Episode: A Future Without Facebook

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A Future Without Facebook

Every technology has its growing pains, but Facebook, at age 15, has matured into a never-ending disaster. Here at Soonish, I'm fed up, and I'm closing my accounts. In this episode, you’ll hear how I reached this point, and how other Facebook users are coming to grips with the chronic problems at the social network. You might just come away with some ideas about what to do to limit Facebook’s power over your own life!

The first signs that something was seriously wrong at Facebook surfaced in—well, when?

  • Was it 2014, when the company acknowledged it had experimented on users by altering the content of the news feed to see how it would affect their moods?
  • Was it 2015, when misinformation about alleged Muslim attacks on Buddhists in Myanmar spread on Facebook, leading to anti-Muslim riots?
  • Was it 2017, when evidence began to emerge that Russian hackers had influenced the US presidential election by promoting divisive content designed to mobilize Trump voters and demotivate Clinton voters in swing states?
  • Was it 2018, when the world learned that Facebook had allowed the British political data firm Cambridge Analytica to acquire Facebook data on 87 million users in the U.S.?
  • Was it last week, when a white-nationalist gunman in New Zealand live-streamed his terror attack on Facebook, and hundreds of thousands of copies of the video ricocheted around the network for hours?

No matter when you start the clock, we’ve now had plenty of time to perceive Facebook’s failures in all their depth and breadth. And we’ve been able to pinpoint some of the root causes—including a fundamental disregard for user privacy and a fixation on a business model that surveils users and manipulates the content of the news feed to foment outrage and maximize opportunities for targeted advertising.

Some Facebook users, like me, have decided that enough is enough. Many others are staying, but unhappily. Should you keep using Facebook, but more advisedly? Cut way back? Walk away? All of these are valid strategies that will send a message to Facebook and make your own life happier. Doing nothing probably won’t. This episode is designed to help listeners make a more conscious choice.

Thanks to all of of this episode's featured guests: Tova Perlmutter, Rudi Seitz, Kip Clark, Tamar Avishai, Peter Fairley, Nick Andersen, Mark Hurst, Ashira Morris, Victor McElheny, and Deborah in Minneapolis.

For more background and resources, including a full episode transcript, check out the episode page at the Soonish website.


0:07 Cold open (audio montage)
1:27 Soonish theme and introduction
1:51 An unwise choice at Ford
4:06 The Ford Pinto of the Internet
7:53 Meet our special advisory panel
9:44 Facebook does have its uses
13:48 A community designed to encourage dependency
15:14 Constant surveillance
20:00 Waiting for more data
23:55 Leaving is painful
26:14 Ex-Facebookers who never looked back
29:53 Exit strategies
32:03 Conscious unfriending
33:52 The reducetarian approach
35:40 We don't have to wait for Facebook to fix itself
36:47 Sensing intrusion
39:35 The opposite of Facebook
40:12 End credits and announcements

The Soonish opening theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. All additional music is by Titlecard Music and Sound.

Soonish is a proud founding member of Hub & Spoke, a Boston-based collective of smart, idea-driven nonfiction podcasts. Learn more at hubspokeaudio.org.

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Special thanks to Kip Clark, Joseph Fridman, and Mark Pelofsky for reviewing drafts of this episode.

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