The way we interact with Facebook today will shape the future for yourself and the startups of tomorrow. Over the years, I have had a Facebook account, and have lost count on how many times I have deleted it. I rarely use social media for personal use and have decided yet again for the final time, after never using it and understanding the reasons why we should delete Facebook, to make my account non-existent. It’s really a no brainer, delete Facebook!
A while back I was contacted by an old friend, that I hadn’t spoken to for years. He found me on Facebook, and as soon as I accepted his ‘friend request’, we began chatting. One of the things he wanted to discuss was how I was making a success with my blogs, as he was interested in starting a personal blog. Which also lead me to write the ‘how to write a blog’ post. Anyway, I started to discuss certain angles to focus on and how much time and effort to focus on each one.
He seemed very enthusiastic about the whole idea of a personal website, and I reassured him that he may not see results until month two or further down the line. He clearly understood what I was talking about and the methods I shared with him. But near to the end of the conversation, he started talking about a service, that one of his friends had suggested called ‘InstantGrowth’ which in his words, described that they could turn his newly created website into a 50,000 daily visitors site in 2 months. Honestly, I don’t believe in these kinds of services, and literally told him what I thought about the whole concept. It came across as though he agreed in what I was saying, maybe due to the fact that I had already become slightly successful already.
Anyway, after the conversation ended, I didn’t think about InstantGrowth, research it online, or talk to anyone else about it. But less than 48 hours later, I started seeing ads for InstantGrowth on my Facebook, and Instagram (a platform also owned by Facebook). It wasn’t the fact that I was getting ads that creeped me out, as I’ve received ads before from products I’ve looked up, or used, or even shared myself. But seeing ads for products that I’ve only ever talked to one person about over Facebook? Bit strange, I thought.
As you can imagine, this guided me on a mission, and I discovered that I wasn’t alone. I came across 100+ posts, stories and comments online from people who were getting creeped out by the fact they were seeing ads that could have only come from Facebook eavesdropping on their conversations.
Common sense would lead to the conclusion that this isn’t happening, as it would be a massive amount of work and data analyzing just to marginally order better ad targeting. Like a ‘Wired’ post once said, Facebook doesn’t need to listen to your conversations. They can target you well enough without it.
Cause for Concern
That sentence from Wired is supposed to be reassuring, but for me, it comes across as they’re not listening to you, because they don’t have to. And because of that, I find that even more frightening, don’t you? In fact, Facebook knows so much about you, that they can trick you into thinking they are listening in to your conversations. All the information Facebook have on you aids them in sending you ads that have an uncanny relevance to what is going on in the real world.
Brainstorm for a second: Imagine, that you had a friend with this level of knowledge about you. That friend knows what you like, what you fear, what you want, who you hang out with, where you go, and what type of mood you’re in at any given time.
With all this knowledge that could be an amazing asset to your life or a complete nightmare to your reality. Like relationships, it all comes down on what they do with the information, and how well you can trust them to keep it between the two parties.
Now switch it a little and think about that friend, with all their information about you, use it to make money, maybe by manipulating your decisions to benefit themselves. Then imagine they’re the kind of morally bankrupt person who would take advantage of their good friend this way. What would you think their incentives would look like?
So now they know they can make money from manipulating your decisions, they’ll try and manipulate your decisions. And because they can better manipulate your decision by learning even more about you, they’ll want to learn more about you. If they’re searching for the greatest success for themselves, they will have to figure out how to manipulate you as much as possible, and collect as much data on you as they can.
This is the situation that Facebook has gotten itself into:
They make money from advertisements ——> Which means they need you to click on the ads ——> Which again means they need to know more about you to send you better ads ——> And they need you to spend more time on the site, so you click on more ads (which is why they don’t like people posting links outside of Facebook’s own domain) ——> So they’re motivated to get you addicted to spending time on the platform while collecting as much information about you as possible.
Hidden in plain sight, Facebook’s product is not its platform, its US! If a product is what a business sells to make money, then Facebook’s product is our attention and data, WE ARE THE PRODUCT, and most of us don’t even know it. Customers of Facebook are the companies buying ads based on that attention and data.
So, if our own time and attention is Facebook’s true product, then their long term goal seems clear. To influence and tax how we communicate in the 21st century. Think about every product they’ve launched and every company they’ve acquired, they’re all related to this goal. And why deleting Facebook is a step in the right direction.
Facebook App – is the asynchronous, community-focused communication platform.
Messenger / WhatsApp – are the most instant, smaller group communication platforms.
Instagram – is the visual communication platform.
Oculus – can be the future immersive version of all these platforms.
In simple terms, Facebook wants to own how we all communicate because this means more data and more attention, which then means more advertisement revenue.
Don’t you think that’s a little scary? A company like Facebook wants to control how you interact with other humans so they can utilize it and make money off you. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a secret, where some evil motivation is driving the company behind closed doors. Its the necessary consequence of the incentives that shape it.
Let’s look at Netflix, you pay Netflix a standard monthly fee, and in return, they give you unlimited streaming of movies, TV shows and documentaries on their platform. Netflix doesn’t make money the more time you spend on it, in fact, they make less, so they really don’t have any incentives to addict you to the platform. Other than staying ahead of their competition and making sure we don’t switch over. For Netflix, it’s clear we are the customers.
don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all free, ad financed apps are bad and all pay to play apps are good. There are some apps that I am willing to share my information with, but at any point, if I believed that those apps were using my information to make my life worse, I’d hit delete without a thought.
Lucky for me, as I hardly use social media, but for most of the world’s population that uses Facebook let it get to a point where it manages to gain such a monopoly on their digital presence, that people are scared to quit it. Isn’t it absurd that the thought of deleting Facebook gives people anxiety? Why?
The Fear of Deleting Facebook
Does it really baffle me on how Facebook has become apart of our lives that people who lived without it for 35 years are suddenly concerned about losing it? It does! It’s ironic, as the reason people signed up to Facebook in the first place was for information on their friends, families, and acquaintances, and now Facebook has become the go-to place for looking this information up.
Through the years, Facebook has added extra updates to change friendships from an active to a passive process. All you need to do is wait for some message to appear from a friend or acquaintance and then respond to it. No effort is required to reach out and ask whats going on in their lives, instead, you get it spoon-fed to your timeline through magical friend algorithms.
Think about how often you reach out to your friends to ask them how they’re doing? Or to see if there are any big updates in there lives? You barely need to do this anymore, since Facebook has automated the process for you. No Effort Needed, The Information Comes Direct To You.
As we lean towards more passive Facebook-style friendships, we are losing our ability to stay in touch with people, the humanly way. To be fair, this would be fine if Facebook relationships were as meaningful as in-person ones, but they’re not. WiFi conversations through apps and getting the latest updates on your friends through the live newsfeed is the exact relationship equivalent of Soylent. (A technological pseudo improvement over an ancient human process, and one that falls dramatically short of the value it’s trying to recreate).
And now that we have become addicts to the Facebook friend beverage, it puts us in a terrifying place when it comes to quitting. The thoughts, how will you know what events are going on? Or what if something big happens in your friend’s life? and how will you keep in contact with people once you quit? C’mon, that’s insane to think like that. Snap out of it!
The simple answer to get over the fear of those thoughts it to remember, we have already lived without Facebook and what it brings for the last 100,000 years. To solve the problem is to do what we know we can do, talk to people, and be an active consumer of information and knowledge about your friends lives instead of letting it passively pass you by.
In hindsight, quitting Facebook does make it more likely that you’ll miss events, updates, and messages since all your friends are on it. And yes it can be a little inconvenient not to have it when you need it. So now you’re asking me, why is it worth it to delete the social network, rather than continuing to use it?
Deleting Facebook, Why Bother?
5 or 10 years from now, someone observing the digital landscape could see Facebook continuing its extreme dominance and sense of playing fast and loose with customers data beneficial in the name of growth, to optimize their product around addictiveness, and to sell information on their users. Or maybe the opposite happens and they could see the massive consequences Facebook faced while behaving that way. And could see that people decided to give their attention, details, and loyalty to products they trusted and eradicated Facebook from their lives.
This is why quitting Facebook is a must! By doing so, it will send an underlying message that companies of any kind can’t, should not, try to have that much power over our individual lives. And if this happens in the future by any other company, they will severely get punished for it.
For instance, like what happens in everyday life, if someone in your social circle upsets, lies, or goes behind your back, you instantly tell your friends. You’ll gossip to whoever to spread information about who is and isn’t trustworthy and loyal. All this, is in a way, to show that there are consequences for not being loyal and trustworthy. And if we let businesses get away with this, and aren’t subject to the same consequences for not being trustworthy. Then really, they will have no motivation to think before they do something that could break their customer’s trust.
Just like a thief, if they keep getting away from stealing goods, they will keep doing it. Same for Facebook, if they think that keeping their focus on addiction, ad revenue, and data collection has no real consequences, then they will keep on doing it. Having done some research on Facebook, and now knowing how it has become a massive dominant force in our lives, for the past 9-10 years, and the consequences for that dominance. I believe there are a few lessons that we can apply to other technology.
Products Aren’t Human
One thing Facebook can’t do is replace human socialization and face to face communication. Just like Tinder can’t replace dating, don’t get me wrong, it’s tempting to try and incorporate technology into everything in our lives, but it can’t truly work for these old-school, natural processes that we have evolved with. And we need to wake up and understand that a few guys from Harvard can’t really make a better social network than the one we have in our own real life.
Forget Being The Product, Be The Customer
From now, make a more mindfulness decision to go with services that you pay for rather than services that sell your information. If you can, try to pay to remove ads whenever possible. Keep in mind that when you’re using a product for free, in someway your still paying for it, and usually it’s by the data and attention you’re giving it. Pay close attention to the incentives that companies and products will offer you, and don’t for one second think that they will be ninjas at keeping your information private.
These Days I Look At Companies As People
Just like you would a person, if a company can’t be trusted, sack them off, and let them feel the consequence for being untrustworthy. I mentioned before if a company feels like they can get away from mistreating its customers to make money, they will keep doing it over and over until they’re hit with the consequences for doing it.
Facebook in a way has manipulated most of its users and has become a type of abusive partner in a relationship between Facebook and the user. They have entangled themselves as a dependant important role in your life that even though you want to leave, you’re scared of the consequences of doing so.
Take it from someone who doesn’t and has barley used social media. Quitting Facebook has a little impact on your life, other than marketing, I don’t ever go on it, I actually don’t look forward to going on Facebook when I have to. I promise you that after a month away from Facebook, you’ll wonder why you were so scared to leave in the first place. You might miss an event or two, but that’s a small price to pay, and if your friends are in your social bubble, I assume that they will know your off Facebook, and will contact you the old fashion way, by phone or text.
And this goes for staying up to date with your friends too, just being able to communicate with them through words and face to face conversations, makes you realize how isolated using Facebook makes you. You’ll feel free from the shackles, and have your face out of your phones, long enough to appreciate life more.
Imagine time travelling back 9-10 years ago and before signing up to Facebook, they explained that they were going to take an avast amount of information from you, manipulate your emotions, store your conversations, and try to control how you communicate with other people online. Would you think twice about signing up? Or even better, would you let your children sign up?
Hell, I wouldn’t, and I’m trying to make you think that too.