Kerim Hudson

A fresh start (why I'm leaving Facebook)

Throughout the year concerns regarding digital privacy have been a hot topic of conversation (both personally, and in the news). A new year's resolution of mine has been to align myself and my lifestyle more to my beliefs. And for me, that starts with deleting Facebook.

When I say delete Facebook, I refer to the company. That means deleting my personal accounts for WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook. I hope that other means of communicating can be established to replace these means, and perhaps that my justifications as to why I'm doing this will urge others to seek alternatives.

Facebook is bad

At the end of the day, we all acknowledge that Facebook is bad, and time and again have shown that they have no intention of changing. Whether it be data privacy, tax evasion, censorship, political interference, and discrimination. Their endless scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, anti-trust allegations, and even internal woes with discrimination.

And yet with all this, why do we still look for an excuse to use the platform?

Mark Zuckerberg himself said, "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

We are the product

It's not uncommon to have conversations with friends or family where they say, "I was just talking to X about Y, and suddenly I'm getting adverts about Y on Facebook and Instagram. They must be stalking me!"

Whilst this is likely not true, the truth is probably worse. The fact they have enough data about you that they can make you believe that they are listening to your personal conversations, and target you accordingly, is more concerning.

And whilst this information may not be used against you now, besides targeting ads, who's to say it won't be in the future? Perhaps an algorithm will determine where you live to make you more likely to commit crime, or your search history indicate your likelihood of adultery and thus lower your "score" on dating apps.

The fear is not in itself just the information collected, but the way in which it is processed, used, analysed, fed into algorithms that make decisions for you. Decisions about you.

But, I need it for work...

Why do we feel like there is no other option, or that there will be no other option? There was a time before Facebook, and there should be a time beyond Facebook.

I am often met with the idea of "I can't quit Whatsapp, I use it for work." or "I need it for relatives", and that is an argument I understand. But the truth is, these relatives learned to use Facebook after phone calls and text messages. They can still call, they can still text. But also, does that then mean that Facebook must be an eternal presence in our lives?

Colleagues used to email, or leave a note on your desk. Do I need a notification from my boss at 10pm, and feel the need to reply? Can we not for a minute consider the idea that a modern, digital lifestyle can exist without Facebook, and without sacrificing relationships, and without the blending of public, private, and professional lives at every corner?

I understand that there is a whole topic of influencers, advertising and and business marketing that I have not touched on here. In this article I wish to only touch on the personal impacts of the platform, and not the professional uses, as that in itself deserves its own discussion.

Active Relationships

Facebook has turned our relationships from an active process to a passive one. I can keep track of your birthday, your highlights and your sadness, without doing anything.

I'm tuned to the broadcast of your life, and you mine. But is that a relationship?

Consider your privacy

I urge you to consider the idea of data privacy, and take it seriously. We've seen time and time again that not just companies, but laws and policy makers, have pushed the boundaries on what is considered acceptable when it comes to data collection and privacy.

I'm not just deleting Facebook. I cut Google out of my personal life in the summer of this year. I moved my email to Mailbox (which also has the benefit of running on renewable energy), use DuckDuckGo as a search engine, and use Safari or Firefox as browsers.

But privacy, much like sustainability and environmental concerns, is a journey. It's not a sudden shift in lifestyle, but more about making conscious decisions and improving on your former self. This, for me, has been months in the planning, and the new year felt like a perfect time to pull the trigger on it.

There are other companies and products I perhaps wish to look to reduce use of, and much more that I need to learn. But in due time.

Further reading