A Declaration of Independence from Facebook

I’m deleting my Facebook accounts. I think you should, too.

I’m deleting my Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger accounts on July 4th, 2019. I’m calling it “Independence from Facebook Day.” (Facebook owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.)

I’m doing this on the 4th of July because I want to give all my family, friends and contacts time to connect with me on other media and for me to connect with them.

I’ll be clear as I possibly can about why I’m doing this: Facebook is a deeply unethical company that does great harm to individual people, human relationships and to the world.  

Each of us has to answer two questions for ourselves

1. Does Facebook harm people? 

2. Does my participation in Facebook enable that harm? 

For me, the answer to both questions is yes. And so I cannot in good conscience continue to participate in Facebook’s harm, despite the inconvenience.  

I’m not alone. Other prominent people in the industry have done the same. Leo Laporte and Walt Mossberg have quit Facebook. So has Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote a whole movie about Facebook, has quit. Elon Musk says Facebook gives him “the willies,” and he removed the Facebook pages of both his companies: Tesla and Space X.

Facebook is a bad company, and their success was a lucky accident. 

At the moment when social networking went radically mainstream, Facebook happened to be the dominant social network. It became dominant by exploiting human psychology — specifically the FOMO. They rolled out Facebook stepwise, first at Harvard, then Ivy League Schools, then colleges. At every step, those not invited felt left out, like they were missing something. Eventually, when Facebook was opened to the public, everybody rushed in to get in on the private club from which they were formerly excluded.

Facebook began by exploiting human irrationality, and that became the foundation for the entire company.  

Everybody signed up for Facebook, and now Facebook is where everybody is trapped.

The only reason everybody is on Facebook is because everybody is on Facebook. It’s called “network effect.

Normally, a tech company like Apple or Google becomes rich and powerful because lots of people love their products and services. But Facebook has become rich and powerful because people love their family and friends.

Facebook’s business model is to exploit and monetize your love.

Facebook has way too much power. Facebook.com is by far the largest source of news in the world. They determine the political zeitgeist in most nations around the world. And they're responsible for much of the rancor and division we're seeing every day.

Facebook is buggy and insecure, allowing your personal data to get into the hands of criminals and hackers. Even when informed about bugs that harm users, Facebook often doesn’t bother to fix them.

Because of the deep dependence billions of people have on Facebook sites, Facebook's algorithms choose who you have relationships with, and who you do not. They also determine how those relationships are to take place.

All social media is a public performance. On Facebook and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg and his minions have constructed the rules we all have to obey about how to post, when to post, what to post — as well as what is allowed. Facebook and Instagram users obey. It’s required.

Facebook manipulates you and me on a scale that's impossible to fathom. My friend Kashmir Hill has written about this brilliantly and extensively.

What drives Facebook’s decisions about who you know, what you see and what you believe, are nothing more than manipulation and exploitation for the purpose of selling ads. So much lost. So little gained. It’s just not worth it.

Facebook has damaged journalism, and with it our political culture. They provide the most effective platforms for shameless despots to manipulate our democracy. They drive depression and suicide among teens. And they facilitate the spread of harmful disinformation, bullying, hate speech and trolling.

And maybe worst of all, they hijack our psychology deliberately like rats in some kind of sick experiment to keep us pushing buttons for that dopamine reward of approval.

Facebook steals our precious time by manipulating us into spending hours on Facebook and/or Instagram each day. Like fast-food companies who have long employed scientists to discover the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar to add to junk food — and thereby addicting people to overeating even as the obesity rate approaches 40% — Facebook researchers are constantly tweaking algorithms that exploit human frailty. Their explicit goal is to trick and manipulate users into spending more and more hours poking and liking and following and unfollowing and commenting — enormous time and effort spent on essentially nothing. And they succeed.

We reflexively jump through the hoops Facebook has constructed, instead of reading books, spending time with loved ones and enjoying the Real World and genuine human connection.

Facebook tracks everyone online -- even people who explicitly turn off location tracking. Even people who have never signed up. They maintain data on you and everyone else that you never added to Facebook -- they find it by other means (they're called "shadow profiles").

Facebook was even caught sharing your private messages with a long list of other tech companies.

Facebook delivers your posts to only a tiny and shrinking minority of the people who are your friends or who follow you. If you have 1,000 people who have friended or follow you, Facebook delivers any given post of yours to around 30 or 40 people. Most users neither know nor care that Facebook is censoring their relationships. They’re on Facebook sites for the dopamine reward, and they get it.

It's even worse for businesses. Something like 1.2% of the people who follow a company on Facebook ever receive any given post by that company. (It’s called organic reach.) Facebook wants you to pay through the nose for advertising for companies to reach their own fans and customers. (It’s called monopoly pricing.)

Facebook is a racket — the scam of the century.

And when Facebook is criticized, they resort to unethical dirty tricks, such as hiring a PR firm to launch anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros. Facebook uses it’s own algorithms to suppress criticism of Facebook on their sites.

They provide fake and superficial connection, which replaces authentic and meaningful connection. They’ve somehow convinced us that we can’t live without them. But it’s a delusion. We can live better without them. We can connect in person, by phone calls, by email and by other social networks that do far less damage to us and to the world. Best of all, we can replace social with personal websites.

And it’s easier than you think to live without Facebook. We’ll be fine.

To recap, I’m deleting Facebook sites and services on the 4th of July because: 

* Facebook and Instagram damage human relationships

* Facebook and Instagram are harmfully addictive, like gambling  

* Facebook and especially Instagram compel users into a specific kind of public performance, where it feels like performing a fake version of one’s life is necessary to exist as a person

* As the largest source of news in history by far, Facebook creates the algorithms that decide what people know, what they believe and how they vote

* Facebook divides people, relentlessly driving the divisions that are tearing apart our democracies

* Facebook benefits authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, which can manipulate Facebook into conveying their propaganda and disinformation

* Facebook tracks people, even non-users, with invasive and sophisticated methods their users can barely comprehend

Organizations like Freedom From Facebook seek to compel the government to break the company up, so they don't have so much influence and control over so many billions.

Personally, I would prefer that people choose to delete Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger voluntarily -- because it's the right thing to do and makes the world a better place.

So that's what I’m doing. I’m backing off on using Facebook sites immediately, and will delete my accounts completely on the 4th of July. (Most of my use of these sites will be to advertise and promote Independence from Facebook Day.)

(And I’ve replaced Facebook with a concept I call “Nicebook”).

I still want to stay connected with you.

Here's where you can connect with me instead of Facebook and Instagram:

My phone number: (646) 355-8388

My email: mike@elgan.com

My blog: https://elgan.com/blog

My blog’s RSS feed: https://elgan.com/blog/?format=rss

My Nicebook: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UhHg6Qs5Jj4dGp958

My email newsletter: https://elgan.com/mikeslist

My Twitter account: https://twitter.com/MikeElgan

The Gastronomad email newsletter: https://gastronomad.net/newsletter

Please let me know where I can connect with you by adding your social or email account info in the comments below — or tell me privately by sending me an email.

And finally, promote this cause using this shortened link to this post: https://elgan.com/facebook