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My Decision to Disconnect

“Want me to buy you some tinfoil for a hat?” – “You’re not important enough for anyone to spy on.”  – “You’ve gone of the deep end.” – “I’ve got nothing to hide.” – “The millennial social media addiction is real.” “It’s disturbing what Facebook and Google have been doing.” –  “The only reason I stay on there is because my girlfriend uses Facebook Messenger” – All things that I heard when I started openly communicating my intent to disconnect from social media.

I can’t really pinpoint the moment when I was pushed over the edge.  Just to give you some context – I’ve never really been a big Facebook user in that I’ve never used it as a news source, I didn’t regularly check my ‘feed’, and I didn’t make posts regularly (maybe once every 2-6 months).  At most, I used Facebook for the messenger on a less-than-daily basis and I would use it for organizing events.  It was a mixture of these five sources that seemed to “trigger” my latest privacy rally: (1) “Get your loved ones off Facebook“, (2) “Why privacy matters“, (3) “Our Next President: Also Brought to You by Big Data and Digital Advertising“, (4) “Partnering with global carriers to upgrade SMS“, and (5) Trump.

I would summarize my reasons for leaving Facebook as follows:

[1] The feeling that I was being watched/observed was approaching the point where I no longer felt comfortable.  Everyone has their tolerance levels, and I felt that mine had been breached.  When I can no longer sit in my house and feel that I have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g.: that my audio isn’t being recorded via my phone/Echo/webcam/laptop microphone, or that my conversations [both verbal and textual] aren’t being stored for analysis by Verizon, Google, Facebook, and various government entities) – that’s when I start to get uncomfortable.  This is the “prison of the mind” that Glenn Greenwald describes (see source #2 above).  The feeling of being watched/observed breeds conformist, non-threatening citizens.  People become afraid to be themselves, even in the comfort of their own homes.  The mentality “if you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to worry” should never be the prevailing sentiment for citizens.  The prevailing sentiment should rather be targeted at our leaders “if you’re making decisions in good faith, in an honest effort to benefit those you are governing – you have no reason to worry about what your citizens are talking about in their private conversations“.

[2] I did not feel that it was appropriate for Facebook to be making endorsements to my friends under my name for products that I did not personally, explicitly endorse.  This is apparently a form of advertising being practiced by Facebook (see source #1) above.  I don’t like the idea of me browsing websites, and then based on my browsing behaviors Facebook inferring that I ‘endorse’ a product.  Yeah, it’s great – AI is smart, but if I don’t explicitly state my endorsement for a product, you shouldn’t be putting words in my mouth.

[3] The amount of fake news articles being propagated was unacceptable (see source #3 above).  As seen in the last election, these fake news articles can be used very easily to re-enforce people’s opinions – allowing them to create a sort-of ‘bubble’ where they can surround themselves with only those who think alike.  Humanity progresses best when there is unity – not when divisions are created.  Divisions are created by leaders who don’t have a population’s best interest in mind.  Divisions are created to provide people with an easy scapegoat – allowing for groups of the population to blame others for their misfortunes.  What good does that do?  I’m not blaming the election results on Facebook – I’m accusing Facebook of allowing their advertising clients to create these divisions – which allows for people to form these microcosms where they’re surrounded only by those who agree with them.

Just as an FYI – I followed the tutorials on this website to delete my Facebook account.  My intent moving forward is to disconnect from Google as well, but that transition will take a bit longer due to the fact that my current phone is the Google Pixel, and I still rely on Google for quite a few of their services.  Slow and Steady.

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