A.J.’s Story

An early Facebook adopter explains why he left — and why he seeks an alternative.

I was a very early adopter of Facebook (2005-2006?). My then business partner’s daughter was a student and had sent me an invite. Until then I was a very active LiveJournal user, and she thought I’d like the features of Facebook. I did until the last few years.

Why did my opinion on Facebook change?

I’ve had my personal information compromised five times in since 2007. Once when my OPM file was hacked (which included my U.S. Defense Department Security file), and several other credit and financial security failures. Watching the testimony surrounding the virtually unfettered access that Facebook had given to third parties during the Cambridge Analytica hearings really brought it home to me that Facebook was careless and negligent with user data.

As news continued to develop and more and more was revealed about their business practices, it became very clear to me that Facebook was not a good corporate citizen, but was quite the opposite By using their targeting tools they were casually allowing unidentifiable parties to craft and curate the media and posts that users were exposed to. Given the practical ubiquity of Facebook in some peoples’ lives that influence was literally crafting the lens through which people viewed the world. While for most critical thinking people that’s probably not a huge risk, for vulnerable or easily-influenced individuals, that would serve as a fast track to exploitation or worse radicalization.

And, just like their security flaws, they are aware and complicit. Frankly, they don’t care about lack of privacy. To Facebook, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

My experiment

To really drive the point home, I conducted a simple unscientific experiment to see how many views certain posts were getting by including and excluding certain hot-button phrases and keywords. Over the course of that experiment, it became clear that they were throttling the exposure of those posts based on political keywords, again crafting a false reality for users.

Long and the short, they’re not good corporate citizens. They are a channel through which unknown and potentially nefarious players are quite literally crafting the way that people see the world. I realized that by continuing to participate, I’d only be helping perpetuate Facebook’s agenda.

So I deleted my account, and I continue to encourage others to do so.

Why I want an alternative

What’s been difficult about defecting? I miss the groups and communities. I’m a hobbyist brewer, blacksmith, musician, and artist, and I’m in a number of community clubs and gaming groups. Not being part of those Facebook groups has caused me to be far outside of the loop for much of the planning and coordination of events and gatherings, and to miss developing trends and conversations in my areas of interest.

Easily facilitating exchange of information for social clubs and event coordination tools are an essential aspect of the community experience of social media to me. Until a product can come in with some integrity but also the kind of ubiquity that Facebook, this will remain a glaring gap in my social media experience.

So I look forward to seeing and hearing more about Peer as it goes through the dev and release process, and and I’m happy to provide feedback about development as its development progresses.