Facebook Freedom, Freedom from Facebook

There's a saying that runs something like "If you're using a service for free, you're not the customer, you're the product".  I believe that nowhere does this adage hold more true than in the current ether-realm of social media.  

In the past few weeks, there's been several mainline stories about people, and companies, terminating their long-running relationship with the social media giant, Facebook.  Others write about removing their accounts from other social services such as Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even Google.

There's a lot of articles online, both pro and con, that justify the views of either side:

  • I'm leaving Facebook because their reach is declining and I don't want to pay for my friends to see my posts.  
  • Facebook is a business and you need to accept what it is now rather than five years ago.
  • I'm leaving Facebook because I cannot control who sees, and who doesn't see, me.
  • Facebook game-ification (collecting friends) distills and devalues my "real" relationships.
  • I can't stand all the ads.
  • Facebook provides a service in times of social crisis.

Searching the web using a term "reasons for quitting Facebook" returns page after page of articles, usually in the form of the ever-popular-for-mass-consumption top-10 list.  Searching the web for "reasons for staying on Facebook" returns hundreds of thousands of hits, the overwhelming majority providing rationale for leaving (not staying) with the social media giant.  Thanks, Google.

Facebook isn't a social media giant.  It's the social media giant.  Get over it.  Facebook is as invasive on the internet as oxygen is on the planet.  It's everywhere, integrated deeply into millions of sites, applications, and feeds.  When you create a Facebook account, you should adjust your privacy expectations to zero.  Regardless of what Facebook tells you about privacy controls.

You have a Facebook account and you demand privacy?  Hush ... listen carefully ... can you hear Zukerberg's gleeful trollololol's ringing out across the 'net?

Let's just clearly state the thesis:  You can logically and realistically maintain no expectations of privacy when you create a Facebook account.

Consider the level of integration that Facebook enjoys, how companies will fall over themselves to throw your carcass onto the body cart.  News and blog sites require a Facebook account to comment on their posts.  The pervasive "like" button is everywhere - allowing all roads to lead back to Facebook.  Mobile games prevent you from unlocking features until you sign-in with your Facebook account.  Create membership accounts on other sites by linking your Facebook account.  

Most people glibly click the blue "join" button privately thinking, "Gee, great thing I can link my Facebook account to here instead of having to go through the boredom of completing another application form and remembering another password...".   At that's where they get you.  One password for all the stuffs.  The MTV-attention span manifesting as network security methodologies.

Even if you've isolated yourself from Facebook, chances are you'll still make it to their feeds because your friends, co-workers, and random strangers will share your tweets, blog posts, p-interest pins, etc., with their friends.  On Facebook.

You can't escape or avoid Facebook, even if you never had an account.

People will counter with "But Facebook allows me to keep in-touch with family and friends!  Facebook is a convenient vehicle for me to keep abreast of what's happening in their lives."  And this is a very true statement.  And also a very crappy excuse.

Consider that, on the best of times, you'll see about 16%, and that's at peak mind you, of the posts your family and friends are making on Facebook.  If you want to dig deeper and really see what's happening in their lives, you'll need to click-over to their Facebook page and scroll through their time line.  This should take you about 15 minutes or so.  Now, multiple that by the number of friends you've collected.  For even the average user, keeping fully in-touch with family and friends would become a full-time job.

Do you really care about what some childhood acquaintance, that you've not seen in decades, had for lunch today?

Facebook dilutes relationships regaling them to the status of a fast-food Happy Meal.  If you really care about your social network, there's better ways to engage.  Email, instant message chats, video chats, and low-tech phone calls and (gasp!) face-to-face meets all provide a higher quality of social interaction that what's provided today by the online social-media networks.

But Facebook will continue to lumber through the electronic neighborhood for years to come regardless of how many teens and Millennials drop off the Facebook radar.  Like Wall Street, it's simply too big to fail and too many people are dazzled by the Facebook sleight-of-hand marketing engine.

Facebook posts frequently about privacy issues and how they continue to labor forward, obsessed with protecting your account, keeping you safe, and ensuring your data never falls into the wrong hands.  Facebook also posted stories this week about how their facial-recognition software has advanced to where you can be tagged in profile shots.  

Do you see the disconnect between the Facebook message and the Facebook process?  

Facebook is the Dick Cheney of the internet.  Facebook is going to make soothing noises to you, tell you anything and everything through their marketing, and then mercilessly sell you, and everything about you, to the highest bidder.

Because it's a business.

If you use a service for free, you're not the customer: you're the product.