I Quit Facebook. You Should Too.

I fully realize that “I quit facebook” is kind of a trend these days. However many people want to but can’t seem to verbalize their reasons, or find counter-arguments that they find compelling. So here’s the chain of events that led up to my decision, along with links and references, in the hope that it helps you make the same choice.

As an IT pro, as a security advocate, and just as a person who values myself a little bit more than FB gives credit for, I’m off. I’m offering a few reasons because I’m going to make a statement about what you ought to do here in a minute:

I was concerned as details of Cambridge analytica fiasco became public (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-trump-campaign.html). The fact is that, in infosec circles, the ability for app developers to cull data from users, even those who don’t use the app, for years. It was only a matter of time.

I was annoyed when Facebook first insisted that information from hacked accounts couldn’t be used to access 3rd party apps (such as your bank) (https://gizmodo.com/after-massive-breach-facebook-says-hackers-didn-t-use-1829476514), but then admitted it could (https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/update-on-security-issue/).

I had had just about enough when it came out that Facebook not only was a platform used by bots to spread misinformation, but that in order to save their own reputation, they actually USED that same misinformation https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/facebook-data-russia-election-racism.html.

And then there was Zuckerberg’s deeply offensive response – “I didn’t know.” https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-i-didnt-know-1830471759. Are you freaking kidding me?

And then, just a couple of days later, news re-surfaced that FB took down (and refused to re-instate the Anne Frank Center post on Holocaust education: https://forward.com/fast-forward/409218/facebook-removes-anne-frank-centers-post-promoting-holocaust-education/

So I’m out.

Here’s my radical statement about/to you:

If you want to be part of a community

Facebook seems like an obvious, convenient choice to host a community. But it’s not. It doesn’t offer a quarter of the controls you need to truly nurture ideas, manage bad actors, and create an identifiable brand experience. Doing that is incredibly simple (I’m not saying it’s “easy”, but it isn’t complex.). I know because I do exactly that job for SolarWinds, as part of the THWACK.com community. To be honest, you couldn’t ask for a harder job. SolarWinds is a company that deals with neither solar, nor wind. It’s just a software company. THWACK.com is a name that does not evoke anything remotely resembling the company’s core mission. And yet SolarWinds is a $833m* company with over 50k customers, and the THWACK community has something north of 100k active users. And that doesn’t even count the adjunct GNS3 community which is part of the SolarWinds umbrella.

Meanwhile, my criticisms of Facebook as a company aside, I think that it’s a terrible platform. Information is difficult to sort and search (due in part to Facebook’s algorithms which attempt to show me posts it thinks I’m interested in, rather than a straight chronological order). Printing information that is kept in an album is an exercise in frustration. Moderation is an all-or-nothing affair, where the only option is to delete a post, rather than edit it or hold it for moderation while content is discussed. There is no option for featured content or authors. There’s no capability for gamification, which creates greater engagement.

The list goes on.

If you want to keep in touch with family

First, I’m going to make another radical comment: Most of your “friends” on facebook aren’t really friends, and you wouldn’t miss much by not seeing their daily updates on the cupcake they just ate, the spin class they just attended, or reading about the deeply upsetting personal interaction they just had at Wal-Mart.

For the other 5-10% of your facebook “friends” list, you’re going to keep in touch regardless. It just won’t be there.

There are other options. Are they as convenient as having it all in one place? No.

Is it as bad as being force-fed offensively disinforming posts from Russian bots that are sometimes impossible to differentiate from actual people? Or as bad as offering up all your personal information not only to the platform itself, but to every single bad acting developer who gets the idea that they can use a “pull my finger” app to collect the political views of your entire list of friends? Also no.

So I’m off Facebook entirely, and I’m offering my experience as a chance for you to consider their position on that platform as well.

* edit 11/21 3pm EST – I totally whiffed on the value of SolarWinds. My original number was $90m but it turns out it’s more like $833m. Hat Tip to my friend Ben for catching it and setting me straight.

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