I was not at all surprised to learn, through the reports of the Facebook whistleblower last week, that the company is consistently focused on profits over people. I quit Facebook in April of 2018 and have missed it NOT AT ALL. In fact, I’m quite sure I’m a happier, less anxious person since quitting.
Resist the FOMO
If you’ve been thinking about taking the leap, the main thing to know is that they make it really fucking hard. If you manage to find the “close my account” link, you’ll be directed to a page telling you how all your friends will miss you. “Do you still want to close your account?” Um, yes. Then you’ll get another page warning you, in super manipulative FOMO language, that you might miss updates and “are you SURE you really want to close your account?” Yes. Do it.
Be strong. Because, seriously, Facebook, and it’s jacked up inability to do anything to staunch the flow of misinformation in the world, is the worst. If you’re worried about losing touch with your friends, try a phone call, or an email, or a text. And never again worry about responding to 200 bullshit “happy birthday” messages from people you would never still be “friends” with if it weren’t for fucking Facebook. Nobody needs 200 “friends.” What we all need are 2 or 3 good IRL friends.
Now, having ranted and dropped an f-bomb (or two), I have to acknowledge that it’s highly likely you found your way to my website by way of social media. This is a fact that has been plaguing me for a while now. I quit Facebook, but I’m still on Instagram (because I love a good slideshow) and Twitter (because angry people make me giggle), and most of my readers find me through social media.
But I can no longer ignore that Instagram is owned by Facebook. My rational for staying on Instagram has always been that the platform (with it’s lack of easy reposting) doesn’t spread dangerous misinformation in the same way as Facebook, but again, that whistleblower has me questions my criteria for acceptable levels of evil.
In case you missed it, here are a few highlights from the whistleblower article:
- One Facebook study that found that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls in one survey say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram.
- Another leaked study found 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram.
- About 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse
I have a teenage daughter. She’s not on social media, because my husband and I made that a stipulation of her getting a phone, but the fact that so many girls are suffering because of Instagram, and that the company KNEW and didn’t give a shit as long as the money kept rolling in, well, it’s really pissed me off.
What To Do
I feel held hostage, just a little. As a writer, I depend on social media to connect with people, to promote my work, and Twitter is, hands down, way better for that. But Instagram feels more intimate. I love the photos people share, particularly the artists in my Los Angeles community. I don’t follow accounts focused on totally ripped bods or anyone who posts photos of their every meal. I like poets, and photos taken on neighborhood walks.
And a little voice inside my head screams: is that so wrong?
I just don’t know anymore. Are you on social media? Are you thinking of quitting? Why or why not? What is the ethical course of action when a service we depend on is so terribly bad for a certain segment of our population? Please chime in. I’m looking for some insight here.