October 10, 2017

A public resignation letter to a Facebook group chat

I finally quit Facebook.

I have a long-running group thread there with very close friends. What follows is my message addressed to them detailing why I am going away, at least for now. I am maintaining a very close eye on how I feel deleting this account. Somehow the phrase "excommunicated" does not feel hyperbolic. I'll be fine, and so will we. Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there.

Anyway,

Hi my friends. Writing this to let you know that I love you all deep, and that I hope to see you elsewhere online soon. I’m parting from this group and from Facebook writ large. I’ve considered dropping off Facebook for months now, and now I’ve gone and done it. I exported several years of data to my laptop and deleted the account. WIthin 14 days, I won’t exist on Facebook at all.

It’s a pretty deep-rooted and rational belief of mine that Facebook willingly maintains zero alignment with the best interests of the 2 billion monthly users they presently hold onto. How could they? Two billion? It’s not possible to scale best interest that high - not today. The balance of power cannot possibly be equal with a centralized, ad-supported platform.

I’m taking a big leap by deleting this account - walking away from events, group chats, photo sharing, all of it - but I’m pretty committed to the idea that something more aligned will replace it shortly. I just don’t believe this platform will improve soon enough for it to not cause more substantial harm than it already has, both to the individual and to our society. I don’t believe being a Facebook user is a fair trade at this point, considering how much they get in exchange from us.

It’s not lost on me that via chat polls and event invites, I made use of their platform to stay organized with everyone here. Remember though, I always offered us the option to “get fucked.” Here I go.

All I can say is that I feel obligated to take a principled stance as they begin publishing full-page ads in news outlets which hold influence over high-powered political decision-makers. They have been forced to take responsibility for their role in Trump’s election and countless other issues they have avoided taking ownership of. “We connect people, we are just a platform” is a lame, lame excuse. In fact, some time before Zuckerberg acknowledged their complicity, he called the possibility of it a “pretty crazy idea.”

“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea. Voters make decisions based on their lived experience” (published Nov 10, 2016.)

[Are experiences on Facebook not "lived experience"? Asking for 2 billion friends, monthly.]

Sept 28, 2017 - “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”

Zuck then turned over “all information to special counsel Robert Mueller, which included copies of the ads and the ostensible identity of the purchasers.”

A Google search for “zuckerberg crazy election” will show you more.

So I’m out. If the events, photos, chats follow me where I land - I hope they do - I’ll see you there. Otherwise, I’ll be available by email, cell, Signal, and on twitter as @brozena.

All my love, offline and on, in all our shared "lived experiences",

Jeff


Further reading

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product

https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2016/08/13/mimesis-violence-and-facebook-peter-thiels-french-connection-full-essay/

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/

https://www.l2inc.com/daily-insights/no-mercy-no-malice/12-questions-for-big-tech

https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-god-only-knows-what-its-doing-to-our-childrens-brains-2508036343.html

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/19/opinion/facebook-regulation-incentive.html


Here's Azeem Azhar who curates a killer newsletter called Exponential View in an interview -

What’s the most nefarious thing you see AI doing right now? Do you see anything that you think is bad for society or humanity at large?

Sure: Facebook.

Is that a mic-drop response?

I’ll explain. Facebook is a quintessential model for what a company needs to do in order to execute an AI strategy well. But it’s nefarious. Where to begin. The idea that we are all connected in some fabric is a really powerful idea. Unfortunately the way the company makes its decisions, from a mission-driven perspective—and a very naive perspective as to a business’s role in society—is responsible for the mess that Facebook creates today. The product designers have elected to make decisions that trigger people to feel jealous, to always be on display—always preening, always showing, always competing with each other. It triggers a fear of missing out. I know we have a shot at building a global social network that doesn’t trigger what’s essentially the Seven Deadly Sins.

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