Facebook: 5 reasons to quit, 5 reasons to stay

It’s been a rocky year for the world’s largest social media network.

Facebook kicked off 2018 being cited in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment into Russian meddling in the U.S. election in February. The next month, the platform was named by the United Nations for allowing the spread of fake news pertaining to the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Later in March, Facebook was in the hot seat for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw millions of users’ personal information harvested, without their permission, for the purpose of manipulating elections. 

From there, the hits just kept on coming with Facebook rounding out the year with yet another scandal centring on how it shared personal user data with more than 150 companies, including Amazon and Netflix.

The tumultuous year fuelled widespread mistrust in the social media network and spurred an online campaign using the hashtag #DeleteFacebook.

For anyone who is still contemplating what to do with their profiles on the 15th anniversary of the platform, CTVNews.ca has compiled a list of reasons why you should or shouldn’t delete your account.

 

Why you should delete Facebook:

Privacy concerns

Revelations that the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica accessed the data of tens of millions of Facebook users and misappropriated it in an attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. election raised important questions about personal privacy.

In the months-long fallout, concerns about who owns Facebook users’ data and what it’s being used for has dominated headlines for the better part of a year.  

Digital technology expert Ritesh Kotak said users need to be aware that Facebook not only collects users’ data, it technically owns it, as per its terms and conditions.

“If you’re not paying for the product then you are the product,” Kotak told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview in January. “If you’re putting your data out there, technically they own your data.”

For those who are concerned about the availability of their information, but are not yet prepared to quit the platform, Kotak said they can adjust their privacy settings, including how their profiles appear in searches, who can see their posts, and how friends can add them.

Wasting time

Although Eric Karjaluoto said he doesn’t love the fact that tech companies like Facebook collect personal information on him, it’s not the main reason he chose to take a year-long break from the platform. The Vancouver-based blogger and owner of a marketing company said he found himself aimlessly browsing the site and wasting valuable time he could have used for work.

“I would so easily go on and scroll through that newsfeed endlessly and then realize I’ve just blown a bunch of time that I didn’t really want to or gained anything from,” he explained.

Karjaluoto said he still has the desire to passively consume content – which he still does on sites like YouTube and Reddit – but he is better at managing it now with dedicated time management apps and because he deactivated his Facebook account.

For Angela Slaughter, however, spending time on Facebook isn’t any different than wasting time watching television. The Ottawa mother of two said she doesn’t watch very many shows and uses that time to catch up with family and friends on Facebook instead.

“You have to be careful,” she admitted. “You can fall down a rabbit hole. You can really waste a lot of hours.”

Mental health

There have been several studies throughout the years on the impact social media has on users’ mental health and well-being, including one by Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Houston.

In 2015, Steers conducted a study examining how Facebook use is linked to the emergence of depressive symptoms. She found that the more time people spent on the social media site, the more likely they were to experience depressive symptoms.

“The reason for that is due to the fact that you’re socially comparing yourself to other people,” Steers told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview from Houston, Texas.

Steers said the comparisons vary by person depending on what they value in their lives. For example, if someone uploads a photo of their newborn, a Facebook friend who has been struggling to get pregnant might see that post and feel more upset than another person who views it.

‘Fake news’

Ritesh Kotak called 2018 a big “wake-up call” for Facebook in terms of its responsibility as a corporation. He said the realization that the platform was used to sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. election really affected the public’s trust in it.

“It was influencing and changing opinions, essentially eroding some of our democratic institutions,” he said.

The misinformation and ensuing polarizing online debates also contributed to Karjaluoto’s decision to deactivate his account a year ago.

“I think it was in the heat of all the Trump rhetoric and I’d go on Facebook and I’d feel so crummy after looking at it,” he said. “There were these really vitriolic, hateful posts that kept popping up.”

Targeted advertising

As Kotak mentioned before, Facebook uses information such as what its users click on or “like” on the site so advertisers can “hyper target” or “micro market” products to them.

“When you sign up for these types of platforms, you got to understand that you are the product, Kotak said. “They’re collecting your data. They need to make money at some point.”

Karjaluoto said he didn’t like the fact that Facebook collects his personal information in order to sell it to advertisers, but he accepted that it was part of the deal of using a free platform.

“If we were all willing to throw in $5 a month there would be easily social networks that would not sell our data,” he said. “If you are going into a free social network where you’re posting all of this data, yes, it’s going to be mined.”

 

Why you should keep Facebook:

Staying connected

Marsha Webb, from Niceville, Fla., said Facebook has allowed her to keep in touch with her large family.

“I’ve got family all over the country, coast to coast to coast, and we connect all the time, every day, on Facebook,” she said. “We share stories. We share pictures. We let each other know how we’re doing.”

Webb said she keeps her laptop open 24-7 and she always has a browser tab open on Facebook so she can keep up with what’s happening in her kids’ lives as well as her siblings and their families.

Information sharing

Angela Slaughter said she loves Facebook because it makes it easier for her to share big announcements or plan events with her family.

“We have a family message group, so if we have something to announce, it’s a lot easier just to post it on that group than it is to tell everybody one by one by one,” she explained.

Slaughter also said the platform is great for sharing photos with family and friends. In the past, the mother of two said she would have to print multiple copies of photos of her children when they were young and mail them to her family in individual envelopes.

“It’s a great way to keep in touch with a big family. It’s a great way to make announcements. It’s a great way to keep in touch with the kids and share pictures. I love it. I think it’s a great invention,” she said.

Support networks

For researcher Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, Facebook became an invaluable resource when her newborn daughter had colic. She said her daughter would cry for hours a day, usually between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

In search of solutions, Steers said she ended up communicating with other parents through Facebook groups dedicated to colic.

“It was actually very helpful because I was able to bond with other parents who were going through the same thing,” she said.

Because Facebook gave her access to people from different time zones all over the world, Steers said she could receive information from other parents about colic in the early morning hours when her daughter was crying.

International connections

Slaughter said she wishes Facebook had existed when she was younger and travelling the world. She said she had to keep in touch with the people she met during her travels the “old fashioned way” and as a result she eventually lost touch.

“I don’t know where they are, they don’t know where I am,” she said. “If Facebook had been around at that time, I’d still be in touch with these people.”

Slaughter said her sister, who is 23 years younger than her, has an extensive network of Facebook friends she’s met while travelling.

“She can reach anybody that she’s made friends with along the way at the drop of a hat,” she said.

Targeted advertising

Although some Facebook users may be uncomfortable about the company mining their data for commercial purposes, others said they welcome the curated advertisements.

Marsha Webb described the advertisements she sees on Facebook as “useful” while Slaughter said she actually discovers a lot of “neat” products that she’s interested in through the platform.

“People have always tried to figure out how to sell you stuff. I don’t mind being sold to. I can say ‘No’ if I don’t want it. I don’t feel pressure,” Slaughter explained. “I’d rather have a Facebook ad flash by me than someone show up at my door.”