May 3, 2019

The Facebook Dilemma

Facebook scrabble tiles

Maybe I am too hard on myself, but I've never felt like I could take credit for "boycotting" something I'd never buy anyway. I can't claim that I am boycotting Chick-fil-A when I'd never eat there because I find their chicken-flavored wallpaper paste to be disgusting. Similarly, I can't claim that I am boycotting the Boy Scouts Christmas tree lots when I'd never buy a Christmas tree (because it is clearly forbidden). And even though I generally try to steer clear of the more obnoxious religious businesses, I have trouble identifying what I am doing as a boycott unless it involves a real sacrifice on my part.

We all make decisions about what we do with our money. We decide where to shop, what to buy, what causes to support, and so on. When we learn that a business we are used to supporting or a brand we are used to buying is doing something we don't like, we have the right to take our money elsewhere. This is what some refer to as our power as consumers. It is a power I don't think we use nearly often enough.

This topic has been on my mind lately because I am having an increasingly difficult time wanting to maintain any sort of relationship with "the Facebook." It seems like the company has been in the news constantly over the past few years and never for anything remotely positive. Some have already cut their ties to Facebook, and I am sure many more are thinking about it. I'm one of those who has been thinking about it.

I shut down the long-running Mississippi Atheists Facebook page I maintained for several years, and my displeasure with Facebook was a factor in this decision. I looked at how I have been using Facebook and decided that a good first step for me to take would be to delete everything that was non-essential. The Mississippi Atheists page had been on life support for some time, and letting it go was an obvious place to start. I have never done much with my personal Facebook account. Since I don't use it much and haven't shared any meaningful personal information with it, I'm not sure there is much of an upside to deleting it.

What to do with the Atheist Revolution Facebook page is the big question I have yet to resolve. It drives as much if not more traffic as any other social media platform I use, and it does so with minimal effort on my part. It provides this benefit even though I rarely visit Facebook to interact with it. Shutting it down would mean a noticeable drop in traffic. With Google+ shutting down, Facebook is already accounting for an even greater proportion of my social media traffic. I am not aware of any alternative platforms that would come close in offsetting this sort of traffic drop.

It isn't all about traffic either. There are people on Facebook who only interact with my content on Facebook. While this drives me crazy at times because I wish they would leave comments here where others could see them, I'd hate to cut that off completely. Hearing from them on a platform I don't like is better than not hearing from them at all. Maybe a few of them would find their way here if I shut down the Facebook page, but most wouldn't.

So why think about shutting the page down at all? As long as I maintain a page on Facebook, I am supporting it by sharing my content there. Even though I'm not paying them to do, I'm still contributing to the machine. And that means that I am a part of all the things they are doing that I don't like. This is true for everyone who uses Facebook, and that's a hard pill to swallow.

We all have different thresholds for how much crap we are willing to endure. Some have already reached theirs and have walked away from Facebook. I guess I haven't quite reached mine. It feels like I am getting closer, but I'm also not sure where the line is.