Dries Buytaert

Pulling the plug on Facebook

I'm pulling the plug on Facebook because of their recent privacy violations — which got me thinking about what is next for the Open Web.

Facebook social decay
© Andrei Lacatusu

Exactly one year ago, I decided to use social media less and blog more. I uninstalled the Facebook application from my phone, but kept my Facebook account for the time being.

The result is that I went from checking Facebook several times a day to once or twice a month.

Facebook can't be trusted

At the time I uninstalled the Facebook application from my phone, Mark Zuckerberg promised that he would fix Facebook. He didn't.

The remainder of 2018 was filled with Facebook scandals, including continued mishandling of personal data and privacy breaches, more misinformation, and a multitude of shady business practices.

Things got worse, not better.

The icing on the cake is that a few weeks ago we learned that Facebook knowingly duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and often refused to give the money back.

And just last week, it was reported that Facebook had been collecting users' data by getting people to install a mobile application that gave Facebook root access to their network traffic.

It's clear that Facebook can't be trusted. And for that reason, I'm out.

I deleted my Facebook account twenty minutes ago.

An image of Facebook's account deletion confirmation screen

Social media's dark side

Social media, in general, have been enablers of community, transparency and positive change, but also of abuse, hate speech, bullying, misinformation, government manipulation and more. In just the past year, more and more users have woken up to the dark side of social media. Open Web and privacy advocates, on the other hand, have seen this coming for awhile.

Technological change is a wonderful thing, as it can bring unprecedented improvements to billions around the globe. As a technologist, I believe in the power of the web to improve the world for many, but we also need to make sure that technology disruption is positive for all of us.

Last week, we heard that Facebook intends to further blend Instagram and WhatsApp with Facebook. If I were to guess, they want to make it harder to split up Facebook later (and harder for users to know what is happening with their data). Regulators should be all over this right now.

My social detox

I plan to stay off Facebook indefinitely, unless maybe there is a new CEO and better regulatory oversight.

I already stopped using Twitter to share personal updates and use it almost exclusively for Drupal-related updates. It remains a valuable channel to reach many people, but I wouldn't categorize my use as social anymore.

For now, I'm still on Instagram, but it's hard to ignore that Instagram is owned by Facebook. I will probably uninstall that next.

A call to rejoin the Open Web

Instant gratification and network effects have made social media successful, at the sacrifice of blogs and the Open Web.

I've always been driven by a sense of idealism. I'm optimistic that the movement away from social media is good for the Open Web.

Since I scaled back my use of social media a year ago, I blogged more, re-subscribed to many RSS feeds, and grew increasingly interested in the IndieWeb — all small shifts back to the Open Web's roots.

I plan to continue to work on my POSSE plan, and hope to share more thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks.

I'd love to see thousands more people join or rejoin the Open Web, and help innovate on top of it.

— Dries Buytaert