No, you don’t need to #DeleteFacebook

Posted on April 13, 2018

Right Now with Nick Smith (Linkedin/Twitter)
What I’m reading: remember when I was excited to start Science & The City? I haven’t read a single page yet. All news and white papers. Sad.
What I’m watching: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge — in 1980s Japan, game show debuted where 100 contestants tried to summit a mountain of obstacles. In 2000s America, the footage was dubbed over and the contest edited to seem like a team challenge. Think of it like Mystery Science Theater 3000 mashed up with ABC’s Wipeout, and now it’s all on YouTube!
What I’m listening to: yesterday I polled my Facebook friends on their favorite cover songs based on this Get Up Kids cover of The Cure’s “Close To Me” and today’s all about getting through that list.

“Facebook,” I hear you say? Of course I’m still using Facebook. Aren’t you?

In case you somehow don’t know, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent this week facing the living hell of explaining core internet concepts to the grandparents of Congress for his company’s part in allowing a seedy data firm unfettered access to the information of nearly 100 million users, and people are responding by deleting their accounts in droves.
Let’s face a hard truth right out of the gate here. If someone you know is mad about this whole thing, they really need to be looking inward with that. Nobody was forcing them to participate. In fact, the closest I think you can get to being forced to participate in Facebook is the position I find myself in, where I need an account to administrate the pages that comprise my job.
But what does Facebook know about you? That you ate waffles at a diner in Indiana once? That you took a selfie in front of Big Ben? What your face looks like? Even how you might vote? Big deal. Unless you lost control of some truly sensitive information, like your social security number … wait, this sounds familiar. I wrote a poem about this:

Did you #DeleteExperian when they
let your actual, future-decidingly sensitive information
that you had no choice but to divulge
slip into the hands of dark web hackers,
illegally profited from it,
and didn’t face any punishment?

You didn’t, because you can’t, and I’ll admit it’s a bit of a false equivalence, but I think it makes the point.  Also I bet you never saw a poem with a hyperlink in it before.
This brings me to my final thoughts, the first of which is that you can’t unring a data bell. If you put something on the internet, it’s probably going to be there forever, and the harder you push the harder it’s likely to push back. Even if you think you’re going to “punish” Facebook by deleting your account, I can assure you that it doesn’t matter. They already have your data drop in their bucket, and you’re only going to miss out on more and more of the things that caused you to signed up in the first place.
My second thought is this is just one bump on a long road of figuring out social media and the new always-connected internet landscape. Facebook might have screwed up, or been careless, by not seeing this coming, but they didn’t break any laws. This is largely because those laws don’t currently exist, but this type of thing is about the only thing can cause a room full of lawmakers to  make them, and quite possibly smooth out the road ahead.

So don’t overreact. If you want to manage this, simply be mindful of what you share. Check your app permissions. Find out what Facebook knows. Maybe delete the app from your phone (it does share a lot of location data). But don’t act like removing yourself from Facebook isn’t the absolute worst thing that you or your agency can possibly do in terms of controlling your narrative. I’ve received messages from more than one of you in the past two weeks who are facing this discussion at work, and I’m stunned. In a world beset on all sides with #FakeNews — which is something I’ll be discussing at #ELGL18 — it’s more important now than ever to keep your seat at the table. I’ll see you there!

(that last GIF is Jack Kerouac. Road, poetry, I’m trying here okay?)

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