I deleted Facebook and Instagram many years ago for reasons I’ll share later and I’m about to delete Whatsapp.
On what grounds should you? Ignoring the petty, the noise and cancel culture meme. Why should you delete an app? At what red line?
I view companies through two moral lenses: Those that do good and those that do no harm. Ideally all would do both, but that’s plain impossible. Instead, ALL companies should be fighting to be great at the latter — employ across stereotypical boundaries, look after people, be kind to the planet, and in general terms don’t be a d*ck.
To stay with WhatsApp for a minute and their parent Facebook — do they do good? Do they do no harm? It’s a tough one to unravel because, as with great power comes great profit, err, I mean great responsibility.
Their mission is “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”. Well it certainly worked for Putin and Trump… but in all seriousness, connecting people is only a good thing, right?
At what cost?
I have three issues with Facebook:
1 — Perhaps a more radical suggestion that social media is not really all that social — it’s not good for us, it doesn’t bring people together and I’m going to argue it’s the antithesis.
I see it as a thin veneer of socialdom. A vague sniff of genuine social connection which is an empty promise that is dangerous for many. Yeah voyeurism can be great fun but to state the obvious, looking at pictures of your old mate from school playing with his 3yr old daughter is not the same as being there with your old buddy and sharing one of life’s treasures. But our brains aren’t wired well enough to deal with this level of duplicity. The promise and the reality.
The reason many struggle mentally with social media is because of a lack of human connection in a world where social is touted to create connection. We need and feed off the energy of others, even strangers. We need to get annoyed at that Starbucks barista for the lukewarm coffee, and relish that chance encounter with a long lost friend on the Tube. But ultimately we need to speak voice to voice, or even better — spend time together face to face (perhaps in 2028 post Tier 17). Not bubbled up, touching glass.
(Yes Facebook creates groups for F2F, yes they’re not purporting to replace any of the above, and yes many lean on the service when they have little else — but that’s often how it’s used and perceived I would argue. Play with me.)
As Jerry Maguire once said -
How about fewer client, and more attention?
That, but in social media terms is when we share less random crap, spend less time on(brain-numbing)line, focus more on loved ones, create deeper connections in smaller communities, buy more locally, and generally invest in economies that will improve (all of) our lives. How naive and idealistic! I don’t care, I’m going for it.
2 — Facebook is dangerous. Social platforms are not governed like a publisher but they act like a publisher in many instances so should be treated as such when appropriate. Section 230 in the States protects (not full immunity) online platforms from being liable for user generated content (Biden will amend or repeal I would think) which is the engine of misinformation. There is simply too much reach now, and nonsense fuels nonsense. This tweet from Daniel Dale is classic ‘show and tell’ fodder for the Class of Misinformation 2021.
3 — And finally, I just don’t trust them. It’s not that Zuckerberg isn’t a nice bloke, who knows what he’s like when he unplugs from the Borg, but I simply don’t share his or their moral compass. From what I can see and have experienced, they are not to be trusted and shareholder value always comes first. What level of personal data are you willing to offer up? Remember — You are the product.
Etienne Garbugli captures his disdain perfectly working out his red line — “Feeling + Facts + Past behavior + A preference for their competitors’ products”.
I don’t want Facebook using my data as, by design, it’s not supporting a greater good. It’s for their own good, and too often at the expense of ours.
That’s my red line.
Where is yours?