Of this I am convinced.
Longtime readers may remember a series of posts I wrote in 2018 — egad, it’s been five years already? — about my growing discomfort with social media and eventual decision to delete my facebook account entirely:
- Slowly Leaving Social Media
- Babes in the Digital Woods
- Jaron Lanier’s ten reasons
- Life after facebook
Old news, right? So why am I harping on this again now? It’s because about two years ago… I got sucked back in. I really did. In some ways I still can’t believe it, but there it is.
The trouble is that even though it seems that not especially many people actually like using the site, it’s seen as necessary because everyone else is still using it, which perpetuates the cycle of we’re here because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here… The pattern help resources for a tricky blanket I was making? On facebook. The parent association for Anselm and Perpetua’s school? On facebook. Local contractors? On facebook. The neighbourhood association? On facebook. The easiest way to find new library programming? On facebook. And because I wanted to be involved and in contact and at least a marginally informed local citizen, despite my misgivings, I went back. Now, it wasn’t a full embrace of the site. I used a fake name and had no friends. But still. There I was all the same.
For a while it was ok, although I noticed some changes since I had left in 2018, namely that it took about five too many clicks to get to my groups from the home page and that my feed was absolutely stuffed with ads impervious to any ad blocker I installed. But the more I used it, the more it felt like everything had been purposely designed to irritate. Trying to re-find a specific post you glimpsed in your feed? Irritating. Trying to force a group page to display posts chronologically instead of by recent engagement? Irritating. Having little to no control over the content that crosses your screen? Irritating. Reading a feed that’s 1/3 impossible-to-remove ads? Supremely irritating. I remember when facebook’s UX/UI was a lot friendlier (you know, back when I was walking to school uphill both ways). And then there’s the actual content I was seeing — there are some downsides to seeing what your neighbours think is worth arguing about with strangers — and the whole thing put together meant that whenever I checked the site, I would log off in a worse mood than the one I started with.
A few days ago I came across a recent piece by Cory Doctorow, writing for Wired, which is ostensibly about TikTok but actually about how internet platforms die, a process he refers to as “enshittification.” Here’s the premise:
HERE IS HOW platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-platforms-cory-doctorow/
When I read his piece, it was like a gong rang somewhere back in my brain. Yes — this is exactly what has happened and is happening with facebook, over and above all the issues I had with it the first time I quit. It’s made things unpleasant for regular users — from what I understand it’s pretty bad for advertisers as well — and it’s not going to get better. It sucks now, and it’s going to keep sucking until it collapses. So why am I sticking around for that?
I thought about it a little more and realised that everything I was going to facebook for, I could get somewhere else. It was just functioning as an aggregator, and not even a good one! If I need crochet pattern help, I can go to reddit or ravelry. My kids’ school sends out announcements through their learning management system. I can read news stories at the source. I can make a habit of checking the library calendar from time to time. I’d already reconciled myself to things like missing out on friends’ baby pictures, but with the way the newsfeed works these days, I probably would have missed them anyway. I keep in touch with people via email, or text, or messaging apps, or (believe it or not) actual phone calls. There is literally no reason for me to keep using facebook, and a lot of good ones not to.
So I deleted my account. Again. And this time — I mean it.
All I’m saying is that the rail line has been here since 1890, so if you don’t like hearing train whistles or engines, maybe don’t buy a house next to them. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.