Scandals, data breaches, fake news, hate speech and ripping apart the fabric of society – these are the crimes leveled against social media giant, Facebook. Since 2004, Facebook has steadily become the biggest social media platform in the world and, in the process, evolved into a tech giant that casts large shadows on Silicon Valley and eclipses most other startups with its mass. But has the platform grown too big to handle? Is it a ship on course for destruction? And should we, as users and participants of Facebook’s 2 billion strong following, abandon ship and swim for less turbulent waters? There’s a strong case for it.
In the last few years, Facebook has come under fire for its data policies and the way in which it has aided in disseminating false information, as well as other scandals it has become broiled in. It’s enough to drive even a casual user to distraction. Which begs the question: should we actually delete Facebook?
Designed to be addictive
One of the chief reasons that people are fleeing from Facebook has to do with its undoubtedly addictive quality. As part of its business model, Facebook makes more money the longer you use it and look at your screen, it’s therefore designed to consume as much of your time and attention as possible. It does this through its use of a limitless timeline, ensuring that there will always be content for you to view regardless of how fast you can scroll through it. But this is the least insidious quality. Facebook’s system of “likes” and “shares” encourages users to post new content and in return, they are rewarded with recognition. “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” said Sean Parker, an early Facebook investor who spoke at an Axios event in 2017.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal
More recently, Facebook has been at the forefront of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The eponymous firm in question used personal information harvested from over 50 million Facebook profiles. It did this to mark users and sway their political opinion using targeted political advertisements that were tailored to a user’s psychological profile. The firm did this illegally and without the knowledge of the users involved. The data breach took place in 2015 and Facebook knew about its existence, but did little in the way of action, only reacting by banning the firm and the researcher who did the harvesting when the scandal came to the public eye in 2018. Cambridge Analytica has since been linked with swaying massive geopolitical votes such as the 2016 US presidential elections as well as the EU referendum.