Facebook and Instagram logos with a "no" symbol over them

Two Years Ago Today I Left Facebook and Instagram

Two years ago on October 5th, I stopped using any services from the company Meta, e.g. Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t quit these services, I just quit going into them and removed them from my devices.

I made this change after Frances Haugen, former data scientist at Facebook, testified before Congress. While working at Facebook she was tasked with studying how the company’s algorithm affects users. The algorithm does things we not only didn’t know it was doing, Facebook didn’t even know it was doing. Her team studied the results and presented them to leadership, and as a result, her team was shut down. When she left the company, she copied thousands of confidential documents and gave them to the government officials.

Two specific things stood out most to me as I watched the congressional hearings. One was an ad targeting teenage girls for pro-anorexia websites. The second one was an ad campaign for a “Skittles party”. Since many had not heard of a Skittles party, she went on to explain that this is where kids go into their parents’ medicine cabinets and dump all their pills into a pillowcase, shake it up, and then grab some to take. While neither of these ads ever ran, the Facebook algorithm approved both of them.

There was a lot more in the hearings but that was the final straw for me, and I had to take a stand, so I left Facebook and Instagram.

What Was it Like to Leave Facebook and Instagram?

I was never a big fan of Instagram, but I missed Facebook quite a bit. The habit was a big part of it so for the first few months the temptation was great to go back. But after a while, I got used to not wasting time scrolling through the service. I also realized how little I really missed. I shared connections with a lot of people I don’t know, but maybe know me through the podcast, or were friends of friends, or acquaintances of acquaintances, so there was a lot of glop to scroll through before I got to content I really cared about.

But there was a big side effect I didn’t anticipate. It was harder to communicate in real life with my friends. I would say to a friend, “Forbes did this really cute thing on Saturday…” and my friend would say, “I know, I saw it on Facebook.” This made me incredibly sad.

It also made me sad when Steve would mention something adorable Kennedy did in Texas and I didn’t know about it because it was in an Instagram story.

I talked to my friends and family about how sad this made me, and they have tried over the last two years to accommodate my choice to not participate in Meta services. My friends listen to my stories of my adorable grandchildren and try to pretend they don’t already know about it. My kids post pictures to our family threads in Telegram to try to keep me up to date.

But it’s still hard. I’m missing my own family events.

Twitter to Mastodon

During this last two years, Twitter has become a dumpster fire, so I’ve slowed down my usage quite a bit and moved to Mastodon for my non-family fun interactions. Twitter is so awful now that it’s starting to make Facebook not look all that bad.

I’m reminded of how my father once said that he wouldn’t allow us to watch the TV show MASH because it was so sexually explicit. Many years later I caught him watching MASH. I pointed out the inconsistency, and he said, “Yeah, but now everything else is so awful, MASH doesn’t seem all that bad.”

I’m Going Back

You can probably tell where this is going. I have decided to go back on Facebook and Instagram so I can enjoy my own family’s posts again. My plan is to dramatically reduce the number of people I follow on both services and maybe even cut it down to only my own family. If you’re one of those people who pay attention to who stops following you, don’t be sad if you see me disappear. Instead follow me on Mastodon!

I may even join Threads, but the jury is still out on that. While a lot of the tech nerds I enjoy are on Mastodon, there are a fair number of well-known people I enjoy reading who are calling out their Threads handles now. I may give it a poke and if it brings me joy I may jump in from time to time.

I feel like I may have disappointed some of my champions who applauded my move to leave all things Meta, and for that, I apologize. I’m definitely not leaving Mastodon, and I’m deliriously happy with the Slack community we’ve built at podfeet.com/slack, but Kennedy, Parker, Teddy, Forbes, and Siena are calling to me over on Instagram and Facebook.

I told my family that I was going to go back on Facebook and Instagram and my daughter-in-law instantly said, “THANK YOU!!!”

I’m fully aware that this has been a lot of rationalization, but the important thing is that I think Mark Zuckerberg has learned his lessson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top