Facebook social decay
© Andrei Lacatusu

Earlier this month, I set a resolution to blog more and use social media less. While I still need to work on blogging more, I'm certainly spending less time on Facebook. I'm halfway there. So far, only my mom has complained about me spending less time on Facebook.

This morning when my alarm woke me up at 4:45am, I took it a step further. Most mornings, I spend ten minutes checking Facebook on my phone. Today, however, I deleted the Facebook application from my phone, rolled out of bed and started my workday. Great!

As an advocate for the open web, I've written a lot about the problems that Facebook and other walled gardens pose. While I have helped raise awareness and have contributed time and money to winning back the open web, I haven't fully embraced the philosophy on my own site. For over 12 years, I've blogged on my own domain and have used Open Source software instead of using a third party service like Blogger or Medium, but I can't say the same about sharing my photos or social media updates. This has bothered me for some time.

I felt even more motivated to make a change after watching David Letterman's new Netflix series. During a conversation with his first guest, President Obama, Letterman shared the fear that his son will one day ask, Wait a minute. You knew this was a problem, and you didn't do anything about it?. Letterman's sentiment mirrors Jeff Bezos' regret minimization framework; when you look back on your life, you want to minimize the number of regrets you have. It's a principle I like to live by.

We can't have a handful of large platform companies like Facebook control what people read on the web; their impact on democracy and society is concerning. Even Facebook doesn't like what it sees when it looks in the mirror.

Today is not only the day I uninstalled Facebook from my phone, but it's the day I fully embrace and extend my new year's resolution. Not only would I like to use social media less, I want to take back control over my social media, photos and more. I also want to contribute more to the open web in the process — it will be a worthwhile personal challenge for 2018.


Dman (not verified):

Nice try. Yet I would not have seen this post if you had not x-posted into Twitter.

(I miss RSS.)


I fully understand why it looks odd to crosspost this on Twitter. Let me try to explain that in a separate blog post in the next day or two.

Nick Hofstede (not verified):

My Feedly (I miss Google Reader) dutifully informed me about this new blog post, but I have to admit I saw it on Facebook first.

Zach Chandler (not verified):

RSS is not dead! It's still there, and still valuable. We just need to remember to use it more, and like Dries says, cut the cord to FB.

Corentin (not verified):

What about open source alternative solutions for social media / data privacy (e.g. Mastodon / cozy cloud, respectively)?

Wouter Verhelst (not verified):

Thanks! We need more people who are willing to step up and say this. The open web is important; and while your contributions in that area have certainly helped a lot, actually moving forward and doing something about it would help even more.

(I found your post through http://planet.grep.be, BTW -- a site I've been running since 2004 or thereabouts -- and which would not have featured you if Drupal had stopped doing RSS. It's a good thing it hasn't; thanks for that!)

Francewhoa (not verified):

Interesting read Dries. :) Same here. I reduced or stop using proprietary social media. I shifted to open source social media. Such as https://diasporafoundation.org or https://www.Minds.com/register;referrer=Francewhoa Which are open source like Drupal.

I do not trust proprietary social media with my data. Such as Twitter. Why? Well because before I start using any tool I do research about its behaviors, challenges, strengths. After using Twitter for years, the following is a summary of my findings about why I really do NOT trust Twitter.

The bad

  • Shadow ban. Which is very unethical. If you're not familiar with "shadow ban" it means Twitter ban you, but you do not know you were banned, because you keep posting. But nobody sees your content. Abhinav Vadrevu, former software engineer at Twitter was caught on video saying this at https://youtu.be/64gTjdUrDFQ?t=25s.
  • Down rank. If you're not familiar with "down rank" it means Twitter try to get you to not show up in the search results. Olind Hassan, Policy Manager at Twitter was caught on video saying this https://youtu.be/64gTjdUrDFQ?t=1m22s.
  • Twitter present itself as politically neutral. But they do NOT behave like that. Instead many Twitter staff actively do political targetting, bias, promote one political agenda, and censorship of your content if they disagree with it. Source at https://youtu.be/64gTjdUrDFQ.
  • They easily cave in on the U.S. government. Which frequently and repeatedly asks Twitter to censor user’s content. Pranay Singh, Direct Messaging Engineer at Twitter was caught on video saying this https://youtu.be/64gTjdUrDFQ?t=6m23s. Alternative source at https://www.projectveritas.com/2018/01/11/undercover-video-twitter-engi…
  • Potentially not secure. Because the code is not available publicly. So it can not be review by the public. In other words, there is a risk of abuse.
  • It is own by a for-profit corporation. It is not owned by a not-for-profit community. Usually a corporation first priority is to hoard money. Not serve you and protect your privacy.

The good

  • None I could think of


Justine Harcou… (not verified):

Great post. Rid FB from my phone 3 weeks ago—feels great to reclaim my morning (and life). Agree with Wouter Verhelst, we need more people (especially those with an audience) to spread the news about the FB Vulcan mind meld and come up with viable alternatives. There are good things about FB, but not enough to watch your life be reformulated as an algorithm or your data being confiscated and sold...

Andy Laken (not verified):

There is so much more that needs to be said about this. That Facebook at al. have optimized their design for addictive behavior in users (with the attendant bad happiness and mental health outcomes), and made themselves susceptible to manipulations by bad actors that threaten our information and political environment – it's all nearly inevitable with the financial incentives being set up as they are. We (Facebook's users) are unpaid content creators and advertising targets. Advertisers are Facebook's customers. The system ruthlessly optimizes to create the best platform for FB to extract maximum $ from their advertisers, with the massive ill effects mentioned above (and many more).

Or as this article puts it "On a side note, it's actually quite incredible that up until this point nobody has stopped and questioned the fact that the social networks make all this money and you, the user, literally do all the work for nothing. Instead of paying users for their content and traffic, they literally charge you to run ads to your own audience that you built. When you think about it in this regard, it's clear why this needs disruption." (https://www.inc.com/brian-d-evans/blockchain-is-now-aiming-to-disrupt-s…)

If you change the incentives and the $ flow, you can change the outcomes. There are emerging examples of social networks build on the principal that users should own their data and be compensated for it if it's valuable. cf. https://steem.io & https://indorse.io


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