Imagine I told you that I could flat-out solve the problem of staying in touch with the people you care about? I know that you know hundreds of people from different times in your life, and I know that you can’t keep track of their contact information, let alone find time to check in with them periodically. Well I’m going to make it easy for you; I’ll take all the work out of it. I’ll apply my secret powers to serve you as your one and only social information broker. I’ll make information about your friends’ lives flow to you, and I’ll make information about your life flow to them. It’ll be great. You’ll know what they’re up to, all the time, and they’ll know what you’re up to, all the time. But there’s a catch. Without explicitly requiring it, I’m going to encourage you to check in with me a few dozen times a day. Without explicitly demanding it, I’m going to persuade you to dedicate hours and hours of your week to me. And while you’re coming to me for information about your friends, I’m going to show you a few advertisements and notifications. Yes, I’ll let you know how your college classmate’s cancer treatment is going (second round of chemo for Stage IV cancer) but before I tell you that, I’m going to ask you if you want to buy a wristwatch, and after I tell you that I’m going to see if you’re interested in taking a trip to the Bahamas. I’m going to tell you about the death of a beloved former co-worker (tragic heart attack while on vacation) and give you a chance to say something about it, but while you’re grieving, I’m going to flash some notifications in your face (a few people are sending you messages right now, someone else “likes” a joke you made earlier, and I’m still wondering if you want to buy that wristwatch or go to the Bahamas). I’m going to give you a chance to read a friend’s review of a fascinating book about the future of democracy, but while you’re reading that thoughtful and lengthy review, I’m going to give you the opportunity to watch a video of a boxing match, if you prefer; or a video of some models on a catwalk, if you prefer; or a video of cats being silly, if you prefer. I’m going to show you a photo of a beautiful cake that your loving grandmother just baked, but before and after I do that, I’m going to show you some hateful and false things a few of your friends are saying (meanwhile, I hope you’ll consider that wristwatch). And as all this is happening, I’m going to keep careful notes about everything you do and say in my presence. Every time you ask me for more information about something, I’ll make a note of it. Every time you react to something I showed you, I’ll make a note of it. Every time you say something to a friend through me as your broker, I’ll make a note of it. I’m going to take all those notes about you and sell them to some friends of my own who are very curious about you, but don’t worry about them, I assure you they have your best interests at heart. Are you interested in that wristwatch, by any chance?
That’s why I left Facebook. I closed my account on Dec 13, 2019, two days after my Farewell, Facebook post. I was going to keep it open for a few more days but a friend posted a playful comment questioning whether I was really going to leave. I took this as a challenge. Of course, Facebook tries its best to lure users back and doesn’t make an account deletion permanent for thirty days. So I’m still in purgatory as I type this. That’ll end on Jan 12, 2020.
Addendum: the reason why I chose to use a wristwatch ad as an example in this post is because I recently learned the tongue-twister “I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch” and challenged a friend to say it. Shortly after he said it aloud, he started seeing Facebook mobile ads for wristwatches, for the very first time. This suggests a new tongue-twister:
I wish to wish to wash my Irish wristwatch, risking not my wishing’s watched.