One of the habit-sets we all need to rethink in these transitional times is our use of media (such as this one). Pam and i have both decided recently to close our Facebook accounts. Facebook has become one of the forces undermining our democracy, most obviously through its role in recent election campaigns (as documented in, for instance, the Netflix movie on Cambridge Analytica, The Great Hack). Mark Zuckerberg apologized for that, sort of, and promised to “do better,” but we see no signs of improvement.
The problem with Facebook is systemic. It’s grown to its dominant position among “social media” by selling its users’ attention to advertisers, while leaving it up to the users themselves to provide the content that makes it worth paying attention to. We refuse to support that, even though we haven’t been targeted with a lot of fake news and political attack ads. If you are on Facebook, even though you are paying no money to it or to its advertisers, you are supporting it.
When we mention this to friends – I mean real friends, not Facebook “friends” – they protest that they use it to keep in touch with family and other connections. But there are other and less addictive ways to do that. Email is no harder to use than Facebook, once you get into the habit, and it doesn’t pull your attention in all directions when you write or read the same things you would see or say on Facebook. I refuse to use fb for the same reason that i refuse to “monetize” this blog: I consider your attention a precious gift that should not be abused.
OK, end of rant. And if you still find Facebook worthwhile in spite of its complicity in the decline of truthfulness, i will think no less of you. You make your choices and i make mine, and we can still be friends. Real friends.