Thanks to a combination of self-owns as well as a management structure focused around the decisions of a single man, Facebook has not had a good few years. Faced with a whirlwind of issues – from the propagation of fake news, suicides and murders on Facebook Live, abuse of its advertising system to data leaks and reports of social media use affecting mental health – each response has been deficient, tone deaf and weak.
It took a very long time for Facebook to even admit that its actions “as a platform” were part of the problem, and Zuckerberg’s grossly naïve, plainly faux puppy face that he just “wants to connect the world” doesn’t really solve any of the large and growing issues that Facebook is experiencing.
The fact of the matter is, when your social network is used by a third of the entire world, several things are going to happen. People will take advantage of the severe lack of knowledge most users will have around privacy and access to their data, others will treat the user base as the most accessible targets of scamming in history, and what used to be small insular pockets of the world with contained regional conflicts will now be much more easily exploited.
Humans have carefully attempted to craft a world order after centuries of enormous death and suffering on a global scale, and while not perfect, several countries have been able to build systems that allow a basic level of coexistence.
Everything in one place
What makes Facebook so untenable is that it has proven an inability to control or manage its insane growth. In the past ten years it has gone from millions of users to billions of users, from a simple website to apps, ads, messaging, shopping, publishing, donating and VR. The site and apps are changed and updated daily, with hundreds of algorithms rapidly developing and changing what information is shown to where, and to who.
Never has a single company had such incredible control over the content shown to billions of people daily, without any oversight, regulation or active moderation.
Consider the drama and fines when a single breast was shown on national television in the US during the super bowl a few years back, and yet Facebook escaped blameless when a spate of suicides and murders were shown on Facebook Live.
It’s this lack of control that causes almost every major issue – the Cambridge Analytica data leak, election tampering, advertising manipulation – with traditional “tech fixes”, such as more algorithms, easily subverted by real people with much more creative methods to subvert these safeguards. There is just too much information flooding onto Facebook every second, too many unmoderated groups, public and private, too many easy methods to create authentic spoof accounts to fleece people out of their money.
Thousands if not millions of jobs, small businesses and large companies rely on Facebook for communication. Local governments with little money can now reach vast numbers of constituents. Information that was once extortionately expensive to market is now significantly cheaper, interactive and shareable. Everyone has a story about how they rekindled old relationships, created new ones or managed to keep up with overseas relatives easily via Facebook.
The network itself, at its core, is not evil. But its structure is far too large to avoid being subject to subversion, its operating team too arrogant and selfish to admit that it has no idea how to deal with what’s happening right now.
To delete or not to delete, that is the question
So, back to the original question: should you delete Facebook? The answer depends wholly on what you use it for.
At the very least, it's worth logging into your settings on mobile and desktop and checking your privacy – Facebook offers a simple wizard that checks the most obvious ones (who can see your wall, pictures, email etc), as well as how easy you are to find on the site. The other ones involve looking at your app preferences – holding down the icon on Android and going into App Settings on iOS will show you what the apps can access. Outside of the Camera, Microphone and Storage (for uploading photos/videos to Facebook) almost everything else can be turned off. This also applies to Messenger, especially if you do not want Facebook storing your phone and texting metadata (HINT: you don’t). It’s also worth going into the Apps section in Facebook settings and removing access for any games or quizzes or apps you don’t use anymore.
After Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has heavily restricted developer app access to data so you might find soon that many of them will likely disappear anyway. You can also download what data Facebook stores on you here (opens in new tab) and if you’re a bit paranoid you can remove photos and videos from your profile. I found that deleted information was not stored in my archive, which is a plus, after reading some rumours that it was.
But in all honesty, if you were going to delete Facebook you likely would have by now anyway. I still find many of its functions useful, including Events and Messenger which I use regularly, but I am a lot pickier about logging in via Facebook to sites, preferring to use email or my Google account as significantly less information is passed on in the process. I’ve also found myself providing much less information that isn’t necessary, such as my education or my hobbies, since this is usually just farmed for advertising or phishing anyway.
My advice – use your common sense. Run an audit on your Facebook – tighten privacy, remove data you don’t want to know, reduce its access to your information flows and think twice about adding content you don’t want to share.