Facebook doesn’t want to be the platform for intelligent discourse, and that’s exactly why I left it.
I first started using the platform in college, when Facebook was only availble to those with a college email. After it was rolled out to the general population, I never added a lot of people I knew I wouldn’t talk to. I kept my friends list manageable, mostly family and friends I would see often.
Then after a few years, approaching its initial public offering, Facebook began to distort the social experience. It rolled out a feature called news feed. Instead of receiving posts from your friends in chronological order, you saw what an algorithm determined was news.
At first this wasn’t too bad because most of what was considered news were topics, people and posts you probably liked seeing. It was often populated by those you interacted with often and topics/pages you “liked” on their website. It was a healthy mix between people and pages, with minimal sponsored posts. Plus you could still switch to a chronological time line that didn’t limit how far back you could scroll.
Then advertisers began to make up a larger portion of the social networks revenue. They became crucial to their profitability. Facebook repeatedly landed in hot water for privacy practices, notably data mining and the ownership of user IP, like photos.
It was around this time Facebook started to take over control. No longer was the platform content in allowing users to determine what they wanted to see. Facebook determined what Facebook wanted you to see. It even ran a social experiment showing more sad/happy posts to gauge user reaction.
Facebooks news feed functions as a tool for data analytics. 2/3rds of my news feed quickly turned to Facebook games, public pages for brands/sports teams etc, media pages, sponsored posts and maybe only 15% would actually be people I wanted to hear from.
Concurrently, Facebook launched an update to its smart phone app that limited the chronological time line and saturated that time line with sponsored posts.
Unlike Twitter where the user can create lists to track interests and those they most want to hear from, Facebook finally removed the option for users to control anything. Twitter cares about the experience its users have. Facebook does not. Whereas Twitter allows multiple apps, giving users even more options to filter content, Facebook only has its one app. Facebook wants to be in full control.
After news feed went to shit, many friends started leaving the site. I stayed, perhaps only because it was one of the few ways I could see all of my families posts, photos etc.
Then finally those posts were less and less too. I began having to manually go to people’s pages to see what they were up to. Within the past year, news feed is largely not even text. Over 90% of what you see on Facebook are inaccurate memes, stupid viral content and tabloid headlines. Whether or not a friend posted it, that’s what you would see. Also, if I liked a story on a public page, my news feed time line would quickly be consumed by all that pages posts.
Facebook does not care that it is the low information social platform. It relishes in that because the sheep who fall for bull shit memes are exactly the kinds of people Facebooks advertising partners want to buy their junk. Uninformed, easily manipulated morons — it is easy to part a fool from his/her money.
Yet in spite of all this, what ultimately put me over the edge was a new tweak to their news feed: the garbage political posts and proliferation of racism that went unpoliced.
I have recently tested a theory that Facebook shows you content you will disagree with in order to bait you into argument. Instead of seeing things you generally agree with, like in the early news feed days, Facebook wanted to find a way to keep you on the site longer. If you see a post you agree with, at most you’ll give it a like. Maybe you’ll add a comment or two. Then that’s it. Whereas if you find a post that offends you or is just totally factually inaccurate — you’re more likely to debate with the poster. The more you debate, the more you’re opening the app to check replies.
Think about why this makes sense. The more you open the app the more advertisers can learn about you, advertise to you etc.
So Facebook finds out what you are passionate about and shows you content in that subject that you are likely to disagree with. Maybe a sports team you despise, a friend supports. A political candidate or positions you disagree with in the strongest terms.
Facebook wants people arguing because it is good for their bottom line. The more outrageous the garbage content, the more divisiveness.
Recently I reported a page posting bigoted content called “Fuck Islam.” Facebook wrote back to me saying it didn’t violate their community standards. Of course it didn’t, that’s because Facebook has no moral or philosophical standards! Only greed.
At first the refusal to ban this page shocked and appalled me. However as this kind of virulent racism and bigotry became more common on their platform, I realized Facebook was fast becoming a home to the fringe political right wing – the low information voter. The fool and his money. The reactionary sheep advertisers are so desperate to court.
As higher educated people and younger people of progressive leanings fled the platform, older socially conservative people filled the gap. Facebook quickly became like an early 90s chain mail of made up stories and factually inaccurate memes meant to reinforce toxic political beliefs.
So finally I had enough. I couldn’t take the exposure to what had become a toxic right wing environment. I could no longer stand a news feed full of racist memes, promoted pages endorsing awful views and just plain dumb crap that as an educated and well read person I’d have no interest in.
So I deleted the app, blocked the site from my MacBook and hope to never look back.
I’m sure I’ll miss friends events. I won’t get to see many of my families photos. I think that’s a small price to pay for removing awful content from my life.
Maybe one day I’ll go back to Facebook if it decides to give users more control over their experience. Perhaps one day I’ll go back if it decides to be a more inclusive place and bans pages and content that are broadly offensive to most reasonable people.
But I doubt that day will ever come. Facebook does not care about inclusiveness or what you want. It just cares about what it wants, and what it wants is to make money. It is a company which has lost all moral compass as it makes money in perhaps the most repugnant of ways; privacy invasion, manipulating people’s emotions and fostering an environment which promotes divisiveness.
Today I realize I don’t have to help them make money. I hope that if your experience is anything like mine, you shouldn’t need to help them in that endeavor either.