I signed up for Facebook in 2003, when it was a startup available only for university students in the US. At first it helped me keep up with what was going on in different classes and organize groups and clubs. I really liked Facebook in the beginning because I knew all the people in my friend list were from my university. So, you didn’t have to worry about your parents or family members seeing your posts.
When Facebook launched the news feed, it became an additional source of information. People began posting news articles and sharing comments about politics, while for me it still remained primarily a way to communicate with friends, post photos, keep up with where people from high school and college were and what they were doing.
I remember getting overwhelmed with content and finding the onslaught of advertising through the newsfeed so annoying. The second thing, which ultimately pushed me to close my account, was the way Facebook affected my mental health. Around the finals week my entire newswall would get full of my classmates’ posts on how stressed out they were about the exams. And these posts were enough for me to start feeling stressed immediately. So, I closed my account to stop it.
I quit using my personal Facebook account in 2012. And in 2018 I closed my professional account which I used for sharing my journalism works. I kept my professional Facebook page longer because I had fans there. Unfortunately, Facebook kept on changing their algorithm so that if you didn’t pay the platform to promote your posts, they would reach fewer people. At first, maybe 30 or 40% of my fans would see my posts, but then every year that number dropped. Before I quit, my posts would reach only about 2% of my followers. Eventually, I realized that the time and effort I was spending to update the fan page wasn’t worth it. Facebook was kind of holding my fans hostage.
I was happy to see my friends more often in real life. However, sometimes I feel like I’ve missed out on something because I’m not on Facebook. Earlier this year, several friends had babies, and they forgot to tell me because they assumed everyone saw it on Facebook. It’s a trade-off, but overall, for me quitting was a positive move.
The only network I now use regularly is Twitter. As a journalist, I still find value in it. I also appreciate that Twitter, unlike Facebook, let you set up your feed as you want, follow the people you want to follow and it’s not going to feed you with content based on what an algorithm thinks you want.
The problem with social networks is their users’ weakness. We don’t have a say in how we want their products to be. When Facebook releases their quarterly metrics, they talk about engagement, because their advertisers buy those metrics. The fact that social networks are designed to make you addicted and to keep you constantly checking and scrolling on the newsfeed is also problematic. Besides, the way viral content spreads on these social networks is also worrying.
There is a lot of evidence that extremist content and fake news spread faster than truthful reporting.
I would like social networks to be more decentralized in the future so that users could have more control over them. On the other hand, if the government starts to play a bigger role in regulating these platforms, it can become a slippery slope for us, too. You don’t want anybody to censor content.
I’m not sure whether the best path is to make Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media improve their design and algorithms, or to build something new that will function better and be more positive for society.