Every time there’s another big (albeit NOT AT ALL EVER SHOCKING) reveal about how terrible Facebook is, I always see a flurry of people on Twitter acting appalled that any of us are still on the app.
Now, let me be the first to agree that Facebook is terrible. But, if we’re talking about the evil practices of globally dominant businesses…I also still shop at Wal-Mart, still order things from Amazon, and buy a lot of fast fashion made in China. So, I’m no angel in consumerism in any area of my life, and I doubt anyone else is either.
However, the reason I want to quit Facebook was highlighted again with this latest whistleblower. Facebook’s algorithm (like many algorithms) pushes people into extreme groups with more extreme beliefs which has been fueling dangerous extremists who think they’re being wronged by the government and just forces of democracy in general. The amount of people who still believe Donald Trump won the 2020 election is staggering and I 100% blame Facebook for all of that. I also blame Facebook for the quantities of people who don’t trust the vaccine and for this weird anti-CRT movement we’re seeing in areas that DO NOT EVEN TEACH CRITICAL RACE THEORY. Facebook pushes people deeper into conspiracies that completely shatter what I want for the country and for the world.
But I’m struggling to leave it for the following reasons:
- I work really hard to use my social media to combat a lot of political and cultural misinformation, at least in my small circle of influence. And I worry about what happens in the app if everyone like me, who tries to use it for good and not evil leaves. Does it become a playground for more toxic ideologies left unchecked? Then what?
- How would I have any idea what is going on in my town? My city and the many business and local groups I enjoy use Facebook to promote many local events. There’s a great historical marker dedication coming up that I’m going to attend that I would not have known about if it wasn’t for Facebook events. If I didn’t have Facebook would I have to subscribe to dozens of newsletters? Do people really use those that often?
- I also wouldn’t know what was going on in my friend’s lives. I have some pretty intense social anxiety and Facebook has really helped me because it gives me talking points to use when I see people I know. I can ask how your son likes his new college or if your spouse’s knee surgery recovery is going okay. I also know when someone has experienced loss of some sort. Before Facebook I would be terrified to run into people I hadn’t seen in a long time but now I love it. “I’m so glad to finally see you in the 3 dimensions!” is my favorite thing to say to people because I’ve kept up with their lives since I last saw them. I don’t know how my ability to socialize would be damaged without that connection to their lives.
- Facebook is also a one-stop shop for crowdsourcing everything from shopping for used cars to researching window companies. Because it’s easy access to so many people in my community, I can keep an eye out for people selling things I need or for people giving recommendations for companies. Just last night I did a screen grab from a neighbor posting about a good brick person she was using because we might need some brick work done in our backyard. I’ve found my appliance guy through a friend on Facebook, we bought a car from a friend on Facebook, I scored a ton of hand-me-down clothes this summer when I realized I had grown out of everything. I just don’t know what I’d do without being able to poll my local friends and my local community so easily.
- This may sound crazy but since I did a HUGE culling of my Facebook friends?The app has actually been good for my mental health. I haven’t gotten out much in the last 2 years it has really helped me to feel connected. The fact that the 2020 election wasn’t too traumatizing on Facebook (it was traumatizing IN GENERAL, but not on Facebook) really showed how good of a job I’ve done and making it simply an app where I get to keep up with my friends.
My husband is not on any social media and he often uses that as a badge of honor but I often remind him: BUT YOUR LIFE IS BENEFITTED BY THE FACT THAT I AM STILL ON IT. Because someone in this house is on Facebook, we still know what’s going on in all of our friend’s lives and we still know about big community events and we still can get really good deals on cars when our friends go to sell them. He kinda has the best of both worlds, honestly.
Now, let me say this: I have had many relationships in my life ruined because of social media. I’ve learned things about people (and I’m assuming they’ve – in turn – learned things about me) that make it impossible to maintain anything other than surface level closeness. But I’ll be honest…I’m even grateful for that. It saves a lot of face-to-face conflict if you can find out if someone’s view of the world conflicts with yours before you have to have those awkward in-person encounters. I like using my social media to broadcast some of my most potentially controversial opinions so other people avoid contact with me if they disagree. I never intentionally send out friend requests unless I know for a fact that we’re not going to clash in any major ways. (And even then, I don’t, simply because I post a ton of shit on Facebook and I don’t feel like it’s fair to subject anyone to that without warning them.)
I don’t know, honestly. I mean…I feel bad that I still use Facebook just like I feel bad that I still support a lot of business that definitely do more harm than good. If I had tons of money I’d buy everything local and handmade and never use big box if I could avoid it. Alas, I still order from Amazon and shop at Wal-Mart. And if I had tons of time I would leave Facebook and instead, I would read all of the newsletters from all of the local groups that put on events I might want to support, text my friends regularly to see how they’re doing, and try to socialize more and just keep up with who got their roof done last so I could ask who they used.
Until then, I’m going to start treating Facebook the same way I treat buying from Amazon and shopping at Wal-Mart. I now thrift when I can, and only shop for fast fashion from big box stores after I’ve failed to find what I want/need anywhere else. I try to shop small/local as much as possible, but I know I can’t quit those places 100%. And now I’ll try to do the same with Facebook. I’ll log in morning and night start keeping track of whose lives I feel really invested in so I can maybe start other communication habits with them. And maybe start subscribing to more newsletters and finding other ways to keep up with local events. I’ll try to limit my use like I limit the times I go to Wal-Mart for $5 t-shirts.