Social Media truths and why I am leaving Facebook

I will be deleting my Facebook account in a week’s time.

I have not been active on Facebook proper since April 2018. I still use Messenger occasionally for communication with a few friends, but I have posted to tell them that if they want to stay in contact, they will need to arrange different communication channels. This will be a wheat-from-chaff process. If they want to stay in contact they will let me know, if they don’t, then they won’t, and nothing more needs to be said.

My decision is the inevitable result of the deterioration of mass-market social media platforms into sinkholes of lies, bullshit, misinformation, and the credulous repetition of nonsense, wrapped up in juvenile rationalizations such as “I’m entitled to my opinion”. Well yes, you are entitled to your own opinion, but as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.

SIDE NOTE – 6 weeks ago, I went back on NextDoor, to see if there was any way in which I could assist local people who might be having challenges with Covid, and provide useful information about local events and stores. I left the platform again 3 weeks ago, after a passive-aggressive commenter started trying to tone-police my comments. Life is too short etc. etc. Literally. At age 64,I am not going to spend any significant time dealing with juveniles who want to whine about “tone” instead of engaging in substantive discussion. And, as I probably say too often, you don’t get to a la carte me on social media. You want less commentary about politics and society? Well then you probably need to go follow somebody else.

Facebook and Twitter are also the inevitable result of the idea that everything on the internet should be free. There is a saying that if something on the internet is free, then YOU are the product. This is true for all major-reach social media platforms. If you’re not paying for their use, somebody else is, and the only value-adds that a platform like Facebook can offer to third parties to offset the cost of the platform are (a) size and reach (to sell advertising) and (b) Your Data.

By using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, InstaGram etc. users are giving over information about themselves and their activities, and in return, they get to use a platform whose entire economic model is based on size and engagement. The giveaway about what “engagement” for a mass market social media platform really means came over 10 years ago, when it became known that you could buy Twitter followers for so much per 1000. Then came the Fake Engagement farms – ranks of connected smart phones programmed to repetitively click on sites and pages to make it seem like they were popular. Again, you could buy engagement. Think of it as the 1960s through 1970s fake record sales tactic, transferred to the online world. In the world where any click is a good click, the inevitable result is the generation of fake traffic. Think about the websites that you see who have clickbait sections at the bottom of their home pages, pointing to scandal-mongering websites or articles. Those exist solely to generate click-throughs so that the site can gain some desperately needed revenue.

Today we have a POTUS in the USA with over 70% of his followers on Twitter who are, as measured by analysis tools, fake accounts. He is not alone however, the level of fake traffic on the major platforms is scandalous. However, because volume of traffic is a key part of the business model, even fake traffic works for Twitter or Facebook.

Fake traffic is one of the two reasons why no major market social media platform gives a damn about content moderation, despite their blustering BS to the contrary. Eliminating spurious, dangerous or false content would blow a hole below the waterline of their business model, since it would probably halve their traffic overnight. It would also probably eliminate their Section 230 protection here in the USA, which makes them more or less immune for any content posted on the platform, since they can plausibly claim to be a common carrier (like the telephone companies, who are not responsible if a gang of terrorists, for example, happen to use the phone system to plot a terrorist outrage).

I made a decision 2 years ago to leave Facebook because of the above reasons, which collectively led to a poor signal to noise ratio.

I have moved most of my social media activity to counter.social. This is a social media platform where i pay a monthly fee of $5 to offset the cost of the platform. It is a small platform, there are currently tens of thousands of users, not billions. However, we have no trolls or bots on counter.social. They are eliminated via some very smart software to detect automated bot account creation and attacks, and also via a strict policy forbidding memberships from some countries that are notorious for generating spurious traffic.

Every time one of the major social networks does something fuckbogglingly stupid, we get a burst of new arrivals at counter.social. Most of them end up staying.

Counter.social has threaded commenting and chat, video conferencing, file sharing, and it even has streaming movies. Best of all, however, is that when I read a posting, I do not have to keep asking myself “is this even from a real person”? I end up doing this a lot on my less-frequent trips to other social media sites.

Anybody who balks at $5 a month for a social media site needs to seriously reconsider their attitude to social media and buying in general. Rule 1 of capitalism is that you don’t get something for nothing. Being on free social media platforms is costing you. I believe the cost is falling not just on us as individual consumers (WE are the product on mass market free platforms), but on society as a whole.There is a proliferation of un-verified information sources, generating total bullshit, allowed to do so by the absence of useful content moderation on those platforms. The proliferation of conspiracy-mongering web pages on such topics as the Flat Earth, 5G,and Qanon tells me that those platforms are no longer a positive benefit to wider society. Total nonsense is being normalized in front of our eyes.

After mid-June 2020,I also intend to shrink my overall internet footprint. Old emails will be abolished, old platform memberships, dumped, and I will focus down on:

  1. counter.social
  2. Instagram, which i use for images and nothing else
  3. this website (which will be revised and re-launched in the Fall of 2020) and this blog
  4. WhiteCat Publishing, which is my book publication website (see separate posting about that activity)

I am also transitioning all of my email to Protonmail, which is a secure email system with optional 2 factor authentication, and is another paid service which does not sell my data to any third party.

We are entering a new era in Western society. I am proactively reacting to illegal surveillance and information gathering by progressively more fascistic governments, by retreating from compromised platforms, shrinking my footprint and focussing on what I can personally control.

 

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