Dear Facebook: It's Not Me, It's You

So let’s say, hypothetically, one wanted to break up with Facebook? Just how would one do that?

I heard one person say that swearing off Facebook was being in a “position of privilege.” That was an odd statement, until I thought about it a bit. This person was right. Much as I’d like to follow in retired tech journalist Walter Mossberg’s footsteps and quit Facebook cold turkey, I don’t think I can. I am not in that position. I am not so privileged.

This is no way condones Facebook and its actions. I’m still pretty pissed off about that. I suspect I might well be in an abusive relationship. I have this suspicion because I looked it up on, a website offered by the American Addictions Centers. According to them, an abusive relationship is “where one thing mistreats or misuses another thing. The important words in this definition are 'mistreat' and 'misuse'; they imply that there is a standard that describes how things should be treated and used, and that an abuser has violated that standard.

For the most part, only human beings are capable of being abusive, because only human beings are capable of understanding how things should be treated in the first place and then violating that standard anyway.”

That sounds bang-on when I think about how Facebook has treated its users and their personal data. And everyone will tell you that if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you should get out.

But it’s not that easy. And that’s because of Metcalfe’s Law. Originally applied to telecommunication networks, it also applies to digitally mediated social networks. Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.”

The example often used is a telephone. If you’re the only person with one, it’s useless. If everyone has one, it’s invaluable. Facebook has about 2.3 billion users worldwide. That’s one out of every three people on this planet. Do the math. That’s a ton of value. It makes Facebook what they call very “sticky” in Silicon Valley.

But it’s not just the number of users that makes Facebook valuable. It’s also the way they use it. Facebook always intended to become the de facto platform for broad-based social connection. As such, it is built of “weak ties” -- those social bonds that connect scattered nodes in a network, as  defined by Mark Granovetter almost 50 years ago.

To go back to the aforementioned “position of privilege” comment, the privilege in this case is a lack of dependence on weak ties.

My kids could probably quite Facebook. At least, it would be easier for them than it would be for me. But they also are not in the stage of their life where weak ties are all that important. They use other platforms, like Snapchat, to communicate with their friends. That's a channel built for strong ties.

If they do need to bridge weak ties, they escalate their social postings, first to Instagram, then, finally, to their last resort: Facebook. It’s only through Facebook where they’ll reach parents, aunts, cousins and grandmas all at once.

It’s different for me. I have a lifetime of accumulated weak ties that I need to connect with all the time. And Facebook is the best way to do it. I connect with various groups, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues on an as-needed basis.  I also need a Facebook presence for my business, because it’s expected by others who need to connect to me. I don’t have the privilege of severing those ties.

So, I’ve decided that I can’t quit Facebook. At least, not yet.

But I can use Facebook differently -- more impersonally. I can use it as a connection platform rather than a channel for personal expression. I can make sure as little of my personal data falls into Facebook’s hands as possible.

I don’t need to post what I like, how I’m feeling, what my beliefs are or what I do daily. I can close myself off to Facebook, turning this into a passionless relationship. From now on, I’ll consider it a tool --  not a friend nor confidante, not something I can trust -- just a way to connect when I need to. My personal life is none of Facebook’s business -- literally.

For me, this will be the first step in preventing more abuse.
6 comments about "Dear Facebook: It's Not Me, It's You".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Becarren Schultz from Ameritest, January 15, 2019 at 3:25 p.m.

    Would you mind sharing what you have found to be the best practices for protecting data from Facebook? I am having this very conversation at least 3 times a week and I would prefer to not leave because of Metcalfe's law BUT I feel so icky everytime I go back to the abuser, I mean, Facebook.

  2. Dan Kidd from Datawallet, January 15, 2019 at 6:10 p.m.


    It will be difficult to prevent Facebook from having any data about you and still have it function as you are used to. But, you can take some defintive steps to limit what you will allow Facebook to do with your data such as retarget ads based on what they know about you and limit their ability to share any data you have created with any other "partners".  This is a first step and the controls are avalilable, although a bit complex to find in your Facebook settings. 

    The second step, and it applies to data you create across other platforms as well, is to aggregate that data in a place where you control who can access it and for what purpose.  We refer to that as the Consumer Data Revolution, empowering individuals like you to to be able to control your data. For more details,

    Dan Kidd

    CRO, Datawallet

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 15, 2019 at 6:55 p.m.

    Do not click on anything such as ads or "watching" anything on fbeast. Do not buy or sell anything. Do not use it for anything but the bare bones connections. Do not feed the beast. 

  4. Phillip Nones from Mullin/Ashley Associates, Inc., January 16, 2019 at 12:01 p.m.

    Perhaps the best way to approach Facebook is to think of it as "Linkedin for non-business-related purposes."  A place to engage with friends and family but not on matters of great import or substance. 

    Hobbies and interests, yes.  Polite social interactions, yes.  Deep thoughts ... personal matters such as politics, health or family relatoinships ... any potentially controversial subjects -- not so much.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, January 18, 2019 at 8:48 p.m.

    Good post Gord.

    Though IMHO Metcalfe's Law only applies to the owner and not the user.

    I have 830 Linkedin connections and no idea how it got so big.   I reckon I'd "know" one-tenth of them and discourse with one-tenth of those in any month.   I have 790 Contacts in my Outlook - some going back 15+ years.   Interaction would probably be with one-fifth.

    That is 80%-90% of my contacts and connections are of historical or unknown origin and therefore of limited value, if indeed any value of all (and yes too lazy to do a clear out).

    This broadly accords with Dunbar's Number.

    Of course a public network can afford (indeed requires) many magnitudes larger, but that is a magnitude that offers virtually no benefit to the average person (bloggers, instgrammers etc. aside who have truckloads of singular outbound connections). 

  6. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 21, 2019 at 2:20 p.m.

    Slightly off-subject, but I can't let a false premise go unchallenged. gets a failing grade for claiming that "For the most part, only human beings are capable of being abusive, because only human beings are capable of understanding how things should be treated in the first place and then violating that standard anyway."

    All living things, from a few cells on up, are constantly violating a standard ("live and let live" being a primary standard) and being abusive to other living things, in order to simply survive. ... And isn't that how FB got so big in the first place?

Next story loading loading..