why weird things is leaving facebook, and you should too

From abusing your data, to refusing to deal with dangerous hoaxes and fake news, to undermining brands and limiting their reach, Facebook is the worst of social media.
facebook misery factory

For more than a decade now, WoWT has maintained a Facebook page to post links to the latest articles, make the occasional announcement, and even experimented with some ads. But times change and after recent and no so recent developments, it’s time to abandon the platform that has now become a a living example of how to screw up every possible way to do social media. It began for the worst reasons, and while it was fine as a way for college students to communicate and organize events, it’s now a cesspool of fake news and dangerous, sometimes deadly misinformation. For a popular science site to be associated with it today seems simply unconscionable at this point.

By prioritizing engagement over everything else for the sake of growth and stock price, and breaking the web in the process, it allows accurate information and factual news to be very quickly buried in an avalanche of bullshit which very much justifies the thesis that comparing what it has become today across the world to a sewer is an insult to sewers. Not only that, but its recommendation algorithms can and do block anything that gives you cognitive dissonance by design, limiting the reach of anyone actually burdened by facts and freeing and amplifying anyone who’s perfectly fine with manufacturing controversies and lying to get another batch of followers or a few hundred likes. But that’s not the only reason to leave Facebook.

facebook encourages its users’ worst behaviors

Now, it would be unfair to blame Facebook and the rest of social media for creating all the ugly things we see on it. That’s a function of either human amorality or evil combined with a total lack of impulse control. But where social media fails us is in encouraging this lack of thought and rewarding us for airing our worst opinions on a whim by connecting us with others who share the same awful worldviews, allowing for intellectual inbreeding that lets our negative traits fester into their most destructive permutations. Facebook is not unique in this, but with an enormous user base, a lackadaisical attitude about fixing its shortcomings, and a tendency to pocket the revenue from doing the wrong thing, it’s one of the worst offenders.

its most active audience is a bad fit for many publishers

While this isn’t strictly true when it comes to nations in Southeast Asia and Africa, Facebook’s most active demographic today seems to be angry, conspiratorial, politically obsessed boomers who aren’t really there to engage with content they might not like as much as they attack it. Younger generations are keeping their accounts active to stay in touch with their families but are cutting down on it in favor of other social media platforms which won’t greet them with Aunt Betty’s fresh 7,000-word tirade about how minorities and immigrants are destroying her beloved country. After all, there’s a reason one of millennials’ favorite jokes about Facebook calls it an app that tells them which of their relatives and friends are racist.

If you’re a current events publisher looking for a very politically active, angry audience, then yes, Facebook is great for you. For popular science and technology, however, Instagram and Twitter are much better matches. And yes, while Instagram is owned by Facebook, its laser focus on pictures does help to curb some of those worst behaviors and generally attracts a younger, less hostile following. We could also talk about Snapchat, but its focus on quick, ephemeral clips, like a self-destructing Vine, limits what will work on the platform. As for Tik Tok, the specter of Chinese tech companies which have no choice but to work closely with an authoritarian government is not something to take lightly.

its design cheapens and undermines your brand

Like all social media today, Facebook uses a design paradigm known as Flat UI. When it’s done right, this approach is not a problem. In fact, WoWT and many, many other sites use it to lower the amount of data needed to display them and limit graphics to a minimum, improving load time and bandwidth usage in the process. However, the way it’s used on Facebook makes it a lot more difficult to detect sources of information and their credibility because every link looks the same. If anything, the platform’s interface is a hoaxer’s dream and makes it a cinch to seem respectable even if you’re basically recycling Satanic Panic content from what used to be gaudy GeoCities sites with graphics seemingly created to blind you with their insanity.

your reach on facebook is deliberately limited and pay for play

WoWT has thousands of likes and follows on Facebook but every post only reaches maybe a tenth of the total audience that deliberately subscribed to see updates over the course of a week. Want to reach all of your subscribers? That will be anywhere between $20 to $300 per post please. So, while the platform encourages your fans’ likes and follows and tells you to do anything you can to keep engaging those fans, it holds being able to talk to them hostage and you pay for impressions rather than clicks. It’s not just exploitative to publishers, it’s unfair to subscribers who said they wanted to see their content. Facebook is pretty much ignoring your preferences if the pages you like don’t pay it enough to respect them.

facebook ads don’t improve traffic over the long haul

Ads on Facebook definitely bring in clicks and can boost your traffic while they’re running, but the reality of the matter is that you’re not so much advertising as much as you’re buying views and ride a small, maybe 24 to 72 hour bump afterward from the occasional share or like that shows up in the feed of a user’s friend. Unless you have a massive, venture capitalist backed marketing budget, you’re not going to see any substantial increase in engagement, and even that will come from basically Zerg rushing enough timelines with ads to get coverage in other publications by sheer inertia. But again, make no mistake, you’re just buying enough clicks to hopefully get noticed. That’s how Facebook lets you play when you pay.

it’s a technical and privacy nightmare

In case you’ve stuck to the app lately, you may not have noticed that the main desktop site has become a monstrous, insanely cluttered behemoth with a horridly organized timeline and you may as well go out to make yourself a cup of coffee after every click before your request gets processed. Meanwhile, the platform sucks up every scrap of data it can get its hands on and is selling access to it so aggressively, they were fined for their overzealous behavior. However, since the fine wasn’t even a slap on the wrist but more of a stern wag of a finger, you can bet Zuckerberg and company just added a line item for another fine and are continuing to spy on you like a creepy mouth-breathing stalker in a soiled trench coat.

how exactly do you quit facebook?

And this brings us to the final issue with Facebook and the difficulty of leaving it. Because it’s a social media oligopoly and has literally billions of users, a lot of people you want to reach are on it and will use it regardless of what you tell them or how you warn them. This means that while WoWT will be deleting its page, the site still has to offer a way to share links on the platform for those who still really want to use it. But at least this gives readers a choice and they don’t have to click the link, while actively sharing articles on Facebook solicits further engagement with the compromised and problematic service. In other words, WoWT will no longer help Facebook make money off the site and its readers unless the readers make the choice to allow it.

# tech // facebook / social media / weird things


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