Late adopter. Early giver-upper.
That’s the motto of one of my more recent heroes, the Guardian & Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr.
I share Cadwalladr’s sentiment with regard to Facebook. I was late to FB. I joined in late 2015, after years of stubbornly refusing to join the bandwagon. I refused because I thought it was a vain and conceited place that fed status anxiety. But eventually I decided I couldn’t be such a vociferous critic of FB without being a user and getting to know all the pros and cons of this social media monopoly. Over two years later I’m now finished with my FB experiment; and oh boy am I glad I was a late adopter and gee whizz I’m even more glad that I have thrown my FB profile in the trash can.
We humans are social animals so I understood the pros of FB. It’s nice to make friends and maintain relationships on one easy online platform. I met some nice new people there who are still friends and enjoyed reading some of my new and old friends’ posts; the best of which featured either interesting photos, witty commentaries or links to interesting news or events. I also enjoyed watching videos of cute pets doing funny things. But eventually I realised that, for me, the pitfalls far outweighed any benefits.
In a nutshell Facebook made me feel almost as vain as an adolescent Vincent. I wasted far too much time posting superficial snapshots instead of producing thoughtful bodies of work. I became another zombie in the system; posting banal, egoistic or attention-seeking content. I also saw how, over and over again, FB negatively affected personal relations; with likes becoming evidence of ‘micro-cheating’ for example.
More perniciously, FB is a social platform which reinforces gender inequality; for example FB continues to deploy its resources and manpower to police billions of FB posts to ensure female nipples are censured. Men’s tits? No probs. As a feminist and humanist I found this staggeringly primitive, juvenile and deeply offensive. So I had ample personal and ethical reasons to leave FB and I was on the verge of doing so anyway. But then another compelling reason suddenly reared its head.
The exposé by Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr of FB data theft was the final nail in the coffin for me. Her work proved that FB lied to, manipulated and cheated on its users in the most profound of ways. In its selfish pursuit of profit from advertising revenues, FB allowed Russia and other dictatorships, as well as non-state actors all-over the world to use FB as a data mine and trojan horse for regime change. As a result, the now infamous political advertising firm Cambridge Analytica used the stolen data to help enable Moscow and right-wing forces in the UK and the US to spread fake news and produce targeted ads to subvert democracy. The ramifications have thus far been utterly calamitous: Trump and Brexit.
A month on since I deleted FB I have no regrets. I only wish I had done it a bit sooner. I have a more interesting social life and quite a bit more time for reading, strolling and pursuing various personal projects. I’m glad I experimented with FB. I learned quite a bit. But I’m very relieved the experiment is over.