The hashtag “DeleteFacebook” was trending on Twitter on Wednesday, and multiple news outlets posted instructional guides for users who felt that Facebook hasn’t done enough to protect their data.
Amid the ongoing data privacy scandal surrounding the Trump-connected firm Cambridge Analytica, tech critics and users alike are revisiting the concept of leaving Facebook and extracting ourselves from one of the world’s most pervasive advertising empires. The decision to delete Facebook boils down to two questions: 1. Has Facebook lost the necessary trust to be a steward of our personal information? And 2. Is the company’s grip on online and offline life too great to ever reasonably walk away from?
People didnt act says Zuck
I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on that, but, you know, it’s not good,” Zuckerberg told the Times in an interview published Wednesday night. “I think it’s a clear signal that this is a major trust issue for people, and I understand that. And whether people delete their app over it or just don’t feel good about using Facebook, that’s a big issue that I think we have a responsibility to rectify.”
Resistance to the #DeleteFacebook initiative is likely rooted in a mix of user indifference and apathy, but also a genuine concern that leaving the Facebook ecosystem would deprive one of the valuable internet services and tangible social connections to friends and family. About 68 percent of US adults use Facebook, and more than two thirds of that number check Facebook’s website or mobile app every single day.
There are three main reasons most people can’t just up and leave Facebook, and they all serve to illustrate the extent to which Facebook has altered the landscape of our digital lives. Let’s break them down.
1) Facebook is technologically embedded within a vast web of interconnected third-party apps and social media platforms
You’ve probably heard cracks before that Twitter humor largely consists of jokes made on Tumblr being shared as screenshots on Facebook, but within this joke is a larger point about how all of these systems interconnect and interact. The web is made up of third-party apps and systems, many of which rely on being fully integrated with your personal Google or Facebook account.
In fact, many mobile and web-based apps actually require you to have a Facebook account — and only a Facebook account — before you can use the app to begin with. Over the years, consumers and other developers have pushed back against this trend, but the truth remains that if you delete your Facebook account, you could immediately lose access to parts of the internet. For example, up until very recently you were required to have a Facebook account to use Tinder, so the vast majority of Tinder’s 50 million users are signing in through Facebook. Deleting Facebook would mean losing access to the app completely, along with all of your Tinder connections. And many other dating apps still require you to have Facebook in order to create accounts. If you don’t realize that before you delete Facebook, then you could be totally cut off from anyone you may have met through these apps.
Additionally, you could find yourself having to laboriously create new accounts for any number of apps that you’ve been logging in to all this time using Facebook — anything from Spotify to Airbnb to Patreon, ride-hailing services, online retailers, and more. Not only is this obnoxious, but you could also lose access to important content and information saved in your original accounts.
Even if you don’t particularly care which apps your Facebook is linked to, there are several core problems with this trend — problems that apply equally to Google, which arguably shares much of the internet’s infrastructure with Facebook. The biggest of these problems is that when you create an infrastructure that assumes everyone is using only one or two major platforms for their daily internet use, you create an internet where using only those two platforms becomes a tacit requirement.
And for many, using Facebook is also a literal and direct requirement.
2) For many people, using Facebook regularly is a required part of their job or education
When I quit Facebook, I assumed it would be for good, but I was wrong. About 18 months after I attempted to leave it, I was ordered back on — by a previous employer who insisted that all reporters have Facebook.
The question of whether journalists are able to do their jobs without Facebook notwithstanding, in a fully digital society, there are a vast and increasing number of jobs that this stipulation applies to: marketers, web developers, social media managers, publicists, anyone wishing to effectively promote personal or professional projects, and so on. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in panels on writing or other creator guide sessions and heard panelists dictate that anyone wanting to be taken seriously or promote their work must be on Facebook.
The pressure to be on or use Facebook in order to self-promote, distribute information, and do one’s job effectively is so pervasive most of us probably don’t even really think of it as pressure to conform. Of course businesses and anyone with a personal brand has to have Facebook. Don’t they?
We’re used to the idea of businesses, self-promoters, and “branded” individuals needing and using Facebook, but this pressure also applies to schools. In 2012, Facebook launched Facebook Groups specifically tailored to schools — creating a “walled garden” that students frequently use to promote school spirit and create next-level internet memes.
Collective use of the platform by schools and other educational groups means that, just as with third-party app developers, some organizations still require you to have a Facebook account in order to access information and services. Facebook itself has made inroads into developing technology specifically for school use. Students prepping for college are warned that universities will be watching their social media accounts in order to spot excellent community behavior and social media usage, as well as to pinpoint any red flags.
All of this reliance on Facebook once again means the assumption that everyone is already on Facebook marginalizes anyone who’s not on Facebook, making it harder for anyone not using the platform to access the same degree of communication and information sharing. That’s vital for any job or education system where Facebook is involved. But it’s also vital where social communities are concerned.
3) Facebook is, for better and worse, a tangible tie holding many people to their communities
This final issue with deleting Facebook is the hardest to quantify, but one that’s fundamentally true for most of us: If you delete Facebook, you lose touch in ways that have subtle but tangible emotional repercussions. Your aging Great-Aunt Sally will fret because she has one less way to keep track of you, your high school English teacher will be mad because you never write on his Facebook wall anymore, and your friend will be annoyed because you can no longer see the drama happening with his girlfriend’s ex. You’ll be annoyed because your other friend issued a general Facebook invite to her birthday party and you missed it.
And while the infuriating barrage of polarizing opinions that make Facebook so difficult for many of us to deal with will disappear, so will connections to people you didn’t realize you wanted to keep in touch with until you moved on.
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