Why I’m leaving Facebook

fakebookIn short: I’m tired of the manipulation. For a long time now, Facebook has been picking and choosing what people see and I’ve had enough of it. I’m tired of the echo chamber. Facebook sucks and I’m done.

As I think most people have noticed, Facebook is constantly trying to shove “Top Posts” down our throats instead of just letting us see the posts in chronological order. “Top Posts” are those posts from friends (and advertisers) that Facebook thinks you’re most interested in seeing. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself constantly having to change the newsfeed from “Top Posts” to “Most Recent” so I can get a chronological feed. For some reason, Facebook hates this because no matter how many times you change the setting, they eventually switch it back to “Top Posts”. I eventually installed a Firefox plugin called FB Purity that put a stop to this nonsense.

But the worst part of the Facebook experience is the newsfeed filtering that we can’t do anything about. Even with “Most Recent” turned on, if you think you see all wall posts from everyone in your friends list, you’re in for a surprise (I was). They have an algorithm that sorts through the wall posts from all of your friends and based on criteria such as how often you interact with those people, what common interests you share, etc., they determine what posts you see. In other words, if you and your Aunt Sally are always exchanging recipes, then Facebook will make sure you see most all of Aunt Sally’s posts. However, your cousin Bob may share a recipe now and then but you’d never see them because you don’t interact with cousin Bob very often on Facebook. In fact, you might not ever see them unless you actually go visit his “wall” page.

This is where the biggest problem lies. Just yesterday, my daughter posted something on Facebook which included a reference to her pregnancy. I’ve known she’s pregnant for the past couple of months but she hadn’t yet posted it on Facebook (at least I didn’t THINK she had). I made the comment, “that’s one way to break the news to the world”, to which she replied, “I already did last week, Dad.” Of course, I never saw it because Facebook didn’t think I’d be interested. Instead, I ended up looking like an idiot. Fuck you, Facebook.

Thankfully, I’m not the only person to notice this. The Guardian did a story on it 2014 when Facebook was caught red-handed using these filters for social experiments by psychologists. Facebook claims that these filters are “Essential”. From the Guardian article:

“Essential? Why can’t Facebook just show me an unfiltered feed?

“Because, it argues, the results would be overwhelming. ‘Every time someone visits news feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and pages for them to see, and most people don’t have enough time to see them all,’ wrote Facebook engineer Lars Backstrom in a blog post in August 2013.

According to Lars, we should be thanking him for saving us from having to stare at our newsfeed for hours on end just to see what our friends and relatives are up to. Of course, nobody does that, right?

“With so many stories, there is a good chance people would miss something they wanted to see if we displayed a continuous, unranked stream of information.”

So you see, according to the wizards at Facebook, you really don’t want to see cousin Bob’s recipes, so they’re not going to bother showing them to you. Meanwhile, poor Bob gets the impression that no one cares for his recipes when in fact, the people who might care never saw them. This is the most troubling aspect of the newsfeed filter: it results in a sort of social engineering, intended or not.

Facebook never asks what you want to see, they just make assumptions based on what you do on the site. It seems to me that a more fair (and transparent) way to keep people from being overwhelmed is to let THEM decide how much of this filtering (if any) they want. Let the USER throttle how many recipes they see from Aunt Sally. Instead, we all end up in echo chambers where we only see and hear from those with whom we agree and that’s fucked up. But no, just like “Top Stories”, Facebook knows best.

Except that they don’t. If they did, people wouldn’t be leaving in droves. I find myself missing the days of GeoCities and MySpace, where people had to put a little more effort into showing the world what’s going on in their lives. At least then, no one was filtering what I saw.

Facebook appears to be a dying fad. I praised it highly for helping me find friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in years. Unfortunately, many of them don’t stick around anyway. You know how it is. Someone you haven’t heard from in 20 years disappears from Facebook just as quickly as they joined. Maybe they got tired of the BS faster than I did.

I’m going to make sure my contact list of email addresses and phone numbers are up to date and check out of Facebook, at least for now. I’m not ready to cancel my account altogether, but I am taking a break. Time will tell if it’s permanent or not. The next time you hear from me, it might be an email, a phone call, or maybe just a blog post here that you took the time to check out. An occasional email exchange or a phone call seems like a better way to keep in touch anyway.

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