A few years ago I spent a couple of years in the ‘wilderness’ when I decided to take a break from posting and following anyone on Facebook. This self-imposed exile was a refreshing time of being an outsider and felt something akin to drug rehabilitation, though I never considered myself a Facebook addict. For quite some time now, I have been considering my position on belonging to this data behemoth, but resisted the deletion of my Facebook account because of a perceived need to represent my business to as large an audience as possible in order to communicate effectively given the waning influence of email communication. Email has long since lost much of its usefulness through the advent of smap, phish etc. However, the desire to be free of the social media giant has now become something that I feel strongly enough about that I am shortly going to take the fairly drastic step of full deletion and connection with the hundreds of ‘friends’ I currently have. As for the BG Coffee business, we will continue to use Instagram, though it is owned by Facebook, but does not engage in many of the practices or manipulations commonly associated with the Facebook business models….yet! There are many reasons for taking this step and I felt it only fair to make my reasons available to those who might be interested.
- I am a long time cynic when it comes to the whole world of paid advertising. As a friend of mine once said, “Advertising robs you of your dignity and sells it back to you at the price of the product being advertised.” Not only does this ring true with me, but the essentially manipulative practice has taken on a much more sinister modus operandus with the use of personally targetted campaigns through email, texts, phone calls and of course, social media. BG Coffee has never paid for advertising in the almost 12 years of its existence. Facebook’s unashamed expoitation of our personal data and our friends’ personal data for the furtherance of manipulative targetted advertising is at best an annoyance, but at worst, an attempt to wear us down with the old strategy of sell them what they don’t need and can’t afford by associating as closely as possible with what they think they want. When it became truly creepy was when I received adverts or reminders of posts relating to people or products I mentioned in text messages or online orders. Somehow, these companies were collecting virtually everything I was doing online and fashioning a suitable advertising net to try to catch my hard earned dollars. Besides all this, if I am targetted with one more advert for buying someone else’s coffee or coffee machine, I am liable to throw my phone out of the window!
- The recent media exposure of Facebook’s links with Data Analytica and other companies using our shared data for targetting people in elections and referendums has revealed an astonishing disregard for truth and properly regulated journalism. Facebook has now been shown to have collaborated with some companies using highly dubious practices to influence the outcome of elections, notably the recent US election and the EU referendum in the UK. The same commercially engineered manipulative methods have been employed to play on people’s fears, prejudices and preconceived notions, often not based on any semblance of fact to influence their voting intentions. In some ways, I find this kind of manipulation more concerning than any interference by a foreign agent, though they allegedly used Facebook as one of their main areas of influence. You may argue that people can make up their own minds, but the way in which Facebook and unverifiable internet sources have been used as representing the ‘truth’ and the general lack of time and energy people have to do their own research means that much of what is pushed in front of the huge audience is simply digested and forms part of their belief system. I don’t know how many times I have been told ‘as fact’ things that I am fairly sure are about as near to the truth as the existence of unicorns! Yes I know, there is a Facebook group for people who believe they exist, but what does that tell you!
- The sheer weight of spurious, hate-filled, partisan dialogue often based on fairy tales in the political arena is just becoming tiresome and unpleasant. Yes, I methodically block and unfollow, but my reasons for wanting to abandon the platform altogether is because it lends itself to ever increasing extremist views and anti-social behaviour, far from the supposed culture of ‘bringing people together’. The ultimate problem with the leadership of Facebook is that there is a wide lack of integrity between the message and the underlying philosophy. Mr Zuckerberg tries to present his creation as a tool for creating community and bringing people together. I am not disputing that this definitely takes place within the Facebook environment. However, the underlying philosophy of the Facebook corporation has long since had something else as its driving force – Increasing profits and shareholder value. I have nothing against companies seeking to make a profit, but as with so many large public companies, the overriding aim is this underlying need not only to make a profit but to increase profits on a continual basis to satsify shareholder value. When this becomes the number one priority, the softer more desirable message is inevitably subsumed by the more powerful drivers.
- The last reason is purely personal and simply this. I am finding myself drawn into scrolling through Facebook and reading so much that is irrelevant, inane, insulting, fake or just a plain waste of time. Sure, there are occasional humorous posts that I am likely to miss such as cats using parachutes or hapless people falling for other peoples’ practical jokes and sometimes posts with genuine interest or needs that I am glad to know. But with hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’ (most of us consider this kind of number a joke), these are few and far between.
So what am I going to do? Well, firstly I am going to leave Facebook and completely delete my account including all the data ever collected. Secondly I am going to join a social media platform that allows me to start fresh, is not driven by advertising and I am going to invite anyone I feel might want to follow my life to connect. The choice to do so will be entirely up to those people, but at least I will know that they are people of interest, and that they too have an interest in what I may have photographed, read, listened to, watched or simply want to say.
Our business will be represented to the world at large on Instagram so that events and news can be shared with a larger audience and I will monitor Instagram’s business practices closely in the meantime.
In the end, I am deeply dissatisfied with Facebook as a company, but do not discount the use of social media as a means to stay connected. This is an attempt to create online community in an active manner that includes those with whom I have a genuine relationship, recognizing the changing world of communication. It is all too easy just to flow along in a passive manner and allow ourselves to join up, get involved without even thinking through the implications. For me, personally, the implications have become negative enough for me to want to do something about it. I have learned that you cannot change everyone’s world everywhere, but you can change your own world, and there is little value in complaining about something when you can do something about it. My only way to tell Facebook that I am not happy with their creation is to leave and make my feelings known through a boycott. So au revoir Facebook. I’ll see all those of you who are interested on the dark side of the moon!