I've been on Facebook since 2008. In nearly a decade, I've "liked" an awful lots of pages, groups, authors, books, movies, TV shows, creatives, news outlets, and on and on and on. As Facebook updates its newsfeeds to determine what content you see, and places a larger priority on advertising and sponsored posts and tracking your online trail to better determine your interests in order to advertise more stuff to you, it's become an Orwellian leviathan.
None of this should be news to you.
For me, the impact was to slowly, but surely negate any and all reasons that I use Facebook. I got sucked in far too deeply, to the point that so much of my newsfeed was little more than postings from groups that were paying to capture my eyeballs. Actual human-interest content from those I follow was sparse, because Facebook made them sparse. I was seeing sponsored content more frequently than I was seeing posts from my own wife, or people I've been friends with (in either meatspace or just on Facebook) for years. Even those individuals I had marked as "see first" were still being bottomed out in favor of Facebook's advertisers and "suggestions" about whatever little bit bullshit they thought I would "like," or, better still, spend money on. If I wanted to see one of my Facebook friend's actual account, I had to search for it via the menu bar, otherwise I wasn't seeing it at all.
Last year, I attempted to go completely Facebook free. The site is an enormous time-suck, and part of that, obviously, was my own fault. Being an author, connected to other authors and the occasional anthology collaboration, though, made leaving Facebook difficult. I was kind of dragged back in due to secret groups for projects that were taking off at that time (and still am, in point of fact, so keep an eye out later in the year for news on a seeekrit! project), and ended up reactivating my account after a few months hiatus.
Things are going to be different this time! (he said, waving his hand in the air with defiant expectation.)
This time, I have a baseline for what I want to accomplish and how to do that. I'm not even going to try and quit cold-turkey since I know that's not really an option. What I will do, though, is acknowledge that change is necessary. Change in my own behaviors and interactions with the site, and a reasonable plan for moving forward.
The first step was to create a new account, something that could act as a blank slate, and one that I intend to keep reasonably blank for as long as I am able. This means cutting out "likes" on pages and groups that aren't completely necessary to my daily operations as an author.
A lot of the stuff that I had liked on Facebook was redundant information, and served only to clutter whatever information the Facebook Gods deigned me to see. So, I will not be liking any sort of news agencies on Facebook. First of all, I think having Facebook as a primary news source is just a fucking awful rabbit hole to go down. Although I have a subscription to The New York Times and Washington Post, I will not be "liking" them on Facebook. It provides Facebook with too much information, and causes too many other third parties to rear their ugly heads in my direction. I have primary news sources already to rely on, and there's no need for me to utilize them on Facebook. And when I need real news, I can always YouTube John Oliver and Samantha Bee. (By the way, did you see this video from Vox? Pretty telling stuff, I think. And yes, I know, off-topic, but whatever. It's my blog, so deal.)
Nuking my previous Facebook account also serves as a bit of social culling. Honestly, there wasn't a heck of a lot of interaction from the vast majority of my Facebook friends. On the flip-side, I have made a few wonderful friends online and we talk or post on each others comments fairly routinely, or chat in Messenger, and are the type of people I'd get a beer with. I know there's plenty of users on there who wanted to friend me simply to boost their own numbers. I'm not a people collector, though. I have given my followers notice and put up a message on my prior account about the change. Those that want to follow me over to the new account are free to do so. Those that don't need not apply. The loss of ephemeral followers is no big loss at all, really, and only serves to further help streamline my new Facebook set-up.
So, fewer friends, no cluttering of liked pages or groups, and very little willful exchange of data between me and Facebook. I'm giving the site as little personal information as I can. A side aspect of this, one that I had not originally intended but have quickly adopted after doing some research last night, was reclaiming my data.
And you know what? So far, it's working out pretty well. This project began yesterday, and I'm already noticing its impact. My newsfeed, for the first time in years probably, is actually showing me updates posted by friends. That's pretty novel.