Why I'm deleting my Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts at the end of the month.
On the surface, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp each have had a generally positive impact on my life: I've connected with friends in rich ways; I've seen meaningful updates from their lives while also being able to share mine. It undoubtedly brought us closer, while also rekindling old friendships that would have otherwise grown stale. All for "free"!
I say "free" because, while I don't pay for it with money, I pay for it with my life. Facebook's entire business model depends on my engagement within their apps. Knowing this, they have a reputation for actively collecting as much data on me as they can, and using it for their profit, selling targeted ads to advertisers. (This also includes Instagram)
While the shadiness of it all irked me a bit, I found it understandable: it's capitalism. They need to make money, and they can do so from whatever data they collect. Fine. I mean... there's a scary amount of data on me, but whatever. I'm not a spy or anything so this is mostly OK.
Is it though?
Let's dig a little deeper.
The more I find myself scrolling Instagram or similar, the more I feel like I'm missing out.
Wow, Tony travelled to Estonia again! How beautiful! Man, I wish I could travel! Ugh!
While the reality is that I'm taking a moment out of my mundane to look at someone's highlight reel, there's a different story going on subconsciously. If I'm not careful, I often find myself feeling like my life isn't as good as everyone else's. Their grass looks waaaay greener.
Thing is, people tend to only post green grass. Fertilized with bullshit.
Too much to do, too little time
Based on conversations I have with real people in real life (as opposed to on WhatsApp), there seems to be a prevailing idea that 24 hours just isn't enough time in a day to get all the things done that I want to get done. I've heard this even in a lockdown — where there's literally not much else to do than stay at home!
Now, while social media might not be the only cause of this constant chasing after our goals, the truth is this — with every swipe through our timelines, we're trading a moment of our present for someone's past. At some point, we've got to ask ourselves — is it worth it?
For me, it isn't.
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
For platforms whose entire business model depends on user engagement, one super effective way to keep customers engaged and engagement high is similar to what we see in the film industry: make 'em feel things.
Using the data Facebook collects from me, it can (and does) show me a lot of content I agree with. I am pro mask. They know this. They fill my timeline with people wearing masks.
"Ah yes, *clicks like*" 👍
This makes me feel like I'm right.
Then, they show me maskless Karens screaming about something or the other. This makes me feel annoyed.
"Ugh, *clicks angry face reaction*" 😡
And on and on the cycle goes — echoes echoing in the social media echo chamber — until I see more and more of what I believe to be true, and content that ridicules the other side.
Friends – the them vs. us narrative is a goldmine for user engagement. And Facebook knows it. They know it and use it to further the only goal for-profit companies ultimately care about: cold. hard. cash.
2020 (and unfortunately 2021) has shown us what inevitably becomes of this: we've been locked in our homes because of an ongoing pandemic, often with nothing else to do but scroll, scroll, and scroll on social media some more, each time seeing content that fuels a narrative where we're right and they're wrong.
GUNS ARE MY RIGHT! MY FACE, MY CHOICE! PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL DESTROY THE CULT OF EVIL PEDOPHILES AND RESTORE UTOPIA!!!
Without social media, I don't see how QAnon could have become what it has become.
Here' the bottom line: it is exceedingly clear to me that social media, when driven by a capitalist agenda, is toxic and altogether dangerous, proving to be an echo chamber that catalyzes the radicalization of human beings to the detriment of society.
The recent attack on the US Capitol and the incredible momentum of the QAnon conspiracy theory is clear evidence of this.
And I want no part in it.
For this reason, effective January 31, I am deleting my Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts and taking all my data with me. Enough is enough.
Since I love connecting with people, I'll need to fill the void with something better. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post about where I'm going instead.
Spoiler: Signal over WhatsApp.