October Unfriends Facebook

This month has been one bad report after another for Facebook, coming to a crescendo this week with an onslaught of unfriendly news for Facebook and its Newsfeed. The clarion call to #DeleteFacebook may be at its loudest ever. Yet shareholders seem content, billions of dollars keep piling up, and billions of people seem stuck on the social media service — myself included.

Mark Zuckerberg may never step down or be ousted, but new regulation from the US, England, and maybe more countries, seems inevitable at this point. If that ultimately is good or bad remains to be seen. Hopefully it’s enough to mitigate the deleterious effects of Facebook and also prevent any other company from reaching similar dubious status.

I’m sure you’ve heard something of the above in the news already. Maybe you’ve deleted your Facebook account. As for me, well yeah, I’ve deleted my Facebook account…many times; I always end up returning to the love/hate relationship. I’ve tried to document that on my blog. Also for the record, I remain active on Twitter, a social media site.

For a long time, amidst whatever Facebook PR crisis, I wasn’t moved. But this month, especially this week, I am seriously considering giving the social network a thumbs down and deleting it again. Unfortunately, I would likely end up creating a new account within a year because that’s been my pattern. The pull of close family and friends who remain on Facebook wears me down until, eventually, I’ve forgotten the ills and miss the “thrills” of cat pix, silly memes, and birthday wishes.

There are a few things I find useful on Facebook, like certain Groups for coordinating events . Marketplace also has utility, though it has degraded in recent years. Otherwise, my use of Facebook is infrequent at best. I do not have the app on my phone or tablet, and I only occasionally check the site for new messages, which are few. So for me, Facebook isn’t an addiction; I actively avoid the Newsfeed. That’s why, despite the site’s general woes, I have not been driven to nuke it from orbit like in times past.

That is, of course, until recently. I think there is a good case on principle to delete Facebook; I’ve stated similar thoughts on my blog before. That the company is, on some level, a threat to US democracy, foreign governments, and other societies, seems more than plausible. It appears to be fact at this point, given all the smoking hints since 2017 and now fiery hard evidence with the Facebook Papers. There’s a lot to be said against Facebook and global-scale social media in general, though I don’t wish to dredge it all up now.

Instead of reiterating Facebook’s problems, here’s a potential solution: one form of government regulation should enact a user count cap. Simply make a rule that says any social media site may not have more than 1 billion registered user accounts, and any social media company may not have more than 1 billion registered users. So in the case of Facebook with its three big apps: Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, all three apps combined cannot have more than 1 billion users. This simple rule would help contain global-scale reach, whether positive or negative. Given the amount of adverse effects worldwide as evidenced from Facebook, a user cap would mititage against such problems.

Surely there are other ideas to help; if you have some, please comment below. In any case, a question I ask is: are the net effects of Facebook more good or more bad? That is tough to answer. When the news media is in an uproar against Facebook’s latest misdeeds, it’s easy to think the company’s net effects are indeed negative; so delete it! When the calm follows the storm — and no elections, riots, coups, insurrections, or pandemics are taking place — the Newsfeed can seem like a happy bit of escapism from the daily grind, full of relevant ads for my favorite coffee and also funny animal videos. Yeah.

Bottom line: for now, I’m keeping my Facebook account, for better or worse, but am very close to deleting it again. Because of the years of repeated privacy problems fueling lack of trust in Facebook and seeing its ill affect on my own family and society in general, I really do think we would all be better off without Facebook. I wish the platform would crumble, not for glee over witnessing the mighty fall, but for the safety and sanity of billions of people, like myself, who can’t seem to escape its reach.

Facebook the company is too big and too powerful, and it still rests in the total control of one man. How does that not sound off more alarms? And where is the US government’s new regulations to rein in Zuckerberg’s reign? Isn’t it time to constrain and restrain social media?