I opened my first Facebook account when I was a freshman in College. Back then, the website was restricted to those who had a college or university email address, and had just opened registration to students in Canada. Everyone in my college signed up. Since then, I have been active on the website on a near-daily basis for the last 16 years.
Facebook and I have had a good run together. I met my ex-wife on Facebook. I created a popular Facebook application that ran for many years. Through Facebook, I connected with an amazing group of friends when I lived in Ottawa, some of whom I still keep in contact with a decade later.
I was a deeply introverted computer geek in college, studying video game programming. Facebook provided a way to meet and connect with people that was comfortable for someone who was great with computers, and lousy with face-to-face social interaction.
All good things come to an end
It sound’s like I’ve had plenty to gain from Facebook, so you might be wondering why I’m deleting my account.
The thing is, the good experiences I had through Facebook all happened in the first few years after I opened my account. Since then, the young social network has grown and matured into something entirely different.
The features that initially made the website fun, like “pokes” and being able to customize your “wall”, were quickly discarded. These were replaced with creepily well-targeted advertising, ads in your feed disguised as posts, cheap and addictive flash games (full of advertising), and the infamous and ethically questionable “like” and “share” buttons.
In those early years of Facebook, people mostly shared what they were thinking or doing. A quick post to tell everyone they are going out tomorrow night, if anyone wants to join. A photo of their new shoes, or an album from their last vacation.
While that content still exists on modern Facebook, you have to sift through a lot of junk to find it. Controversial, polarizing content draws engagement, which causes the algorithm to boost it up your news feed. Links to scientifically-questionable articles with click-bait headlines are similarly pushed to the top. Viral videos are ready to hijack your attention for hours at a time. Advertisements are disguised as posts, and actual posts often contain hidden or subtle advertising.
I’ve held on over the years through heavy use of ad-blocking software, which has mostly allowed me to avoid wading through the endless barrage of concealed advertisements, app and game invites, and other profit-driven spam. But ad-blocking software will never help with the fact that Facebook is designed to be a distraction, to pull you in and hold your attention as long as possible, regardless of whether it is healthy for, or desired by the user.
Facebook has become one of those things that I continue to do, because I have always done it, even though it no longer provides any value. I feel like the modern incarnation of Facebook has lost touch with what it was meant to be, and is doing much more harm than good to it’s users.
Like many people, I always felt that if I closed my Facebook account I would lose contact with the network of friends and acquaintances I have built throughout my life. This isn’t really true. I have so many other means to keep in touch with people – phone calls, text messaging, and messenger apps. Even hand written letters sent in the post – a real pleasure of mine, when I take the time to do it.
So it’s time to say goodbye to Facebook. I am deleting my account and not looking back. Maybe it’s time for you to do the same?