The other day I saw a statistic that, in the past year, 44 percent of Facebook users ages 18 to 29 have deleted the app from their phones. Is that true? I have no idea. But if Facebook has taught us anything, it’s that we should confidently repeat information that we want to be true. And I would love it if everyone is deleting Facebook. Because if a radioactive fog filled with bubonic plague and mutant carnivorous squid came drifting across the Longfellow Bridge, it still wouldn’t be the worst thing to come out of Cambridge. That will always be Facebook.
I admit that I haven’t completely severed my Facebook connection. I didn’t delete my entire account. But about a month and a half ago, I deleted the app from my phone and I feel great about it. In that time, I’ve checked in once from my laptop. I responded to some messages, mainly to let people know how to contact me. But my one visit confirmed how little I was missing. Oh, a bunch of people bitching, interspersed with ads for some product that I talked about this morning at breakfast and is now somehow in my feed? Well, how could I ever live without that?
My derision came slowly and then all at once. At some point, I began to feel embarrassed about my own posts. Not because I was going overboard on duck-face skinny-arm selfies (impossible), but because I took a step back and examined my own motivations for posting anything in the first place.
For example, a few months ago I ran a 5K and finished 7th out of 567. After the race I was about to post something on Facebook, but at the last moment I thought, “Who cares?” And I realized that maybe three people might, so I texted them. It turned out I still overestimated my audience. Another one: Behind some coats on the hooks near our front door, I found the Foxwoods Poker Room windbreaker that I won years ago after taking down David Wade in a charity tournament. Although I’ve never worn the thing, it somehow ended up occupying prime coat-hook real estate near the front door, as if I might at any moment zip it up and stride out to scare up a game of Texas Hold ’em. That struck me as suitably preposterous to warrant a post, but then I thought: Nah. I don’t need to remind David Wade about his disastrous failed bluff against my pair of queens. That’s what my annual “Season’s Beatings!” Christmas card is for.
So, on one side of the Facebook equation, I realized my own posts were dumb. On the other side, I realized that other people’s posts tended to make me like them less. I’m talking about people I know for real. Pre-Facebook, if I got insight into anyone’s profound personal beliefs, it would’ve been in the context of a live conversation, with all the nuance that entails. You could say, “I agree with the first part of what you said, but not the second part.” That’s not how Facebook works. It’s all polemic blind rage. It makes you disenchanted with humanity. It’s a rank sewer of naked invective, savage personal attacks and disgusting racial animus—and that’s just the comments on a pingpong table I’m trying to sell.
But if the atmosphere is poisonous, at least the company itself is totally evil. Let’s see: undermining democracy, enabling genocide in Myanmar, selling your personal information to bad actors, allowing regular data breaches, faking audience numbers for ad-revenue purposes, secretly lobbying to escape punishment and lying about all of it, constantly. As an added bonus, Facebook is a gigantic blood-sucking parasite on the magazine business, siphoning billions of dollars in ad money without creating anything. It’s all worth it, though, when I get to hear what my uncle thinks about abortion.
I’ll admit that my Facebook abstinence has caused inconveniences. I couldn’t RSVP for a party at my own house (my wife has not joined my purge). There are neighbors who I can only reach through Messenger. I have a fan page somebody set up so I could share my work, except at first I was too lazy and now I’m philosophically opposed. And I do miss the esoteric interest groups. Sorry, fellow GEM car owners. But we’ll find some other way to talk about our nerdmobiles.
I don’t know how many other people have ditched Facebook, but I do know that its size does not guarantee its future. Ever been to the Wang Theatre? Its namesake was the Zuck of the early tech industry, with a multibillion-dollar company and more than 33,000 employees. But it’s probably been a while since you’ve seen a Wang Laboratories computer—today’s cool tech company is tomorrow’s Myspace. Just ask me: I used to work for Yahoo! And yes, I deliberately constructed a sentence that could have an exclamation point either way.
Maybe you still love Facebook. But I predict that sooner or later, you’ll join me in a better place. By which I mean, fighting on Twitter. ◆
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