Since September I am now 100% Facebook free. Am I really? No. Upon removing my account, Facebook informed me it will keep my data, just for the possibility of a need for criminal investigation. So, the way I read this, in theory it could continue to aggregate (meta)data about me.
What has changed for me personally? Somehow a lot and at the same time not so much.
I experienced an initial, short lived, ego boost: “I am doing something what I believe in”. Also, it opened up a dialogue with friends who had been contemplating doing the same. A friend recommended the documentary “The Social Dilemma”. It explains how these platforms know much more about you than you do yourself. I highly recommend watching it.
You only become fully aware of something if it is no longer there. I discovered I spent way too much time numbing my mind by scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts. I now try to spend that time in the archaic way of information consumption: reading books. It however does not give me the instant dopamine shot that social media platforms give, and I do miss that.
There are social and practical consequences. Firstly, by not being on WhatsApp, others could think of you as socially awkward, or a difficult person. Secondly, you are left out of direct and group conversations. You are dependent on the kindness of others to convey the essential information to you via other means.
I did announce on all three Facebook application that I would be deleting my accounts. I was not trying to convince others to do the same. I also did not offer a better alternative, except for WhatsApp.
I have replaced WhatsApp with Signal.org. It offers the exact same functionality, it is open source and offers far more privacy. It is just another app, it is free and you do not even need to remove WhatsApp. The only problem, few people use it. Some friends installed it especially for me, which truly humbles me. Others do not want to install yet another app, which I do understand. What matters for me is to demonstrate that leaving Facebook is an option if you truly disagree with its privacy breaches and censorship.
There is a surprising upside. Initially, you feel bad because you are being left out of updates from your network. Over a relative short time, you no longer know you are being left out. The bad feeling has disappeared.
There a numerous practical consequences. Some organizations, my energy supplier for example, are only contactable via WhatsApp. I am quite handy with search engines, so after some effort, I usually do find a phone number to contact them.
There are some courses (free and paid) on the internet that are only accessible if you sign up with your Facebook account. Only option that you have left is to contact the organizer and see if there are alternatives to sign up.
So far for me there has not been many practical consequences. Even before I deleted my accounts, I used the above workarounds.
This is for me the biggest concern. I have given up employment a long time ago (I founded a website “Quit Your Job“), but I will try to put myself in the shoes of an employee. After that, I will give my perspective as a business owner.
If your job requires you to communicate via WhatsApp, you can only try to convince your coworkers that there are “better” options out there. I put the quotes, because “better” is always an opinion and you might be drawn into an unwanted technical analysis of applications.
Some companies also demand personnel to like and share posts of the company. You can no longer can do that, for better or for worse.
There are some consequences if you work specifically in (internet) marketing. These apply also for business owners.
Consequences for business owners
What does this mean for small business owners? Can you ‘afford’ to remove yourself from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram? With my actions, I have closed off several easy ways to attract new customers. I no longer have an audience. I no longer have a platform where I can promote my goods and services. I no longer have access to the tools to learn more about my target market.
Also, I am more difficult to be found and contacted. What impression does it give to potential customers if the ‘usual’ ways are not available? I believe the only way to counter that is to explain on your website and (non Facebook) social media platforms WHY your company is no longer supporting Facebook. It demonstrates certain values of the company and that could be a good thing.
There are alternatives for companies. I am experimenting with these. At the moment, I cannot yet say which ones I would recommend. Furthermore, I can already say that the alternative solution differs from company to company. Also, alternatives might, over time, create the exact same issues that I have now with Facebook. I will share my findings in a future post about a conscious digital strategies for companies.
I am currently running a survey Facebook and Business Owners on this topic. If you are a business owner, could you please spare 5 minutes by filling it out? I would highly appreciate it and will share the learnings in a future post.