A colleague at work today asked about my disdain for Facebook. This was my response.
I would start by saying that I recognize that it is possible for Facebook to be evil and at the same time for you to get a lot of benefit from it. My problem with Facebook isn’t that it’s just crap, and has had no positive side effects of any kind, but rather that Facebook consistently demonstrates a shameless disregard for the well being of humans, while seeming to believe it is doing the opposite.
Here are some things Facebook has done that are Wrong:
- They don’t let you delete the data they collect about you.
- They don’t let you see the data they collect about you.
- They constantly leak information they collect to third parties, and don’t tell you when this has happened, they lie about it when found out before finally admitting that maybe something happened. Then they do it again.
- They pulled off a massive Bait & Switch on Facebook Pages by cutting off Page owner’s access to their fans unless they pay for access.
- They experiment on their users, adjusting the content that they see and attempting to determine if that changed their mood or behaviors. i.e. “Can we make our users happier, or angrier?”
- They have ignored copyright infringement forever, while constantly promoting stolen content in news feeds, and profiting from it.
- They build huge profiles for everyone they can, regardless of whether that person uses Facebook or not. These are called Shadow Profiles. You are not able to see what is yours, nor ask that the data be removed. These profiles include phone numbers you haven’t given Facebook, email addresses you haven’t given Facebook, all the websites you visit, the apps you have installed on your phone, your location (constantly updated), what your face looks like, who your kids are, etc. And advertisers can target this information at will.
- They manage the information that 2 billion+ people see on a regular basis, and that management has been demonstrated to make people feel sadder, more isolated, and actually become less informed about the world around them.
At the core, Facebook just has too much power and influence. Their goal isn’t to “connect” people, their goal is to get users to spend as much time as possible in the Facebook app. That means selling out to the most basic attractors like sensational posts (truth be damned), FOMO moments, and the like.
They spend 25 billion dollars a year investing in data analysis to attract the eyeballs of as many human beings as possible, by whatever means are effective. The job is literally, “how can we get Carol to spend 3 more minutes per day on Facebook?” They don’t care if those 3 minutes are good for you or bad for you, just so long as you spend them looking at that news feed.
Facebook is like a massive, mechanized Foie gras farm. Every day the cages get a little smaller, the amount of food to be force-fed a little larger. “We can leave any time we want,” the ducks say. And all the while they sit contentedly, arguing about whether the earth is round or flat, and laughing at cat videos.