This blog post contains explicit content.
It will probably surprise no one that I have flirted with the idea of starting a podcast. I even completed Seth Godin’s Podcast Fellowship (now called The Podcasting Workshop) back in 2018 as a way to jump-start my new career (or at least passion project). But then I didn’t.
Fast-forward to 2020. Early in the pandemic, when we all had a ton of free time, I re-installed Audacity on my laptop and busted out my fancy microphone and p-filter. I had a new idea for podcast concept.
In each episode, my cohost/husband, Richie, and I would explore an activity, habit, or action that we think might make us better people. We’d discuss why, if other people are doing it, some potentially negative unintended consequences, and ultimately make a verdict about whether we give enough of a fuck to do it. It was called DYGAF?!
We made one episode. And I never finished editing it.
But I do still have the script, and I think it’s worth sharing! We researched and recorded it in late June 2020, so forgive any outdated statistics. I’ve also edited out some of the unnecessary podcast-y content.
Without further ado, I present DYGAF?! Episode 1: Should You Leave Facebook?
Where We Stand Now
NINA: Okay, so today we’re diving into the question: Should you leave Facebook?
Let’s start with where we stand right now. I’m on Facebook. I joined early on, when it was still “The Facebook,” back in 2004. I hate to say it, but the fact that I was an early adopter is a point of pride for me. It’s dumb, but it is.
I’ve wanted to leave Facebook many times over the years but ultimately stay because I use it for work, it’s how I find out about a lot of local events, and it’s the best way to keep in touch with certain people and certain groups of people. Separating from Facebook would be hard for me.
RICHIE: Though I’m a proud Facebook abstainer, I admit that I briefly used the app in 2007 before the law school admissions process temporarily put my social media presence on hold. By the time I wised up and dropped out of law school, I had…feelings…about Facebook.
I don’t rely on Facebook for my social calendar or to stay connected with loved ones. I don’t want to see your baby. If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t present any issues for me.
Why We’re Talking About This
There are a lot of reasons to leave Facebook. For the sake of time, we’ll focus on three big ones.
NINA: Reason #1: Privacy. In a nutshell, there is no real privacy on Facebook. We’ll share three examples:
The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data breach. In early 2018, millions of Facebook users’ personal data was harvested without consent by Cambridge Analytica to be predominantly used for political advertising. Facebook was apologetic…sort of? This prompted a mass–but not that mass–exodus from Facebook and people proclaiming their departure with #DeleteFacebook. If you want to dig into the details, we recommend the Netflix documentary, The Great Hack.
RICHIE: The second example is regarding law enforcement. When our obsession with social media leads us to make our private lives public, our expectation of privacy falls by the wayside and law enforcement is there for it. Think about the protester in Philly a few weeks back who torched police cars. The FBI triangulated her identity by using LinkedIn, a shirt she bought on Etsy, and her Instagram profile. Needless to say, social media, and Facebook in particular, is a rich source of information whether you’re a repo man or an FBI agent.
These fools even have a dedicated law enforcement online request system.
At one point in the not too distant past, Facebook developed their own facial recognition app which they made available to employees. Though the internal app was ultimately scrapped, Clearview AI stepped into the void, trawling social media tools like Facebook in order to finetune their own facial recognition software. Guess who uses it? Hundreds of law enforcement agencies; venture capital bros; and wealthy skeezers at the bar. Thanks but no thanks.
NINA: Besides those three examples, there are all kinds of other reasons to be concerned about your privacy—or lack thereof—on Facebook. From an experiment that toyed with the emotions of almost 700,000 Facebook users without their consent to an attempt to purchase spying software for who-knows-what exactly, privacy and Facebook seem to be mutually exclusive.
RICHIE: Reason #2: Inciting violence.
The best—and probably worst—example of this is the genocide powered by Facebook in Myanmar. Hundreds of members of the Myanmar military exploited Facebook’s reach in the country by creating troll accounts and pages to spread hateful and violent content targeted at the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group. This strategy was blamed for inciting murders, rapes, and the largest forced human migration in recent history.
After months of reports about the propaganda, Facebook finally acknowledged that it had been too slow to act.
NINA: Closer to home, Facebook has been–and is currently being used–to amplify white nationalists.
A report from this past April by the nonprofit Tech Transparency Project showed that multiple right-wing extremist groups in the U.S. were using Facebook to instigate a militant uprising.
The report reads, “The prevalence of white supremacist and other extremist content on Facebook—and the ways in which these groups have been able to use the platform as organizing infrastructure — is unacceptable. Facebook’s Community Standards expressly state: ‘We do not allow hate speech on Facebook.’… In light of these clear policies… we are concerned Facebook is unable (or unwilling) to enforce its own Community Standards and rid itself of white supremacist and other extremist content.”
RICHIE: Reason #3: Misinformation. Spreading misinformation and inciting violence are linked, but we do want to call out misinformation as its own reason.
For example, there was an image going around of graffiti on a Vietnam veterans memorial in Venice, CA claiming that some people protesting the death of George Floyd were responsible for the vandalism. When actually, the photo was from May 2016, and the memorial was one of several around the country that were vandalized around that time. And the vandals weren’t connected to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Are Other People Leaving Facebook?
NINA: Whew. That’s a lot. So are people actually leaving Facebook?
Turns out they are. According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, large numbers of Facebook users are changing their relationships with the social media site. The study found that in the year studied (which was most of 2018):
- A little over half of adult Facebook users adjusted their privacy settings.
- Over 40% of users took a break away from Facebook for several weeks or longer.
- About 26% of users deleted the Facebook app completely from their phones.
- 74% of Facebook users took one or more of those steps.
Maybe you’ve left Facebook or at least know some folks who have.
RICHIE: Companies are leaving Facebook, too, either completely–by removing their Pages and communities–or by not buying ads.
Leading up to the 2016 presidential election and in its aftermath, many companies went #FacebookFree, like Basecamp and LegalAdvice.com. But more recently, another effort has gained more steam. #StopHateForProfit is led by a coalition that includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Common Sense, and other civil rights groups. They are urging advertisers not to buy ads on platforms that support hate, bigotry, and racism. Stop Hate for Profit got more support when Mark Zuckerberg failed to censor Trump’s posts that glorified violence.
Some companies that are on board with leaving Facebook as advertisers include:
- The North Face
- Ben & Jerry’s & their parent company Unilever; and
- 360i, a digital ad agency. Their statement said that they believe “any social platform that earns profits by amplifying the voices of their community must have a zero tolerance policy for hate.” (WSJ)
- And Nike and Anheuser-Busch have reduced their Facebook ad budgets.
NINA: I’m not even going to try to argue with the facts laid about privacy violations, inciting violence, or spreading misinformation. That might be enough to convince me.
But I do want to talk about the corporations leaving Facebook. I think this is a fantastic statement against a platform that might very well be evil.
But I also want to point out that it’s rather convenient, since the dwindling return on investment for Facebook ads has been well-reported over the last few years.
For example, brands and organizations on Facebook have seen a rapid decline in organic reach and performance. One CEO wrote an article in Entrepreneur Magazine about how the clicks his company got from updates and ads rarely led to conversions. He added that many of those so-called Facebook users who “liked” their page had questionable profiles to begin with. In other words, fake profiles are liking paid content–not real people who can actually buy your shit. And an Ogilvy study confirmed that CEO’s suspicions when they found that as little as 2% of a brand’s fans actually see their posts—and many marketers are predicting that brand reach will soon be zero.
So, I mean, slow clap for the brands leaving Facebook because of their principles, but it kind of just seems like a good financial decision, you know? And that’s without taking Facebook’s antics that are unrelated to their ads into consideration.
On the other hand, what about small businesses? I would guess that leveraging Facebook to engage with your customers is good for business and maybe even easier for small businesses.
Same thing with organizing. At its best, Facebook has democratized communication and mobilization for a ton of worthy efforts. Buuuuuut…well, I’ll save the but for my verdict.
RICHIE: Despite the creepy, new Facebook Cares emoji designed to convince you otherwise, to Facebook, you’re nothing but data points and dollar signs. Whether they’re using your information to better target political ads, incite violence, or try to influence you to buy more crap you don’t need, Facebook is all about the dinero.
Originally designed to help horny college kids rate the physical features of their classmates; co-opted by your mom so she could play FarmVille; and harnessed by political campaigns and marketing firms alike for their own nefarious purposes, I see very little value in Facebook. They’re intellectually dishonest, underhanded, and out and out liars. Which reminds me, as much as I enjoy looking at dog pics on Facebook subsidiary, Instagram, I probably need to think long and hard about that app, as well.
NINA: Here’s the thing. I wish Facebook would just nut up and take a stand for user privacy, factual content, and actually enforce a zero tolerance for hate policy. But I just don’t think they’re going to. Facebook has been and can be–exclusively–a force for good. But right now, and for the past who-knows-how-long, they are a force for evil. So, I’d like to leave Facebook and have already begun consciously uncoupling from the platform.
Richie, you’ve already left Facebook, so I’m guessing I know your verdict.
RICHIE: I wish Facebook would get bent. The amount of harm they do dramatically outweighs the good provided.
There you have it! I did end up leaving Facebook in September 2020, and I never looked back. (Well, sort of. More on that in another post.) And I had a list of other episode topics that we just never got around to, so I might see those through right here, too. Be on the lookout for them in 2024. 😂