4 Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account
Meta’s Feed algorithm promotes the posts of anxious and/or depressed users, misinformation, and violence
Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen revealed many dark secrets both in the Facebook Papers and in various interviews, with the most interesting information coming from the Center for Humane Technology’s Your Undivided Attention podcast.
These revelations and the response from Meta’s C-suite executives made the following points clear:
1. Facebook’s Feed Algorithm promotes harmful content. Facebook’s metric of Meaningful Social Interactions (MSI) — i. e. “engagement” with the goal of having more users spend more time Facebook, resulting in higher revenues, was the company’s north star. Any change to the Feed algorithm that resulted in lower MSI was rejected, even if that change would have resulted in less misinformation and harmful content being shared. Merril and Oremus’ Washington Post article, Five points for anger, one for a “like”: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation and Frances Haugen’s interview on the podcast Your Undivided Attention highlighted the following about the Feed:
- Feed trained to monitor user engagement or MSI
- Feed algorithm changed in 2017 to give posts that receive “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry” emoji response 5 times (X) the number of ranking points than a “like.”
- Facebook research revealed that people who are experiencing negative life experiences (loss of a significant other/spouse/loved one), or who are socially isolated spend more time on Facebook and therefore have higher MSI scores. These users posts are ranked higher than users who have lower engagement with FB, meaning that people who are not depressed have their Facebook Feed influenced by people who are depressed.
MSI. A user who posts, comments or uses emojis 1,000 times per day receive 20X more points than the average users. Users who are at 99.9 percentile of engagement get 100X points for posts than “average” FB user.
2. Peer-Reviewed Academic Studies Show that Facebook Use Causes Depression in 9.6 % of users. Dr. Brian Primack, MD, Ph.D, Dean, College of Education and Health Professions, University of Arkansas and associates published the study Temporal Associations Between Social Media Use and Depression in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in February 2021. This six month study of 990 people ages 18–30 showed that 9.6% of participants developed depressive symptoms and that increased engagement with social media platforms increased the probability that the participant would become depressed.
3. Meta leadership is unwilling to mitigate harms. Will a polarized U.S. Congress Act?. Gilad Edelman in his Wired article How to Fix Facebook According to Facebook Employees, documents many employee discussions in the Facebook Papers that provide solutions to many of the problems with the Feed algorithmic curation. Some of these solutions were discussed as early as 2016. However, these employees’ ideas were not approved by Meta’s management because they might reduce MSI — and Facebook user growth. Steven Levy in his newsletter “Plaintext” noted on October 29, 2021 that during the keynote speech announcing the renaming of Facebook to Meta that CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to address the current controversies with Facebook and wanted instead to only focus on the future of Meta. So much for fixing Facebook. On October 22, 2021, Didier Reynders, the European Union Commissioner for Justice told the Washington Post, that talks with U.S. government officials indicated that the chances of passing internet regulation legislation soon were slim.
4. Protect Your Privacy — Don’t Allow Meta to Make Money on Your Private Information. If you do not delete your account, Meta will still be able to sell all of the information it has collected on you. You can download a copy of all of your posts before you delete your account.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is another one of those internet scary stories. I guarantee you that the people that are truly helpful in your life will communicate with you in other ways — perhaps even a personal visit (or a text message or phone call or e-mail).
I’ve decided not to create new social media accounts until the U.S. Congress passes internet privacy and safety regulations.
Will you join me?
Social Media Harms provides a listing of peer-reviewed studies, books and articles from authoritative sources that document the negative effects of social media use. The website also includes links to organizations that promote safe social media and internet use.