Some time around 2017 I came to realize that my social media habits were becoming deeply unhealthy, I was spending so much time glued to a screen engaging with people, groups, and events online that I was missing out on engaging with people and events in real life.
I shut down my accounts on dozens of social media platforms and limited myself to just Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. On the whole this gave me back much of my time and focus but over time even using only this limited handful of platforms the joy of keeping up to date and staying in touch has been sapped out of the Social Media experience by the toxic business practices which most platforms use.
The way that social media networks (facebook/meta in particular) use your personal data is quite frankly horrifying. By tracking every single website you visit on every device you own, every app that you use and how long you use it for, every geographic place that you ever visit, every online purchase you make, every message you send, every profile you visit, how long you hover over a post even if you don’t click on it… Facebook/Meta has an incredibly detailed profile of who you are, what things you like, what you hate, what interests you, what titillates you, what motivates you, what upsets you, and what you aspire to.
Meta’s business model centers around selling this incredibly detailed personal data to anonymous third parties who you have no visibility or control over, and through manipulative targeted advertising crafted using what they know about you to catch your interest or to manipulate you via Facebook. Their income depends upon their ability to use your data to manipulate you into looking at or reacting to the posts that generate them the most money, not the posts that you most want to see. Hateful content, shocking commentary, disinformation, and propaganda are disproportionately shown to users while the sincere genuine posts and life updates from your most precious contacts are buried or even hidden entirely. Facebook/Meta has become incredibly effective at deliberately showing you controversial, divisive, and offensive material because that is what you are most likely to react to. Nefarious organizations and political parties/interest groups also target you with this information, directing or steering you to think a certain way on current world events, to favour one brand over another, or even to vote for a specific political party.
While some people can spot and subconsciously filter out this expertly curated sewer of outrage that they are being drip fed by the Social Media giants, the overwhelming majority of people cannot. Slowly but surely over a period of time these people become unwittingly radicalized by these nudge tactics and it makes interacting with them or indeed anybody else on the platform an inherently toxic experience.
Since the third party tools which used to be able to filter out all of facebook’s manipulative “noise” no longer work and the platform is more toxic than ever with no end to their wholesale manipulation of our feeds in sight, I’ve taken the decision that in order to protect my own mental health and the wellbeing of my treasured personal relationships with others, I will be withdrawing almost entirely from the Facebook/Meta platform.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll remove every shred of personal data that I can from their servers and services. I will limit what remains of my account only to my family and those few friends who I am unable to interact with anywhere else.
For anybody who is interested in keeping in touch or following my day to day exploits, I’ll be moving over to my @TJStamp account on Twitter.
While Twitter are by no means innocent of similar practices to facebook, the granularity of their privacy and content controls make it a breeze to take personal control of your own feeds, and the content that you really want to see.