Leaving Facebook: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

I first quit Facebook in 2010, in response to a talk Eben Moglen gave at NYU about Facebook’s privacy-destroying ways; one of his most memorable lines was:

The East German Stasi used to have to deploy a fleet of undercover agents and wiretaps to find out what people did, who they met, what they ate, which books they read; now we just have a bunch of Like buttons and people tell a data monetizing corporation the same information for free.

That talk–in which Moglen referred to Mark Zuckerberg as a ‘thug’–also inspired a couple of young folk, then in attendance, to start Diaspora, an alternative social network in which users would own their data. I signed up for Diaspora soon after kicked off; I also signed up for Google+. I returned to Facebook in 2012, a few months after starting my blog, because it was the only way I could see to distribute my posts. Diaspora and Google+ never ‘took off’; a certain kind of ‘first-mover status, and its associated network effects had made sure there was little social networking on those alternative platforms.

Since then, I’ve stayed on Facebook, sharing photos, bragging about my daughter and my various published writings, and so on. I use the word ‘bragging’ advisedly; no matter how much you dress it up, that’s what I’ve been doing. But it has been a horrible experience in many ways: distraction, lowered self-esteem, envy, have been but its most prominent residues. Moreover, to have substantive discussions  on Facebook, you must write. A lot. I’d rather write somewhere else, like here, or work on my books and essays. So, I desperately want to leave, to work on my writing. But, ironically, as a writer, I feel I have to stay on. Folks who have already accomplished a great deal offline, can afford to stay off; those of us struggling to make a mark, to be noticed, have to stay here. (Consider that literary agents now want non-fiction writers to demonstrate that they have a ‘social media presence’; that they have a flourishing Facebook and Twitter presence, which will make the marketing of their writings easier.) I know, I know; as a writer, I should work on my craft, produce my work, and not worry about anything else. I know the wisdom of that claim and reconciling it to the practical demands of this life is an ongoing challenge.

So, let’s say, ‘we,’ the user ‘community’ on Facebook decide to leave; and we find an alternative social network platform. I’m afraid little will have changed unless the rest of the world also changes; the one in which data is monetized for profit, coupled with a social and moral and economic principle that places all values subservient to the making of profit. The problem isn’t Facebook. We could migrate to another platform; sure. They need to survive in this world, the one run by capital and cash; right. So they need to monetize data; ours. They will. Money has commodified all relationships; including the ones with social network platforms. So long as data is monetizable, we will face the ‘Facebook problem.’

2 comments on “Leaving Facebook: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

  1. Nqabutho says:

    How do you know that somebody (anybody) is seriously engaging with your thinking, listening, trying to understand what you’re trying to do, giving critique that you find useful, etc.? These new internet devices, including blogs, seem to offer great possibilities, but it seems some people, esp. on Facebook or Twitter, are not serious, and “social media presence” means simply “monetizing opportunities”. “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

  2. landzek says:

    Sometimes I wonder if what human beings do, at least in the modern or semimodern context, is when you’re young you question and you follow your heart and by that you tend to disrupt. — then in your late 20s and 30s and maybe even part of your 40s you question in a different way and you ponder how small your mind was when you were young— then maybe in your 40s and 50s you start looking at the movements of the youth as if somehow they are doing things wrong or that the world is developing in a way that is bad.

    Because the people that are in their 30s and 40s and 50s really have the power so far is institutional power review upon the world and its institutions try to reflect the newly come upon “wrong“ and address it, but the young people just come up in it and they don’t see what’s wrong in the same way.

    I know that sounds very general but I’m considering more and more that what are used to think was bad, namely consumerism and surface quality and selfish interests and things like that, Is actually just human beings being human, and that it may be that the whole history of humanity has been guided by the same principles. I’ve been pondering that what we think is so terrible nowadays, like Trump and Putin and cronyism and money and not helping the poor and all this stuff, is the same things that’s always been terrible in humanity. And it seems like we have to behave this way even though we might know that our efforts really only serve to contribute to a further terrible thing that the next generation gets to confront in their own way.

    It seems like Facebook in all its information sharing in this idea of privacy and stuff is anachronistic. There were some study I don’t know 10 years ago maybe by Harvard I think Beth said we could draw a very noticeable line at 30 years old and the people younger than 30 had no problem with spreading their information all over the Internet and shopping online and all that stuff, and the people over 30 had major issues with that, siding issues of privacy and individuality and things like that.

    And when you think of this new Facebook scandal it’s kind of like the horses already left the gate. And so now we need to punish people or do something for the future but the future is already arrived in so much as probably the Profit motive, no matter how you look at it whether it was the lowly professor that was doing everything in good faith or whether it was some mischievous are devious plan to be able to somehow manipulate elections, The Profit gained by that move probably an overwhelmingly offsets whatever sort of ethical problem we would’ve had with such a blatant abuse of sharing private information.

    Maybe that’s just humanity and that nothing is going to happen to you as bad anymore than any other time that a bunch of bad things happen to portions in segments of humanity, because there is an information leak or a commercial abuse of information or something like that.

    Maybe were just too self-centered to see the truth of what humanity does maybe were just too self-centered to see the truth of what humanity does. And that it’s not that humanity does things to kill itself, but that humanity likes to look at it self as if it’s doing things to harm itself.

    Idk. There’s a saying that says if you are radical when you’re young then you have no heart and if you’re not conservative when you’re all done you have no brain. Lol

    Maybe that’s just a statement of fact. Lol.

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