Why I Left Facebook

I left Facebook on June 16, 2013.

I hated to leave – ever since I’d been in touch with former classmates, and people from my original home town, an extraordinarily special place, I have really cherished my Facebook contacts, old and new, as my network has grown and thrived.

I had to do it, though. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy any longer.

Reason 1: Privacy

Facebook regularly changes its privacy settings and policies, sometimes without advance notice (though they’ve improved on this recently). OK, so do Google, Twitter, and the rest. But Facebook also has managed to change the default settings, so that people who thought they had set their privacy, once and for all, had to go back and learn new settings in order to get back to where they were before the change. While they were doing so, of course, posts that were intended to be limited ended up, sometimes, being public, or reaching a wider audience than intended.

Add Facebook’s absolutely horrendous user interface and myriad settings found under different menus throughout, and I, a content professional, had a hard time navigating through them. Imagine if it were my Aunt Matilda (if only I had an Aunt Matilda ;-))

You might, legitimately, ask if I thought the other social networks, that I am not leaving, are any different?  See this article in The Consumerist for a comparison of how the different social networks respect, and defend, users’ privacy, and you’ll see that Facebook, while not alone, is hardly near the top. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for pointing this one out.

Never mind about PRISM – there’s a whole raft of posts about a whole raft of social networks lurking in there somewhere, maybe another day…

Reason 2: Censorship.

I have spent all my life in the communication world, half of it working in theatre, film, video, and radio, as an artist, producer, journalist, and manager, the other half of it in my current profession of technical content professional. I am a died in the wool believer in the value of general culture, in free speech, in open, transparent communication.

Facebook, however, has consistently censored art museums who display nude images on their pages. I am speaking, here, of major art museums, such as France’s Centre Pompidou or the Galérie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, both of which have been the victims of account suspensions, and threatened with account cancellation by Facebook, for posting images from current exhibitions. Read more here.

Wake up, Facebook, what century are we in? Do we need to put fig leafs on all the Greek statues again, as in the Dark Ages? Isn’t the nude portrait a classic art form throughout occidental history?

Or, are we pandering to the basest, least common denominator prudishness of some American puritans? Isn’t Facebook supposed to be international? Shouldn’t there be GLOBAL standards for what is acceptable?

Reason 3: Total Hypocrisy

Speaking about standards, Facebook censors nude art works, but was willing to ignore consistent misogynist, hate postings that promoted violence against women. It took an organised campaign to get them to change their policies on this, while they arbitrarily and automatically censor art works simply for having nude figures.

Money talks? Whose? Read the story here.

All of these reasons, taken together, made me decide I can no longer stomach the amoral management of Facebook. Yes, I’m leaving for moral umbrage! Does that sound terribly old-fashioned and “impractical?”

If you think so, ask yourself if you’re not part of the coming crisis. Please. I really mean it.

Author: Ray

Ray Gallon is president and co-founder of The Transformation Society (www.transformationsociety.net), a research, training and consulting company focusing on building learning organisations that can manage complexity and the digital transformation. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station. Ray is a self-described "humanist nerd," and has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises. Ray recently helped co-found the Information 4.0 Consortium (www.information4zero.org) and serves as its current president. Ray is a university lecturer and a keynote speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).

5 thoughts on “Why I Left Facebook”

  1. Well said.
    You’ve captured most of the reasons that I left Facebook, and hinted at one that really bugs me – art gets censored, but hatemongering and expressions of violence don’t.

  2. Karen, yes – it really turns my stomach. Facebook eventually did the right thing in their response to the WAM campaign – but how many other kinds of hate speech continue to course freely on Facebook, simply because no one has started an organised campaign against it?

  3. I’ve just left, after a few years of really having to rely upon it I decided to ‘just say no’. The final push was meeting a complete stranger and realising she has already seen all my childhood photos and photos of my family – despite me thinking my privacy settings were set to ‘friends only’, I found out that once someone else comments/likes photos the audience widens.

  4. In contrast, I am staying in FaceBook. I agree with your complaints, but too many people who are important to me from all periods and paths during my life are in it, many wonderful links re-established and renewed, and new ones forged. I don’t like the privacy policies of the telcos either in this post-Patriot-Act era, but I’m keeping my phones lines as well.

    I’ve always seen FB as similar to a public bulletin board, so I’ve never posted anything on FB that I wanted to keep private. There are other comm channels for such stuff. As to censorship, the main constraints on my own informational intake, which are much more severe, have always been the limiting factors of time and cognitive bandwidth.

    The main reason I would leave FB that has strongly tempted me at times is the degree to which it can be a significant time sink.

  5. In contrast, I’m staying in FaceBook. Too many important and valued relationships from all periods of my life have been re-established and renewed there and continue to be enjoyed, and too many wonderful new ones have been formed. I don’t like the policies of the telcos I use either, in this “Patriot Act” era, but I stick with them too.

    All along I’ve viewed FB as similar to a public bulletin board, so I don’t post anything I would want to keep private. As to censorship, the main constraints on my informational intake have always been the limitations of time and of cognitive bandwidth.

    The above differences between us can be attributed to different thresholds along a continuum typified by the saying “anything worth doing is worth doing badly”, or “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. I will stay in but will certainly continue to express my views on some of their policies, which are already widely and heavily criticized.

    The main reason that I have at times very strongly considered dropping out of FB is what a major time sink it can be.

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