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Teaching by Peter Hunter and blog in both Danish and English

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

Blog (EN)

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

Peter Hunter

Reading tips: Actionable links (petitions, podcasts) and main points in paragraphs are bold. Check out my sources as you read if you have the time to dive deeper into the subject. I’ve added cover pictures of my favorite books, which are all referenced as well. I’ve spent a lot of time making this a fact-based piece to overcome the tendency to trivialize the role of Facebook in our daily lives and society. Using FB is not just a “personal choice” – it’s political and important.

I’ll be coming out with a post on FB alternatives soon, until then Information(1) and Wired(2) are good places to start.

You can download this as a PDF if you want to read it offline. This article is around 1600 words and should take you like 10 minutes to read. Here we go:


Despite its clear usefulness in our modern connected lives, Facebook (“FB” onwards) is now more an addictive burden than a community-building time-saver, and the company’s behavior is completely unethical. The goal with this post is to organize my own personal and political arguments for deleting Facebook, since it’s so difficult to delete (more on this later) that I must make it REALLY clear to myself why it’s necessary. Maybe this thinking effort can help you make an informed choice as well.

Opmærksomhedskrigen, Zetland

Opmærksomhedskrigen, Zetland

In Denmark, 65% of all Danes over 12 use FB daily and 70% of youth check social media (“SoMe”) at least once per hour(3). Many small businesses (including myself, a teacher of movement) rely almost exclusively on FB and its ads to direct attention to their services. Although I’m proud of never having paid FB for ads or anything else, the average Dane earns around 100DKK for FB pr. year(3). The platform is captivating, because it’s designed to optimize user's time on screen (NOT “build community”) in order to increase profit from advertisements (NOT deliver “relevant ads” – ads earned FB 22.000.000.000$ (22 billion/milliarder dollars) in 2016 and 38.000.000.000$ in 2018(4)).

This optimization strategy implemented by algorithms usually takes the form of things that cause outrage, things of interest or passion or things that are funny. It really works well on me: My FB-wall is littered with things I’m interested in like acroyoga, climate change and CPH-events and I use it to promote my teaching. But my girlfriend thinks I’m on the phone too much, I spend about ½ the time at lectures on FB and every time FB is in the news, it’s scandal after scandal AGAIN and AGAIN.

To organize this long rant, here are the categories of my motivation to delete FB:

1.       The political SCANDALS

2.       The lack of privacy & SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM

3.       The psychology of ADDICTION

4.       The DIFFICULTY of deleting FB itself

1 POLITICAL SCANDALS

Without FB (and Russian fake profiles), Trump would not be president(5,6). WHAT, really? Well, all over the world, the new norm in political advertising is using a technique called "micro-targeting" - which might pose a serious threat to democracy as The Guardian writes about in this story (7) and George Monbiot in this one(8) and that one(9). As I'm writing this, Trump is spending more than the democrats combined on FB and Google adds(10):

From Yahoo Finance

From Yahoo Finance

The BIG one is this: Facebook failed to keep data from 87 million users private in the Cambridge Analytica scandal(11) and this affected both the 2016 Trump election and Brexit. But other security breaches have occurred as well(12). 

More locally in Denmark, Klaus Riskjær Pedersen has started his own political party by collecting the obligatory 21.000 signatures in record time(13) using only FB ads with the help of staff all under 28 years old(14). Neither the political parties nor FB wanted to disclose how much money was spent on FB ads during the last election in Denmark(15). FB, a new worldwide media-market, is disrupting the political landscape.

Mozilla, an organization dedicated to a “healthy internet”, has written this Open Letter to Facebook related to this subject, which you can sign if you want to add your voice.

Now, political advertisement is not inherently bad, but in the old-school medias, you couldn’t personalize and micro-target voters using data. With the new data-informed media, it’s clear that YOU DON’T WANT THE TARGET TO KNOW THEY ARE BEING TARGETED when you’re selling things or ideas – why? Well, when you want people to change their behavior, it doesn’t help that the targets are aware of this manipulative effort and how they are EXACTLY the most vulnerable people to this specific persuasion or that product. “Relevant ads”? No. Cheap, personalized micro-targeting of specific demographics according to who is most likely (read VULNERABLE) to change their behavior. Call a spade a spade. And it works best if it’s NOT transparent and you think that whatever “just popped up”. That’s the sneaky part. Somebody payed real money to show exactly that whatever to YOU.

Mark Zuckerberg, FB CEO

Mark Zuckerberg, FB CEO

As a final note on the political level, listen to this critical interview(16) with Mark Zuckerberg, who became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at 23 years old in 2007(17). And who doesn’t pay the taxes he owes, by the way (18,19). In my opinion, he isn’t mature enough to deal with the responsibility and I don’t like him either.

2 The lack of privacy & SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM

They have even used phone numbers given from users for “security reasons” to target them with ads! You can tell FB that this crosses a line here.

FB’s entire income depends on user data. The more data about as many aspects of life the better. Shoshana Zuboff’s new book(20) summarizes the business model like this:

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff

“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”(21)

jaron lanier.jpg

Listen to this fantastic podcast(22) if you want to hear Zuboff break it down for you in 1 hour. Or you can let Wikipedia explain Surveillance Capitalism for you. I was convinced immediately of the importance of understanding this new marketplace (and not supporting it). Facebook is not “social” – it’s a market platform, where the customers are businesses and sellers, and the product is you, a potential voter, participant or consumer.

Too many smart people (many with deep roots in Silicon Valley) are very critical of FB, like Jaron Lanier in this book(23) and Roger McNamee in the latest Sam Harris podcast(24).

3 The psychology of ADDICTION

Sluk, Imran Rashid

Sluk, Imran Rashid

Imran Rashid has written an amazing book in Danish called SLUK, Kunsten at overleve I en digital verden(4) (TURN IT OFF, the art of surviving in the digital age). You should really just learn Danish and read that book, but the content is all about the mild version of Internet Addiction Disorder everybody has these days. Because FB has gamified our basic social needs and used the latest science of behavioral design, it’s succeeded in become the world’s most addictive platform, taking our time, our data and our privacy in turn for – at best – helping unite people with common interests, organize our real social life and maybe earn money. 

The way this works is that your behavior, which you might think is autonomous and free, is programmed into the code of FB – its technology optimized to hack your brain.

Put “Hot Triggers” in the path of motivated people
— B.J. Fogg's mantra(25) (pioneer in behavioral design)

Nir Eyal, a student of Fogg, wrote a book called “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”(26). Doesn’t this just piss you off? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of being instrumentalized as scientifically and as commercially as this. I’m a HUMAN BEING, not a cog in the dataset of Machine Learning monsters with names like FB, Google and Amazon. This is what Douglas Rushkoffs great podcast(27) and book(28) TEAM HUMAN is all about:

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

Team Human, Douglas Rushkoff

Team Human, Douglas Rushkoff

Autonomous technologies, runaway markets and weaponized media seem to have overturned civil society, paralyzing our ability to think constructively, connect meaningfully, or act purposefully. It feels as if civilization itself were on the brink, and that we lack the collective willpower and coordination necessary to address issues of vital importance to the very survival of our species.

The simplest way to understand and change our predicament is to recognize that being human is a team sport. We cannot be fully human, alone. Anything that brings us together fosters our humanity. Likewise, anything that separates us makes us less human, and less able to exercise our will.” – Team Human Podcast Description

And I haven’t even begun to cover the depressing tendency of FB to be correlated with all kinds of mental dis-ease like self-harm, envy, depression and stress(4,29). No time for that.

4 The DIFFICULTY of deleting FB itself

The primary reason FB is so hard to quit is the logic of networks:

The value of networks is proportional to the number of users who belong to them; conversely, the cost of leaving is losing out on the ability to coordinate with a large number of people, especially when there is no viable alternative.
— Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon (30)

All my friends who have tried to quit tell me of the onerous work it is to find other pathways for communication and information. Besides, there are good reasons not to #DeleteFacebook (30), like using it for the better instead of going dark and becoming irrelevant. If only the bad guys use persuasion technology, they will win the debates and the people.

But now it’s time to do the hard thing. Minimum 3 months. And if you know me, you know I intend to be part of the political circus of dialogue and debate and NOT just talk the talk. I’m doing it by following quality media like Information, The Guardian and Zetland and by writing this piece which could change your mind, perhaps. And it will give me some extra time in life to focus on what matters, write more on my OWN website and get my email-newsletter (SUBSCRIBE, FRIENDS!) rolling again.

See you IRL. And thanks for reading!

Sources:

1.                        Elmelund, Rasmus. Skal vi slette vores facebookprofil? Og hvor skal vi så gå hen bagefter? Information [Internet]. Available from: https://www.information.dk/kultur/2018/04/slette-vores-facebookprofil-saa-gaa-hen-bagefter

2.                        Matsakis, Louise. Deleting Facebook? Here Are the Best Alternatives For What You’ll Miss [Internet]. Wired.com. 2018. Available from: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-alternatives/

3.                        Opmærksomhedskrigen: hvordan en industri kaprede din hjerne og solgte din tid [Internet]. Kbh.: Zetland; 2018. Available from: https://butik.zetland.dk/products/opmaerksomhedskrigen-hvordan-en-industri-kaprede-din-hjerne-og-solgte-din-tid

4.                        Rashid, Imran. Sluk. Lindhardt og Ringhof; 2017.

5.                        Lois, Beckett. Trump digital director says Facebook helped win the White House. 2017 Oct 9; Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/08/trump-digital-director-brad-parscale-facebook-advertising

6.                        DiResta, Renée. What We Now Know About Russian Disinformation. NYTIMESCOM [Internet]. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/opinion/russia-report-disinformation.html

7.                        Wong, Julia Carrie. “It might work too well”: the dark art of political advertising online. 2018 Mar 19; Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/19/facebook-political-ads-social-media-history-online-democracy

8.                        Monbiot, George. use IT or lose it [Internet]. Monbiot.com. 2017. Available from: https://www.monbiot.com/2017/03/08/use-it-or-lose-it/

9.                        Monbiot, George. The Mind Hackers [Internet]. Monbiot.com. Available from: https://www.monbiot.com/2019/01/06/the-mind-hackers/

10.                     Trump leads ad spending on Facebook and Google ahead of 2020 race [Internet]. Yahoo Finance. 2019. Available from: https://finance.yahoo.com/video/trumps-leads-ad-spending-facebook-192403341.html

11.                     Sanders, James. Facebook Data Privacy Scandal - A Cheat Sheet [Internet]. Techrepublic.com. Available from: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/facebook-data-privacy-scandal-a-cheat-sheet/

12.                     Matsakis, Louise, Lapowsky, Issie. Everything We Know About Facebook’s Massive Security Breach [Internet]. Wired.com. Available from: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-security-breach-50-million-accounts/

13.                     Jensen, Thomas. Indsamlede underskrifter hurtigere end DF: Riskærs parti fik glæde af smuthul. DR.dk [Internet]. Available from: https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/politik/indsamlede-underskrifter-hurtigere-end-df-riskaers-parti-fik-glaede-af-smuthul

14.                     Klaus Riskær loggede på Facebook, betalte og sejrede. En simpel guide til at vende ryggen til det gamle system og blive opstillingsparat på rekordtid [Internet]. Zetland. 2019. Available from: https://www.zetland.dk/historie/sevM6Y4b-megJ12mj-f0c52

15.                     Tybjerg, Jonathan, Kulager, Frederik. Bevæbnet med dine personlige oplysninger fører partierne valgkamp. Politiken [Internet]. Available from: https://politiken.dk/indland/politik/folketingsvalg2015/art5577855/Bev%C3%A6bnet-med-dine-personlige-oplysninger-f%C3%B8rer-partierne-valgkamp

16.                     Swisher, Kara, Zuckerberg, Mark. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Recode Decode [Internet]. Available from: https://www.recode.net/2018/7/18/17575158/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-interview-full-transcript-kara-swisher

17.                     Mark Zuckerberg. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

18.                     Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Fact Sheet: Facebook and Tax Avoidance [Internet]. ITEP.ORG. Available from: https://itep.org/fact-sheet-facebook-and-tax-avoidance/

19.                     Criticism of Facebook - Tax Avoidance. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Facebook#Tax_avoidance

20.                     Zuboff S. The age of surveillance capitalism: the fight for a human future at the new frontier of power. First edition. New York: PublicAffairs; 2018. 691 p.

21.                     Naughton, John. “The goal is to automate us”: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism. The Guardian [Internet]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

22.                     Swisher, Kara, Zuboff, Shoshana. Surveillance Capitalism is eroding democracy [Internet]. Available from: https://www.recode.net/2019/2/20/18232469/shoshana-zuboff-age-surveillance-capitalism-book-google-facebook-privacy-data-kara-swisher

23.                     Lanier J. Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now. First edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company; 2018. 146 p.

24.                     Harris, Sam, McNamee, Roger. #152 - The Trouble with Facebook [Internet]. Available from: https://samharris.org/podcasts/152-trouble-facebook/

25.                     Behavior Design [Internet]. Stanford.edu. Available from: http://captology.stanford.edu/projects/behaviordesign.html

26.                     Eyal, Nir. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products [Internet]. Available from: https://www.nirandfar.com/hooked

27.                     Douglas Rushkoff. Team Human [Internet]. Available from: https://teamhuman.fm/

28.                     Rushkoff D. Team human. First edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc; 2019.

29.                     Criticism of Facebook - Psychological Effects. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Facebook#Psychological_effects

30.                     Gonzalez-Bailon, Sandra. Want to change Facebook? Don’t delete your account—use it for good [Internet]. QZ.com. Available from: https://qz.com/1244750/the-delete-facebook-movement-is-ultimately-self-defeating/