Facebook turned us into products: there’s not much we can do about it…
I resisted Facebook’s lure, for a long time, but when my husband turned thirty, and most of his uni friends were on Facebook, I caved in to pressure and signed up, mostly to be able to invite them to the party. But I was instantly hooked because I had dozens of people waiting for me. It should’ve been a warning sign: for years, Facebook had been creating a shadow profile for me, with everyone’s search for me added to it. When I finally logged on, all those searches were friend requests waiting for me. All I had to do was accept and my timeline began to populate. I was hooked…
That was then…
That was 2009. Nine years later, my relationship with Facebook has changed. With almost 2,000 connections, my timeline is no longer a reflection of my real friends and their lives. The Facebook algorithm will make sure you only see the people you recently talked to (or liked one of their posts), while the rest slowly fade into oblivion.
In the years passed, I’ve always followed Facebook rules, creating business pages for my company, and an author page (rather than a profile) for my author persona. Most of my writing colleagues have author profiles instead. Against the rules, but smart, as pages don’t work anymore unless you have a significant monetary budget. I noted that my final posts on my page were seen only by a handful of the thousand followers. No reason to keep at it. I deleted it, as I had my company page.
Facebook doesn’t give a shit about us…
They’ll never admit it, but it’s a fact: Facebook doesn’t care about us. Mr. Zuckerberg said as much when he first launched the site, something along the lines of how “stupid people were to offer us their data for free…” And indeed, we are. A while ago, I began to notice the details of how Facebook’s many algorithms serve me advertising. Sometimes you’d click on something and suddenly you’ll be served ads for weeks. I travel a lot, and for weeks after searching for a flight, I’d be served flight ads from all kinds of sites and airlines. Odd, after you book. But I guess even algorithms are limited in their intelligence.
I began to look at the “interests” Facebook thinks I have, and as of today, I’ve deleted 549 interests. Mind you, they’re still all there! But at least I see a lot less advertising. I’ll keep at it! But it takes a lot of work. And the algorithm isn’t as smart as you might think. Just a few days ago I got two new “interests” about “Ted”, one for the organization that does the talks and one for the movie. They claim I “liked” different things, but I know for a fact that I never clicked on the movie because I never even heard about it.
As an author…
Living in Sweden, writing in English, Facebook is pretty much the only tool I have at my disposal to reach my audience. Sure, I have this blog, but we’ve all seen a reduction in blog readership in recent years. There’s YouTube, but that requires so much work for so few viewers. And there’s my newsletter, but we all know how many of us actually read them. I do, the numbers are in the low single digit area, nothing new under the sun here.
Twitter you say? LOL, I say. If anyone else is like me, they’ve long ago stopped looking at their feed. A Twitter user following more than a thousand users has a timeline moving so fast you can never see much of anything. It’s only through searches you can find stuff. I do it once every blue moon. Twitter has long ago lost its appeal to me. Pinterest? I never really got that, and like Facebook, the algorithm is weird. All I ever got to see were naked men, and yeah, I’m not buying. Instagram? Another Facebook spider… But it’s my favorite one, my personal indulgence. I get to watch beautiful nature pictures, and I upload (mostly) nature pictures myself. I don’t use it professionally, with very few exceptions. Who’d follow me if I only uploaded book-related images? Natasha’s covers are amazing, but yeah. It gets old very quickly.
Facebook is still the main tool
For now (and the foreseeable future), Facebook seems to be it. I don’t see any alternative. I post publicly what pertains to my writing, and in various degrees of privacy what is personal or private. There have always been posts that aren’t meant for the public eye, but sadly, Zuckerberg’s creation sees it all, reads it all, apparently even posts we write and never post, messages we type and delete without sending away. It’s disgusting. But legally? Watertight, I’m sure. And we all signed off on it when we quickly accepted the small print when we signed up. Who reads that stuff, ever? I don’t. Because you don’t have a choice. Want to use XYZ you have to sign off on their terms. You can’t say, “hey, I’ll take this, but not this…” It’s all or nothing.
Personally, I’d be happy to pay for Facebook, to get better features and to get rid of the Kraken that constantly monitors my every movement. But I also know that I can’t trust Facebook. I’m convinced that even if I paid, they’d still monitor me, so why should I pay? In the end, it’s a matter of trust, faith to a degree, and while I do have faith in some of the companies I work with, I cannot trust a company whose business model is based on data mining. I don’t trust Google, I don’t trust Facebook.
So what can I do? What could you do?
Not that much. I have limited the data I have on Facebook, sadly they already have it. Removing e.g. your political interests now is too little, too late. They’ve already stored what you once posted. And to limit visibility to yourself? LOL Remember, they even read what you don’t post… My basic assumption for all things Internet is this:
only post what doesn’t shy away from the light of day!
If you don’t want someone to read it, don’t post it. In the end, whether it’s Facebook or a nemesis of yours, doesn’t matter. This policy has served me well, although I’ve made mistakes of my own. Apart from that, I have removed all likes of pages on Facebook (and won’t like any new pages.) I have removed all my advertising preferences and will keep doing that. I’ve limited the number of groups I’m a member of to the ones I really want to be a member of, none of them public. I don’t like as much anymore, most certainly not clickbait posts (from various humor pages that people share). I don’t do tests (and will unfriend people who do and thus risk sharing my data with other Krakens.) I’ve also begun to hide most of the news posts that appear on my newsfeed.
Not so much because it’s about data mining, but because it’s so toxic. Mind you, that’s an entire post of its own… I’ve also uninstalled Messenger from my phone. Three Facebook apps are enough: Instagram, FB & WhatsApp, the latter I only use because of my dad and sister.
What do you do? How have you reacted to the recent Facebook news?
In a way, the friends of mine who are offline are avenged, but at what price? Social hermits? We all need to be smarter about how we use social media. We need to fight back and be smart about what we share, throw the Kraken off-track. What do you do? Have you resigned? Given up or are you employing active tactics of resistance? Let’s hear it! All tips are welcome.
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