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.
Facebook logs SMS texts and calls
Cambridge Analytica aside, Facebook’s latest revelations shed light about the extent to which the social media platform subtly extracts and manipulates users’ data. Recently, due to the massive #deletefacebook which has encouraged people worldwide to abandon Facebook, many users have discovered the scope of Facebook’s data extraction when they have deleted the service and downloaded a copy of their information before it is permanently deleted. Many expressed unease at the fact that Facebook had been logging every call and text message sent and received via their mobile devices, as well as other information such as their contacts, friends’ birthdays and calendar events. When downloading an app, permission to use this information is asked for – it can be disconcerting to discover the sheer volume of data used, as well as the extent to which our data is used for marketing purposes.
Delete or stay
While Facebook becomes an ever more heated political platform and people become warier of how their data is used and protected, the decision to stay or go is ultimately a personal one. Weigh the pros and cons and decide if the benefits you receive outweigh the disadvantages. Maybe the toxicity of Facebook isn’t all-encompassing, but emanates from one or two undesirables that somehow found their way onto your timeline years back. Maybe it is the platform itself and it is negatively affecting your quality of life. Maybe it’s nothing at all, and you find it perfectly usable. Whatever the answer, the fact remains that whether or not to stay on Facebook is a question to be considered.