Yes, it’s true, Facebook has been implicated in some incredible abuses of power. From Cambridge Analytica to Facebook’s role in the uprisings in Myanmar, to censorship in China and beyond, Facebook has some ‘splaining to do. And consumers (FB users) should just “vote with their feet” and leave the platform once and for all or Facebook will never be held accountable.
I agree with most of the #QuitFacebook arguments. And also, I don’t agree that everyone can just stop using Facebook. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
In fact, I think that anyone who says that anyone else should quit Facebook because Facebook is bad/evil is themselves speaking from a place of power and privilege. And I outta know, I guess: I #QuitFacebook back before it was even a thing – after finishing my dissertation in 2013.
So why do I think that quitting Facebook is a privilege?
- For many marginalized people, Facebook is the only way to be in contact with a community of support.
- For people with disabilities who are unable to leave their house for extended periods of time due to physical or mental illness, Facebook may be an important and needed source of empowerment.
- Facebook may be the only way some people in the developing world can access wifi (problematic but true).
- Facebook may be vital to small business owners who need to connect with their communities.
- Facebook log in has become a crucial way to access other parts of the internet, and furthermore, WhatsApp and Instagram – two of the other most popular social sites, are also owned by Facebook.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a digital researcher I deeply respect, listed all the great reasons for quitting Facebook, and then wrote that he’s staying on the platform, because it’s the only way to monitor and understand what this immensely powerfui psychological influencer is doing. I respect that too, and would suggest that you have to be very privileged to have the ability to ignore an actor like Facebook.
Also, it’s not easy to simply disentangle yourself from your social routines and still maintain your social cohesion with friends and family. I would guess that Facebook knows this and continues to capitalize on this fact. It takes social privilege and economic privilege to be confident that if you disengage you will still be able to maintain the social ties you had on Facebook.
So yes, I quit Facebook, and yes, I think the platform is incredibly damaging to democratic and social norms. But despite this, I still don’t think we can moralize to others about quitting. It’s hard, and not without consequences to detach from the network. Instead of preaching about quitting Facebook, we need to put together more resources for those who want to quit and can’t yet. That’s when we might begin to see some real meaningful consumer change.