in too deep with Facebook as a tool to connect to all my friends/family around the globe.

    For me, my issue with Facebook is that I find it toxic. A couple months ago I had had enough of all of it. I unfriended people who I considered toxic or acquaintances I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I am liberal with my use of the unfollow button if I don’t think I can unfriend someone without real-life consequences. I unfollowed almost all of the pages I’ve liked over the years–no news, no politics, no gossip. The only things that remain are pages of bands that I like, video game news, and cooking/baking pages. After taking these steps, Facebook is starting to feel like the site I joined back in 2005…a place to connect and share with friends and family. Since then it’s been a little more pleasant of a place to be.

  2. I’m spending far less time on Facebook now but still need to be part of it because of various groups I manage, plus a smidgen of needing to stay in touch personally with family and friends. The breaches and political scandals don’t bother me personally as a Facebook user. What bothered me was the time-suck factor and also the reflexive thought when anything happened to me that “oh! I need to share this on Facebook!” as if it didn’t have value if it wasn’t shared. And the obsessive (I will admit) checking to see how many “likes” I would get after I posted something. Yechh. As if I were a teenager.

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