I posted this on Facebook last night and am sharing it here. There comes a time …
For several years, I’ve wrestled with the reality that — behind all the wonderful, cute, sweet, moving, emotional, beautiful, informative, funny, nostalgic and sad posts, photos and memories I’ve liked, loved, wowed at, laughed at, commented on and utterly cherished for so long — Facebook is just plain evil.
Despite the fact that most of us simply want to use it mostly to share what’s happening in our lives and stay in touch with our dear family and friends, it’s also been a never-ending flood of misinformation, a stage for the worst of humanity to incite violence and spread hate and lies. The people who run the platform, along with Instagram (which I’m not on), from Mark Zuckerberg on down, have refused to take the steps necessary to clean it up and make it less divisive and safer.
I’ve stayed on FB for what must be 13 years, because the thought of leaving and losing contact with so many loved ones and not being able to keep up with what and how they and their families are doing — and to let them know how we’re doing — saddens me to my core. Kay has pleaded with me for years to close my account because of the controversies that have shrouded Facebook for so long, and I’ve explained to her why it would be so difficult for me to do so.
It’s the only way I find out that many friends and former colleagues are battling health issues, when their children get married, when they’re celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, when grandchildren are born, when they’ve changed jobs or retired, what colleges their children have chosen, and so very much more. And, painfully, it’s sometimes the only way I find out when they or their spouses or, saddest of the sad, their children have passed away.
But as much as it hurts me to say this, it’s time. In the coming weeks, I’ll be leaving Facebook. I have contact information for many of you, but I hope others will send me theirs so we can stay in touch.
The final, 2-ton straw came tumbling down Sunday night, when Kay and I watched the 60 Minutes piece in which former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen spoke candidly about how the platform continues to put profits ahead of people rather than putting in place the protections it should have instituted long ago. When Haugen left FB in May, she took with her tens of thousands of pages of company records to prove her case to regulators and lawmakers.
Haugen, the whistleblower whose identity hadn’t been known until her 60 Minutes appearance, also testified today (Tuesday) to a Senate subcommittee and received bipartisan support for her comments about Facebook’s questionable practices and the need for a regulatory crackdown. She didn’t hold back blame for Zuckerberg: “There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but Mark himself,” she said.
The hearing also covered allegations regarding Instagram, which FB’s research has shown creates intense peer pressure among young users, especially girls, causing suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, according to a Los Angeles Times report that we’re running on the front page of The Dallas Morning News tomorrow.
As you all know, the controversies involving Facebook go back years and involve more than what’s happening now. Chillingly, Facebook Live has been used to broadcast murders, suicides and other acts of violence. In 2018, there was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data analytics firm illegally obtained the data of tens of millions of Facebook users.
The same year, it was reported that Facebook had been used to incite the Myanmar military’s genocide against the Muslim Rohingya minority. And two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission fined FB $5 billion for violations of user privacy, a record fine for a tech company. Those are just a few of Facebook’s numerous PR nightmares.
I get it. We all want a way to stay connected with one another and to know what’s going on in our lives — and this is a free, easy way to do it. But the folks at Facebook have been doing things the wrong way for a long time, and they’ve got to fix them. If it takes Congress coming up with regulations to put — and keep — safeguards that will truly work in place, then so be it.
My decision to leave Facebook is very difficult, because I love seeing all of you and your families on a regular basis. But this is about what’s right and doing the right thing.
I’m sure some, maybe many, of you have had the same misgivings, and maybe the whistleblower’s account is enough to send you packing like me. I hope so.
After I figure out how to save some things, I’ll close my account. I’m not sure when that’ll be, but I’ll let y’all know.
You know what, though? This has been a hell of a lot of fun. Thank you all. Much love.