Like a lot of people, I’ve been considering getting off of Facebook for a while.
I’ve already cut down the amount of time I spend there, but that’s a little bit like cutting your cigarette consumption from two packs a day to one pack — you’re still making yourself sick, just more slowly.
And I’ve concluded Facebook is making me sick.
I’ve joked with my shrink that Facebook has been a great benefit to the psychologists of America, because it’s generated so much business.
After all, how many people have had fights, ended relationships, got into arguments, cheated on their spouses, alienated themselves from friends and family, or lost their jobs because of Facebook?
Yesterday, in the span of an hour, during a discussion on my personal Facebook wall about “The Price is Right” — just about the silliest topic you could imagine — a former co-worker un-friended me and then angrily blocked me because he was outraged by a comment I made about Bob Barker.
Then, a few minutes later, I was kicked off of Facebook for 24 hours for making a joke about the late John Charles Daly, host of “What’s My Line?” (I was supposedly “inciting violence.”)
Now, on one level, that’s pretty funny. A former friend got violently angry because I criticized Bob Barker? And I got kicked off of Facebook for making a joke about a guy who died in 1991?
But on another level, it’s deeply sad.
First: If a 25-year professional relationship can end because someone took offense over a Facebook discussion over who should host “The Price is Right,” then maybe Facebook isn’t a healthy place for any of us to be.
Meanwhile: I have lost count of the times I have reported to Facebook accounts called things such as “I Nate Higgers” or “Trans Women Are Men” and have been told by Facebook’s bots “this account doesn’t violate community standards.”
On the other hand, I make a satirical reference to John Charles Daly (who also was an ABC-TV news commentator, you could look it up) and my account is restricted for 24 hours.
Of course I appealed.
Of course it was instantly denied. I also appealed to something called the “Facebook Oversight Board,” whatever the hell that is.
Facebook also helpfully informed me that it will restrict any of my posts to groups or pages for another 28 days. (“Your posts will appear lower in the feed.”)
Swell. But I bet if I pay to sponsor those posts, they’ll show up, won’t they?
See, Facebook’s business model is to make you spend the maximum amount of time on Facebook to see ads. There are two serious problems, from the user’s perspective.
One, the ads I see on Facebook are increasingly for very low-quality services or products — weird far-right Christian podcasts and books, Trump propaganda websites, and bitcoin and survivalist scams.
I’m sure they don’t pay much money, so Facebook keeps pushing more and more of them.
Two, Facebook doesn’t care if you’re staying on Facebook because you’re angry, or because you’re happy. They just want you here, seeing those low-rent, crummy ads.
Since people tend to become more engaged with content when they’re mad or fearful, it’s pretty obvious that Facebook’s algorithms deliberately push content that makes people angry and upset.
I don’t know about you, but there’s enough in the world to make me angry and upset. I don’t need Facebook’s help.
I have mixed emotions about this, because my wife and I first started talking over Facebook. Our discussions led to our first date, and our dating led to marriage.
Facebook also has been a great way to keep in touch with friends around the world, especially during the pandemic. So I’ve been reluctant to leave.
But I’ve concluded that Facebook is like a favorite old restaurant where you used to love to hang out: The quality of the food is slipping, and the service is getting worse, and at some point, you’re only going because of the way it used to be.
There’s no reason to be “loyal” to a company that treats its customers with contempt and disdain.
I have archived all of my photos and Facebook posts and stored them on Dropbox. (You can do that by going to your Facebook privacy settings. Here’s a helpful guide.)
I can’t deactivate my account, because I need one to maintain several pages for my day job.
That’s another reason that makes this decision necessary: The only reason I joined Facebook back in 2009 was so that I could maintain Facebook pages for work.
During my “suspension,” Facebook would not let me update my employer’s pages — even though my suspension was ridiculous and was under appeal. (Thank God we had no crucial time-sensitive information that needed to be posted!)
I need to have access to Facebook for work, but
Facebook can revoke my access for something I posted on my personal account … then,
Logically, I shouldn’t post anything on my personal account for fear of risking my job.
If you need to contact me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to follow me, follow my Jay Thurber Show account on Twitter.
See you in real life soon, I hope. (“In church or some other low place,” as Eric O’Brien says.)