Why I Quit Facebook

November 17, 2021

“Hi, my name is Kevin and I was addicted to Facebook.” Here’s where you all say “Hello Kevin.” I’m assuming most of you who follow or read my posts have or had a Facebook account. If you’ve never created an account, I salute you. I inadvertently stumbled upon what was considered the Genesis of social media in the late-nineties called Usenet. Usenet was around much earlier but finally buying a used computer for one hundred dollars, I found newsgroups had an array of interesting topics, had active moderators, and were a treasure trove of information just a click away on my ancient 486 computer.

Around 2003, I found a burgeoning website called Myspace. The interface was easy to navigate, you had the ability to post pictures, add a jukebox with various songs for friends to listen to, and connect with friends which I thought was extremely important considering I moved to California and most of my friends were in Cincinnati. I built a great friend base that spanned over three years. Then I discovered Facebook. Everything changed after that. Some good, some not so good.

I didn’t really get Facebook. The format seemed plain and boring. No eye candy like Myspace. The features were pretty limited but the more I used it, the more comfortable I was with the layout. I immediately started connecting with friends I haven’t heard from in years, even old girlfriends from high school. Every year, access to locating people I haven’t seen nor spoken to in decades became easier because everyone started signing up for the service.

My personal feeling about what changed for me and probably for many “users” was when news, politics, and advocate groups started to infiltrate daily news feeds. Much of which you couldn’t control because the algorithms chose what you saw from simple clicks on an article, even the most innocuous, would change how you saw videos, ads, and any news that was delivered to you.

You became the product, not what Facebook was advertising to you. I started to feel manipulated. How and what I saw would shift dramatically, especially during election cycles which I was on Facebook for three Presidential elections. It became extremely polarizing with friends who had already set up political camps and the feeling of tribalism started to emerge. Facebook started to become more annoying and antagonizing versus helpful, engaging, and fun. I believe fun was the original intent, but as with all things in life, greed has a way of destroying altruistic intentions and I started to get cranky, cynical, and depressed.

Facebook has proven that creating chaos, drama, bitter infighting, and anti-social behavior was good for business. The whole goal was to monetize your engagement. To create that dopamine rush that kept you hooked. To have you spend as much time on their platform no matter how unwell you became. You are being manipulated and aren’t even aware that you are now hooked. They shouldn’t have renamed Facebook Meta. They should have renamed it Heroin.

My engagement with accounts with polar opposite socio-political ideologies landed me in Facebook jail frequently. Over a 16 year period, I was in jail for more than 300 days. A third of this time, I absolutely deserved the time-outs. I was rude, dismissive, and angry. I could have articulated my points much more effectively but I ended up stooping to the level of their ad hominem attacks with my own. It was dumb. I learned my lesson. I can safely say though, two-thirds of the time I was given 30-day sentences, it was for absurd reasons flagged by a broken algorithm system. Commenting on innocent posts from friends of mine would immediately be flagged for bullying, harassment, or spam. I ended up having to create an alternate account just to stay in contact with friends on messenger. I missed peoples birthdays, people missed mine because I couldn’t respond and there is no way to appeal decisions. Even their appeals board would not entertain my claims.

After the last couple of times of being targeted, I realized my time was about up for this platform. Even with the 275+ friends on my list, the vast majority of those accounts fell dormant. There were only a handful of maybe 15 friends or previous co-workers using the platform. The rest just stopped posting. The platform felt stale, boring, and useless. It reeked of data mining, endless spam ads and extremist groups littered that platform with unfettered access to their users. I was stunned at what Facebook would allow and what they wouldn’t. It was all about just making money. Then the algorithms started to target my alternate account and I was officially done with Facebook.

I had proclaimed a couple of times before that I was done with Facebook, I deactivated my account and took a break to see how this affected me both mentally and physically. My initial attempt literally lasted 24 hours. I shit you not. It was as if I was going through withdrawal. I started to feel panic, disconnected, and frightened that I would lose contact with many people that I was either friends with or worked with in 15 cities. It was an awful feeling. This time it’s literally fuck it. I am not giving that platform anymore of me. They are not going to continue to monetize me and they can find another battery for their Meta-trix.

I know what you are saying. “Kevin, you have an Instagram account which is owned by Facebook.” I find Instagram to be a good way to stay connected to family and friends that is void of politics, unhealthy advocate groups, and manipulation. I simply post pics, do not watch the REELS, and stay the hell away from anything controversial or antagonizing. I visit the site on average 5 minutes a day to keep in contact with people close to me. I do not, nor will not join MSN pages, any groups that are not related to the humanities. I was on Facebook hours a day. It became an extension of me. That’s really fucked up.

When I finally put the data download and deletion request for Facebook, I searched the net for a Facebook alternative. Two sites came up. One was Ello. Odd seeing this, since I actually joined Ello 7 years ago. Nothing much has changed including the number of folks using the site. It’s mostly artists which I guess is a great networking site to help give exposure to their projects. The other site I joined was MeWe. The site purports a philosophy of free speech protection and seems to be obsessed with the claim of being the only real alternative to Facebook. After about 3 days, what I realized was that what they were not short on were extreme far-right bigots, xenophobes, racists, and misogynists. It was a real bummer because even the most innocent groups I joined that included food and wine, were replete with very cruel and unkind people, hell-bent on starting flame wars with no apparent goal but other than that. I deleted my account less than a week after joining.

SOAPBOX TIME

I’m not sure how long I will keep Instagram. So far, I’ve had success keeping within my own parameters I’ve set up for myself which is to just stay light, keep it fun, and do not go down the rabbit hole many have already done. After participating in this social media experiment, I truly feel it has changed people and not for the better of mankind. I feel social media has a created cruel, cynical, and intolerant society. It has made it easier for people to attack others with impunity, hidden behind anonymous accounts, never to truly be accountable for their behaviors. Facebook is a prime example of “too big to fail.”

You cannot have 3 BILLION users and think you have the ability to moderate this platform. It feels as if you are on a rudderless ship currently. Changing your name doesn’t change what you did or remotely repair the damage you’ve done to society. And you cannot self-govern. Building better AI to fix your problems simply causes more problems. Two people should be able to connect with each other without a 3rd party in the background manipulating what you see or hear simply to make money. There are only two paths to redemption for Facebook. Either change your business model or just shut the damn thing down. There are reasons why places like Netflix are successful and gain new accounts. You are PAYING for the service. Since Facebook is free, you really don’t have a say in how their platform is run. When you have a mass exodus from paid sites, this sends a financial message to the company. Either change or go bankrupt.

I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg will ever have an epiphany that what he’s doing is not only a detriment to society but it’s actually helping the destruction of our planet. Proceed to scream hyperbole but if you haven’t been paying attention for the last 5 years, Facebook played an integral part in our past elections. The allowance for terabytes of misinformation to propagate like a virus, not only played a key role in the outcome of the elections, it eroded the very fabric of Democracy.

My newest Hero Jaron Lanier stated so eloquently on The Social Dilemma Documentary is that if social media platforms like Facebook are not eventually held accountable and either regulated or shut down, Democracies will be replaced by autocratic dictatorships, global economies will collapse, the addressing of climate change will be forever lost and mankind as we know it will end. I do not believe in conspiracy theories. The earth is not flat, we actually landed on the moon and our government did not cause 9/11.

Unless you have lived under a rock, it’s been painfully obvious how platforms like Facebook have shifted our world on how we treat each other on a daily basis. One-THIRD of the planet uses Facebook. Lanier is absolutely 100% correct to say our survival is at stake if we stay on the trajectory we are currently on. I haven’t logged on to Facebook in three weeks. November 27th, my account of 16 years will vanish. I’m OK with that. I actually think the precise moment I decided that it was time to dump that platform was seeing that jackass Zuckerberg riding a ridiculous hover-surfboard holding an American flag. Could you be more obtuse and self-absorbed?

I’ve migrated most of my communications to text messages and innocent Instagram posts now. I have no regrets about my decision. There is a feeling of elation and a lightness. I don’t think about it, except while writing this blog post. I am also not trying to convince anyone to replicate my decision. If it works for you, brilliant. For me, it didn’t. Jaron Lanier says to delete your Facebook account. DONE!

The pandemic over the last two months has been a life altering experience. Being laid off then going straight into an extended lock down has not only tested my mental resolve, but how I handle living in a three hundred and fifty square foot converted garage with my wife, cat and caring for her eighty eight year old mother in the other section of the house. We’ve painstakingly ensured that we are sanitizing, cleaning and disinfecting everything to protect her mother from this virus. It’s been rough at times. It’s been frustrating. It’s also revealed things that were passively overlooked.

I’ve been a chef for over twenty five years. I’ve been cooking since I was fifteen years old. This is one of those professions that can be considered a vocation. Who else would subject ones body to twelve hour work days, sometimes weeks in a row without a day off, in an environment where you could easily cut, burn or sear essential body parts if there wasn’t a higher calling to do so? I’ve had to give this up for months now. But it’s also given me time to reflect on my career, my life, relationship with my wife and where we live.

One byproduct of our living arrangement is that I haven’t gained access to her mothers kitchen. I may have prepared meals for them twice in almost four years. She is very particular about who uses her kitchen, so I have stayed away. The result of her mother’s proclivities was that we ended up eating out. A lot. This all came screeching to a halt in March because of Covid-19. We were left with a dilemma. How to meal plan with three people, one who had a palette that was trapped in 1955? Here is where my wife’s visionary talents really shined.

Living in rural Pennsylvania, you still have businesses that haven’t been gobbled up by big box corporate outlets. You can still find local grocers, butchers and farms that offer local product not found in places like Costco or Whole Foods. She meal planned for the next month. I had no idea what was in store.

She was given fresh Spring Ramps which she converted into a Pesto. She pickled the rest. The flavors were sublime. I’ve pickled professionally and only gave her minimal input on vinegar, but her sensibility to herbs, spices and supporting flavor ingredients blew my mind. Complex, not overpowering and subtle. I was floored.

She prepared oven roasted local pork chops with a homemade Apple compote that I would have served in one of my restaurants. Homemade quiche, hand formed flat breads with fresh local Asparagus, Ricotta and that amazing Ramp Pesto. Holy shit I thought! She could make a bologna sandwich sumptuous.

She came up with a Thai Chicken soup with fresh Ginger and Galangal root that rivaled any soup that we’ve ever had at a Thai restaurant. The balance of flavors, her attention to seasoning. She always had this in her. I just needed to get out of the way. Gladly. She also was able to prepare meals that her mother enjoyed as well. Nothing fancy, nothing really special but to her mom’s credit, she did try the Ramp Pesto flat bread and loved it!

The quarantine has also given her the ability to plant. Fresh Lettuces, Tomatoes, Jalapenos and fresh herbs. This is where I was getting excited. I worked with local organic farmers in California for years. I might have to push my way into the kitchen when these start to become available.

I’m not saying I don’t miss cooking in a home setting. I really do. There is a certain bonding we had when we both prepared our meals together and I miss that. It’s been a long time and I want that connection again. I do not believe we would have grown as a family if these challenges were not put in front of us. I believe it’s made us stronger. I do not think there will be a “normal” again. The world is a different place than it was a few months ago. In the meantime, I am more than happy to enjoy any creations my wife comes up with. She is an amazing cook.