Man, social media is crazy. I’ve been part of the online social world for 35 years, since 1985, when I first joined Quantum Link on my Commodore 64 when I was 16 years old (yes, I’m that old – my C64 even had a tape drive, lol). Although MUDs existed already (text-only chat rooms), Q-Link was one of the earliest social platforms with an actual graphic interface – you might know Q-Link better as what it eventually turned into: America Online.
Over the decades, I’ve had so much fun and made so many friends through the online world, but with the advent of Facebook, that good vibe slowly but surely changed. Online socializing went from direct communication (America Online) to a combination of real-time text chatting and static wall-sharing (AOL Instant Messenger paired with Myspace) to static wall-sharing with non-live messaging (Facebook with FB Messenger). Over the last three and a half decades, the focus of social media went from connecting people and helping them communicate with each other easily and instantly, to an exercise in vanity where people constantly share but rarely communicate with each other directly, eventually ending up where we are today: social media is now a tool used by massive corporations to control people and economies, sway elections and profit off the private data of its users.
I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a hot minute now but I keep putting off the inevitable, hoping an alternative will spring up, but nothing ever does. Facebook in its current iteration is dangerous. It abuses its power, affecting far too many important and far-reaching issues without any input from its users and without giving even the slightest bit of control to the very people who make it possible for Facebook to exert that power, with no transparency and almost no possibility of redress when there are problems. It’s far too large (nearly three billion users – fast approaching HALF the world’s population), it’s far too powerful (it’s been proven to have intentionally and unintentionally affected national elections, social campaigns and human rights issues in a negative way, sometimes with catastrophic results), it’s been caught conducting social and psychological experiments on its users without their permission or knowledge and it has almost zero oversight or regulation. Altogether, that makes Facebook one of the most dangerous players on the world stage today and, unfortunately, it’s proven to be a fairly serious force for evil, too.
I’ve spent a huge amount of time using Facebook – it’s been my main point of contact with my people since 2007. Facebook has made it easy to connect to people, but the opposite is also true – it’s also made it easy, too easy, to disconnect, and I’ve lost several friendships because of Facebook interactions, interactions that would never have happened in-person. Over the years I’ve often opined that Facebook was actually working to make people less social. Facebook is a massive time suck for most people, and it does everything it can to keep you on the platform, instead of actually out there in the world, interacting with each other in-person. There has never been another app that’s affected people in such a negative way while maintaining that it’s a force for good in our lives. It’s an addition for many as well – I’ve deactivated once and deleted once, but both times I justified the decision by telling myself I was just taking a break…and sure enough, I always came back.
Facebook hasn’t cared about the user (beyond what it can earn from it) for a long time, but these days, it brings more drama and strife into the world than almost any other single platform or organization in existence. Worse, it has become a terribly effective tool for spreading harm and lies, and it’s managed, not with care and kindness and an eye for safety and health, but with disdain and duplicity and policies and actions motivated solely by profit margins and power.
Even with serious government intervention and regulation, Facebook still has the power to do serious harm and hold sway over massive amounts of people without their knowledge or understanding. That alone is reason enough to move on. We survived for millions of years without Facebook, and we’ll survive long after it’s gone.
Update: at the time of this writing, I had scheduled Facebook for deletion, but only a week and a half later, I canceled the deletion and started using Facebook again. Yup, I’m addicted. One app really shouldn’t have such an insidious hold on people, but man, do I need to step up my will-power game, lol.