Quitting Social Media

This article went hugely viral I quit Instagram and Facebook and it made me a lot happier — and that’s a big problem for social media companies

The article went viral because it encompasses many shared themes and narrative. The article, in its criticism of social media, could be considered an indictment on modernity. Everyone regardless of politics can agree that excessive use of social media leads to envy, narcissism, unhappiness, intrusion of privacy, a distorted sense of reality, and is a waste of time. Even people in Silicon Valley who use social networking can agree. The constant need to compete and compare one’s self to others can be considered one of the ills of modernity.

These arguments sometimes become receptive and tiresome though…”Yeah. I get it. Social media sucks. Delete your Facebook and Twitter and stop talking about how bad social media is. You don’t have to made a big occasion out of it.” There is a status-seeking angle in that by announcing you are quitting or taking a break from social media, you get positive feedback by others. I don’t think social media is that bad. Twitter can sometimes be good for entertainment value. Seeing Tooleb call someone who is more accomplished and smarter than him a ‘moron’ never fails to amuse, or seeing the responses in the comments when someone who is important has a foot-in-mouth moment (Jordan Peterson and his Brett Kavanaugh tweet comes to mind).

The author writes:

#DeleteFacebook, once unthinkable, is now a very real trend. And it poses a growing threat to Facebook’s bottom line, and its future.

Yes it’s a real trend, but just not that big relatively speaking nor is it a threat to Facebook. To get an idea of how successful Facebook is and how fast they are growing, the PE ratio right now is just 21 and the price is around $140. By comparison, it had a PE ratio of 122 and the price was at $24 in 2012. That is a 32x gain in earnings in six years, which is possibly the most growth of any company in existence.

Despite the protestations from the media and articles such as this, the vast majority of people who use Instagram and Facebook don’t really care that much if their data is being used by advertisers. Those who care enough quit Facebook is maybe only 1% of total users.

You are much more likely to have your data logged and used in a malicious manner by visiting a small website than Facebook or Google. I can put a few lines of code on this blog that can tell me the geographic location of every visitor with pretty good accuracy, and some other data like ISP. Any website can do this, and the vast majority do. That is what the FBI does to break pedophile and drug rings. They hack small websites such as forums or darknet onion sites and inject tracking code. To the best of my knowledge, they have never been able to do this to Facebook or Twitter. It’s just that a massive website like Facebook does not care that Joe Blow likes Abba or whatever. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are inundated with so much noise that the vast majority of it is ignored and never seen by a human. But a smaller website can easily eavesdrop on its users.

Facebook’s ability to target ads based on user preferences means Facebook can make more money and this improves overall used experience in the form of new features and better reliability. I don’t see anything immoral or unethical with targeted ads, because both parties benefit: the advertisers get a higher conversion rate and the user is more inclined to buy. If I’m a male gun enthusiast, would I rather see gun ads or ads for maternity clothes? Look at Myspace. It couldn’t made enough money and it failed, and the site was total crap when it was popular. Also important, Facebook and Twitter are free, which is nice because more and more sites are using paywalls.