Facebook: to quit or not to quit?
You have probably noticed it: #DeleteFacebook was a trending topic on Twitter some weeks ago. Facebook received a lot of criticism, regarding its role in the American elections last year and the referendum on the Brexit in 2016. Twice, it misused the enormous bulk of data it possesses to select people with a certain ideology. We all perceive Facebook as the useful, innocent and innovative company which notifies us every day of the birthday of one of our “friends”. Furthermore, Facebook enables people to invite friends to events, we can see what our “friends” are busy with, and we can compare our life to the life our peers pretend to live. So on one side, Facebook is a fun and crucial part of our daily social life, while on the other side it knows almost everything from us, being the users of Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp. Isn’t it time to take the power back and agree with the #DeleteFacebook or is that easier said than done?
How it all started
At the end of 2003, Mark Zuckerberg, together with three friends, launched a website called Facemash. It was a game, especially for Harvard students, in which the students could compare photos of each other. In 2004, Zuckerberg launched follow-up “TheFacebook” which became more and more popular amongst students in America. In addition, the firm got its own place in California and the name changed to “Facebook”. From 2006 on, it could be used by people all over the world, with a minimum age of 13 years old. In the years that followed, together with the increasing growth of the use of social media in the Western world, the amount of Facebook users did too. From 2012 until now, Facebook commercialised more and more: it decided to go public, to add advertisements to its website and to buy Instagram and WhatsApp. Nowadays, Facebook is used by billions of people to socialize, but also by lots of firms to build on customer relationships. However, in order to connect the right people to each other, it has to gather lots of information. Without us knowing Facebook knows, for example, where we live, what we do in our lives and what our relationship status is. Facebook’s biggest advantage is also its biggest danger: it possesses information where lots of groups are interested in.
Without us knowing Facebook knows, for example, where we live, what we do in our lives and what our relationship status is
As recently discovered, the data mining and analytics company Cambridge Analytica gained access to more than 50 million Facebook profiles without these people knowing it. The company used this data in order to influence Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, as they were the ones taking care of the digital aspects of this particular campaign. Facebook insisted that this was in fact, not a data breach, as the privacy settings in that time allowed this kind of actions. Chief executive officer Zuckerberg quickly realised that this was not something its users wanted to hear, so he then showed his regrets and talked about a “breach of trust”. We can all agree that yes, this is a severe breach of trust and the question is if this trust can ever be restored again. Not only this but weren’t we wrong to trust a social media site with this much of our own personal information in the first place?
Facebook insisted that this was in fact, not a data breach, as the privacy settings in that time allowed this kind of actions
We all value our privacy, but many can relate to choosing user-friendliness over our own privacy, as many apps have access to our contacts, camera, microphone, location and pictures. This Facebook scandal was something we should have seen coming and it certainly is a good wake up call for all of us. If we can take one thing out of this, let it be that we think twice before hitting that ‘agree’ button.
World without Facebook
Of course, you can decide to go with the flow of #DeleteFacebook. Let’s imagine what that would look like. A note beforehand: the consequences will be more stringent than you would think at first. So, if you delete your Facebook account, what’s next? Using Instagram instead of Facebook for uploading photos and using that channel to keep your followers up-to-date? Bad news: Facebook owns Instagram.
A world without Facebook also means a world without Instagram and WhatsApp
When you quit Facebook, you cannot replace it with Instagram because of the same reasons you decided to stop using Facebook. Another issue: when being consistent, you also have to delete WhatsApp. Absolutely, it is all possible, disregarding the fact that you probably will become isolated from the rest of the social world. If you decide to use other media than the three mentioned above, they are not of great use when nobody else uses them. Exactly that last point, is the power of Facebook. A world without Facebook also means a world without Instagram and WhatsApp.
In conclusion, keeping the whole situation in mind, there are enough legitimate reasons to take the big step and quit Facebook. However, you will probably have to give up more than you want to. In the Netherlands, everyone uses WhatsApp to communicate. You will therefore probably miss out on a lot of communication with your friends and family. Of course, there is the possibility to switch to texting, but this will not fulfil the loss of being able to participate in group chats. Let’s be honest, who would ever want to miss out on all those jokes and conversations? Nonetheless, let this scandal be something we can all learn from. Be careful with sharing personal information and realise what you are giving up when agreeing to give access to your data. Sometimes your privacy is worth more than syncing your contacts with Facebook.Coen Wolters & Annemarie Koomen 03-04-2018
Phillips, S. (2007). A brief history of Facebook
Adams, T. (2018). Facebook’s week of shame: the Cambridge Analytica fallout
Dredge, S. (2018). You’ve decided to delete Facebook but what will you replace it with?
Kharpal, A. (2018). Facebook data scandal should be a wake-up call about our online footprint