My Facebook Problem

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly unhappy with social media, especially Facebook. The standard advice for bloggers and authors is to use Facebook to drive eyeballs to your blog and books. But, in practice, what Facebook really wants is for me to create content for free that Facebook will use to harvest data and ad revenue. Facebook wants me to shut down this blog and move to its walled garden.

If Facebook’s betrayal of the supposedly free and open promises of the 1990s era internet wasn’t bad enough there’s the increasingly creepy uses of the massive amounts of data it harvests. A memo authored by Australian Facebook executives and leaked to the press last year revealed Facebook’s ability to monitor, in real time, the mood of teens and serve them ad content based on “when young people feel “stressed”, “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless” and a “failure”.”

To blame social media itself is not entirely fair and would be what academics call “technological determinism,” the idea that technology drives ideology rather than the other way around. In fact Facebook exists only because our culture itself has narcissistic, exploitative, anti-community, anti-social tendencies that business people in Silicon Valley are able to take advantage of.

So the answer is delete your Facebook account, right? It’s not so easy. Facebook has done a good job of eliminating competition and embedding itself in the culture. I’m on the board of an organization that uses Facebook for communication. If we write another book we’ll also, likely, need to do a social media campaign. As much as I’d like to I can’t delete my account.

Frankly, I haven’t been using Facebook much. That’s become increasingly easy for me despite Facebook’s allegedly addictive qualities. I find my Facebook news feed depressing and uninteresting. It’s mostly a stream of ineffective political ranting and virtue signalling even after Facebook tweaked their opaque algorithm to favor more personal posting. Sadly, the other thing I see in my feed are posts from distant acquaintances who, I suspect, are lonely and depressed. Facebook has an insidious ability to hook lonely people and make them more isolated.

As we’re about the practical and positive here at Root Simple, I’ve been pondering several strategies for managing Facebook. I went through Facebook’s settings and disabled everything that Facebook lets you disable. I stopped posting links to Root Simple in Facebook in the hopes of training people who want to keep up with me to go to this blog rather than look at my Facebook posts. If and when I post in Facebook I use Federico Tobon’s rule, “Post positive things. Mostly yours. Not too much.”

One of the strategies I find most promising is a browser extension called AdNauseum, developed by artist/programmer Daniel C. Howe and privacy expert Helen Nissenbaum. AdNauseum simultaneously blocks ads while, in the background, clicking on every ad in an effort to obfuscate and pollute the data advertisers are attempting to extract from us. Howe and Nissenbaum also created an similar extension called TrackMeNot that periodically does random Google, Yahoo and Bing searches to create a trail of digital noise. Unsurprisingly, Google is not happy about either program and took the unusual step of flagging AdNauseum as malware. Thankfully you can still download and use it via the AdNauseum website. The more of us that download and use these programs the better the noise and obfuscation strategy will work.

And yet, I don’t think any of these Facebook hacks are completely satisfactory. Perhaps its time to confront the core issues of loneliness and separation in our culture directly and consider Facebook as just an unfortunate byproduct of these deeper problems.  Which is why I want to hear from you, our readers. How do you use Facebook? If you deleted your account why did you do so and what were the implications? Do you use other social media, such as Instagram, as an alternative to Facebook?

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  1. I have never used Facebook, and I would prefer never to have to do so. In my own real world, I have watched as Facebook-mania has had a deeply negative impact on various people I know. It’s someplace I don’t want to go, and it’s an energy-eating demon that I just can’t afford to feed because I want my focus to be elsewhere. Although I understand that FB might offer some benefits business-wise, I would rather struggle alone than to become just another FB minion. Besides all that, I don’t believe that people need to know every little detail of my life (despite the fact that I have written much as a blogger) and they certainly don’t need to see pictures of me. And, frankly, I don’t want to feel like I should have to see pictures of everyone else’s special moments. If there’s too much of anything, then nothing is special anymore. I’d rather be just a little hungry than overfed.

  2. I am really disgusted with the platform, especially after the news this weekend that they sold ads to the Trump campaign for 99% less than those sold to Clinton, simply because they were worded as clickbait and were likely to generate more of a response.

    I would still like a way to keep in touch with a number of friends at once…that isn’t Twitter. Am looking for ideas. I’ve said it several times, but really…it’s time to go.

  3. I think you should delete your Facebook account regardless of your personal or business practices. If you sit on the board, then surely you must have some say about what platform your company uses to communicate? Considering how FB hoards and recycles user data, I’m surprised any company would use FB for comm as it’s a giant security hole. You are basically broadcasting your business intentions to FB and hackers.

  4. I have a Facebook account for the very rare occasions when I really need to go there to find important information. This is about once a month at most. I think the advice to disable everything that you can disable is good. Also make sure that your profile holds the absolute minimum information. I’m not sure whether putting bogus information here is a good idea because you may accidentally expose yourself to a whole new deluge of unwanted information.

    Never “friend” anyone because it is difficult to “unfriend” them without offense. I “friended” someone whom I wanted, vaguely, to keep in touch with. This resulted in a daily stream of updates being sent to my Gmail account from Facebook, detailing all of their family’s activities in horrid detail. I was not the slightest bit interested in this. Eventually, I put a filter on my Gmail account that sent anything from Facebook straight to the trash. There are probably better ways of doing this.

    Never “like” anything because you may be unintentionally authorizing some commercial enterprise to legally swamp you with annoying advertising and offers.

    Better not to have a Facebook account at all!

  5. I deleted my Facebook account for many of the same reasons you detailed. There were 2 groups I found helpful which I can’t access now, but I’m doing fine without them.

    I access your blog via Feedly, and use Stitcher for the podcasts. I do both of these on my tablet, which I seem to use more consciously than my phone. I will probably add AdNauseum or something similar, as well as an app to limit my time on the tablet.

    I do have to say that I enjoy your blog, and a few others, immensely and despite my Luddite-like views on life in general, I would miss it if we ever hit TEOTWAKI. Thanks for your work.

  6. I opened a fb account 5 years ago so I could communicate with my children during their travels. This means I have 3 friends and lately, fb has been letting me know that they are not happy with this. I have been informed that I can see more posts if I add more friends ( I see 4 current ones only), and just this weekend, I can no longer see my contacts. There is no way I am adding more friends. I find it insulting that it isn’t enough for fb that I have signed up, but now I can’t even decide how many friends to follow.
    Yes, I am looking for alternatives!

  7. I agree. At first, I thought FB was this wonderful tool to keep track of old friends and relatives. It was great to see more of my cousins and their families apart from the yearly Christmas letters. But, over the years, it has “commercialized” to what it is now. And the result is, as you say, nothing but insulting political memes and clickbait.

    But, as you said, it’s hard to get rid of it. Here’s what I’ve done. I still have my account, but no longer use it directly. When I’m on my laptop, I will open a tab to their messenger, which you can access outside of the FB website ( Then I at least get a beep if someone sends me an IM. Those also appear as notifications on my phone.

    For my surfing “fix”, I have started using a website called “feedly” to aggregate lots of blogs into different categories. Yours is in my “home and garden” group. It’s nice in that I can scroll through headlines of blog posts, and if one interests me, click in and read. But I have complete control over the content. And, the website syncs with the phone app, so if I read something (or click it as read) in one, it marks it on the other.

    Second, I’ve started subscribing to different user groups. On my phone, I have an app called tapatalk that, for a lot of groups, provides a common interface.

    Anyways, that is my story.



  8. I closed my account to FB in late spring 2015 and then went back and permanently deleted it back in early December after I saw someone was trying to hack into my account (thanks to emails from FB asking me if I was trying to log in). I downloaded my data before doing so, though. Quitting FB has been the best thing I have done on social media. I wax nostalgic for pre-smart phone era of online communication often….I really miss forums.

    I even quit Twitter back in August because it became too much. My last bastion is Instagram, which since being bought by FB has become problematic. I have multiple accounts that I use for different reasons, so each one has a different layer of how much effort I put into marketing or not marketing whatever I’m doing.

    I think what Seth Godin and others like him have clearly stated, make your website/blog/podcast/whatever the platform for content, not social media.

    Also: I find it crap that people require you to have FB for any kind of access or contact—such as my son’s daycare puts photos there for parents. Or school districts use it as their method for keeping in touch with homework.

    Oh, and the implication for deleting FB is finding out who your real friends are and if they care to text you for important life events. A formerly good friend of mine got remarried—I only know because my husband saw it on FB. But at the same time, pre-FB, we didn’t always know what everyone was doing and you really only kept in touch with a handful of people. So, I don’t see this as a big deal.

    And I agree with a previous poster: you too can delete Facebook.

  9. I deleted my account in 2011. There was too much political and judgmental garbage. So I did away with it. The people I wanted to stay in contact with never lost touch with me. The ones I wanted to lose touch with… bingo! Implications, I am a much happier human. I don’t have any social media accounts to date.

  10. I resisted FB for a long time and caved in 2011. I’ll be deleting my account in the next few days and have not used FB – only its Messenger – for months. Withdrawal ensued, and then peace of mind. Also some nostalgia for the time when blogs were new/significant, when I could develop bonds with other bloggers and feel some reciprocity, some kinship. People are spread too thin now, I feel. Too thin to care, often.

    I deleted my blog’s FB page a while back. It was pretty useless anyway, since I was unwilling to pay for more exposure and people found it “too hard” to actually visit my site and leave comments there. So all those comments went POOF, Kayzer Soze style.

    I used to love Twitter. I’m off that too, though my account is still there. After a while on Twitter I realized I could no longer read an actual book. That was quite the eye opener. I ran the other way.

    I am basically off social media now, and will be officially so in a few days. Just a few loose ends that need to be dealt with — some of my clients (I’m a translator. French/English) have taken to communicating with me through Messenger and I needed to steer them back to email. I also put one of my cousins in charge of telling me if ever something significant happens in our family, so I won’t miss everything. I enjoyed hearing more from my far-away cousins but let’s face it, we don’t call each other every year, so what am I really losing here? Illusions?

    I’ll admit the result of going off FB is solitude. Not loneliness per se, just “aloneness”. I live far out in the country and losing that (often fake/superficial) social interaction means carving out most of my non-nuclear-family interactions on a daily basis. It’s also inconvenient to lose access to some groups and events. But that’s all it is – an inconvenience. The gains outweigh these inconveniences. I think for myself. I have actual time to think. I don’t get sucked in useless arguments/conversations. And if “friends” forget all about me… again, what am I losing here? Not much.

    (I also, by choice, don’t have a cell phone. I’ve never had a smart phone or tablet. Nor do I feel a desire for an additional monthly [or other] expense. I’m weird like that… or so they tell me. I just don’t see the point.)

    I owe you a big thank you: I bought two of Geo R. Walker and Jim Tolpin’s books for my significant other’s birthday. I think he’ll love them. And “No such thing as a free watch” was a great read. (I read Root Simple via an RSS reader. There’s days when I feel really old. But I keep on keeping on.)

  11. There, another thank you: this post prompted me to start the FB account deletion process today. Done! Also? I just ordered Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. I figure that’s better than a simple thank you. 😉

  12. I installed Social Fixer, a browser add-on that blocks content I do not want to see. I now have a FB with no politics, no gun control wars, no cat pictures, no racist commentaries, no advertising posts. Much better now.

  13. Blogs and feeds suffice, as they always did, in my case. Killed off the FB account 5 years ago, then raised a glass to the Internet, as we knew and loved it.

  14. I got fb under duress from friends who said we could keep in touch. No, I am just a friend for a number. We weren’t that close, anyway. Finally, I made my account private. Now, I just don’t go there. Also, I don’t enter any contest with a company who demands I follow them on fb. The few bloggers I loved who went to fb instead of blogging lost me. I really missed them for a while, but I got over it and resisted the urge to follow them on fb.

  15. I deleted my FB account in 2010. I use something called Hubzilla to connect to other people. It runs on my own server (it is a de-centralized thing, so it connects to other people who are running compatible software ).

    That gives me everything I need as far as networking with people. I use a FeedReader to keep track of my favorite blogs and news sites.

  16. facebook became Myspace. It used to be classy, and why everyone left Myspace for facebook—- I remember initially I had to use my school email. And only connected with folks from college.

    I still use it now but just as secondary type communication, I simply just gmail.

    (ps. Do you guys know anyone doing Japanese joinery/woodwork in LA? thanx!)

    • So many thoughtful comments about Facebook here that I need to write another post to respond to them but I wanted to quickly answer your question. I don’t know of any Japanese joinery classes in SoCal but I did hear about a Japanese woodworking conference in Northern California that sounded interesting. I think these folks may have been involved: Perhaps if you write them they will know someone down here.

  17. I saw no reason to have a FB account until a friend was going through chemo and posting updates on her FB page. So, I set up a FB account, using a spare email address I had (not the email address that I use for communication with friends and family), as I was leery about privacy. I did not make a page about myself. Little did I know what troubles lay ahead.
    A day or two after I set up the FB account, I noticed that FB was suggesting that I contact people I knew (and even posting photos of them–not photos that I had). This was creepy. How did FB know that I knew those people (and I did know them)? Answer: FB was getting into the address book for the email address that I DID NOT give FB when I signed up. Creepier still. Several days later, my email was hacked (the email that I did not give to FB). I was up late on the phone, changing my password and talking to my ISP. The ISP told me that, unfortunately, they hear stories like mine frequently–and that they are almost always associated with FB. I closed my FB account. I will have nothing to do with FB.

  18. I find the ‘home’ page on FB to be chaotic and annoying so I mostly go there with the intention of looking up specific people or groups. And since it irritates me, I get very little pleasure using it so I don’t use it much at all. So I won’t close my account, but it’s probably been years since I posted anything.

  19. Love this post. So timely, and so relevant.

    I have gone through various phases of addiction to social media. My situation, by it’s very nature, is quite isolating, and FB, as well as other social media outlets, have given me a sense of connection, be it false or otherwise, when no other venues presented themselves.

    As the parent of a profoundly disabled child, many times I have been here in the home, unable to do more than be vigilant and hover over a sick child. FB, Instagram, and a couple of other platforms, have allowed me to venture out into the world in the only way available to me – virtually.

    Life is becoming more stable, and I have regret over the time that I have wasted on social media, although it did fill a void for me at times.

    This post is so timely. Just last week I attempted to permanently delete my FB account, and have had nothing but difficulty with their “captcha” system. I suspect they make it difficult to leave.

    Thanks for such a timely and relevant post. I have downloaded the extensions you mentioned and will navigate my way through using them. I have recently become incensed at the invasion of my privacy by many of the sites I’ve done business with over the years. We recently started using an IP anonymizer in an effort to be less visible online.

  20. I use both Feedly and Facebook. Feedly for the quick reading, FB for articles I wish to engage in discussion. Blogs are akin to someone with a loud speaker at a podium, while FB is like a townhall. In my perfect world, Feedly would create a universal comment and notification system (very important) like Disqus. I hate how FB keeps monkeying with their algorithms.

  21. I have been reading your blog since you first started it under that name that gave you such a legal hassle. I have you as one of my tabs so I can access you everyday. I remember when you went to FB and I tried to follow but reading on FB is too distracting. (too much other garbage going on with the FB pages)
    I started my FB page to keep up with family but have noticed that they are not posting as much as they used to. I am fed up with the rants that go on politically. And with FB in what I consider underhanded ways to try and get information from you. Several years ago I went it to try and delete my birth year and could not just go with no year. They demanded a year because I had already put one in when I started. So I made up some outrageous year that makes me over 100. Then I wanted to delete my schools and college info so they wrote ‘I did not go to high school’ on my info. Rather insulting as I have a doctorate but hey, my real friend know me.
    I am ready to dump FB completely but am hesitant to do so as as one other poster remarked, that is the only way to find out events going on in some rather large groups that I belong to.
    So anyway…no I do not read your FB page and only follow you on your blog; so I am glad you have kept it going.

    • Thank you for following our blog! And it’s the events that keep me from deleting my account too.

  22. I let friends sign me up for facebook in college. I kept it for a long time because “everyone is on facebook so they can find me there if they need me”. I always found myself dissatisfied after using it so I deleted it a few years ago and have not missed it one single day. Everyone is only on it because “everyone is there”. I love your blog, you guys are great and do great work, I’d be happy to help you organize a book event where I live if that’s the viable alternative to Facebook!

  23. Three years ago, I opened a second Facebook account with a new email address and invited all my old friends to my new account… then I promptly deleted my old account with all my historical data. I only use my new account twice a year when I need to contact someone I don’t regularly email. After a few days of feeling out of the loop, it was very rewarding to be off Facebook (like a weight was off my shoulders).

    As for keeping up with blogs (like Root Simple), I installed an rss feed reader on my computer. My feed reader tells me when you have a new post and creates a “news feed” of blogs I actually care about–without all that Facebook advertising algorithm riff raff. It’s a “news feed” I actually look forward to reading!

  24. Friends in the know tell me they have seen multiple alternatives to FB in start-up stage. This will take some time to work through the system but the competitive marketplace may offer alternatives soon, without govt intervention.

  25. Dear Mr. Homegrown,

    I am a tremendous fan of your blog, I read every post. I believe I have already commented here about FB, that I used it actively when I was promoting a book (as well as my blog and a podcast series) and, effective as it may have been towards that purpose, I quickly found it addictive and in multitudinous ways downright creepy. (So FB algorthims decide whether or not I am see the photo of my new family member?! Ick.)

    My 2015 blog post, “Adios, Facebook!” is now archived on my website at

    In the years since I have not missed FB, on the contrary: I breathe a sigh of relief that I am free from its cold, mucousy clutches every day. Yes, every day.

    Of course many people continue to love FB, and I say, bless y’all. Nobody has to agree with me; my aim in that blog post was to explain, and mainly for my own benefit lest I be tempted to reactivate my account.

    (That said, my impression is that many people have moved from FB over to Whatsapp and Instragram, but that would not include Yours Truly.)

    These days, I am for email, an occasional letter-to-the editor or blog comment (such as this one), sending out a very occasional newsletter to subscribers via mailchimp, using ye olde telephone and, yea verily, meeting for real food and/or real coffee in ye olde Meatspace. If anyone wants to buy my book or read my blog or listen to my podcast they can find them with a Google or a Duckduckgo for either my name and/or the subjects I address, and if they feel the so moved as to follow my work, they can sign up for my newsletter. If they aren’t willing to make such a minimal effort, my work probably isn’t of interest or value for them anyway. I am not being being snarky, I am simply stating the fact.

    Neither am I saying marketing has no value (by the way, marketer Seth Godin’s blog is another I have been foloowing for many years). But that would be to wander down the rabbit hole of another subject.

    So how do I follow your marvelous balm of a blog, “Root Simple”? Simple! I added the icon to my iPad’s home screen.

    I have my blog reading arranged in folders by day, Monday through Sunday, and a folder for irregularly updated blogs. I check in with Root Simple on Wednesdays (and oftentimes more often).

    As for RSS feeds, I found subscribing to these problematic; sometimes they do not push out or they take an eon and a half to update. There is more to say about the problems with RSS feed, and others have said it.

    With warmest appreciation,

    C.M. MAYO

    • Many thanks for including our blog in your home screen! And also thank you for sharing your blog post.

  26. My husband is a elementary/middle school technology teacher and every time he mentions Facebook his kids roll their eyes and say they don’t use Facebook. It’s a space that has definitely been handed over to the older generations. My parents use it every day while I maybe go on it only when I absolutely need to and my husband deleted his.

    • It’s interesting that the adults are on Facebook and the kids are on Instagram and Snapchat. I don’t know much about Snapchat but I suspect that the way teens use Instagram is different than the way adults use it.

  27. It appears that you’ve hit a nerve with this post. And you have prompted me to finally delete my FB account which I don’t use anyway. I signed up for it about two years ago to keep abreast of medical updates on a critically ill friend. Since then I’ve tried to use it but it creeps me out with all the people it “knows” that I know, plus all the commercial garbage. I was always worried about privacy even though I hadn’t put in any info about myself and didn’t post anything. So here’s to one less thing to worry about.

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  29. I’ve never used Facebook in any real way. At one point about 10 years ago I created a fake account with random profile answers for those rare occasions when I was forced to log in to view something specific. I deleted that some time ago. Once in a blue moon I might still visit a page to look up store hours in the side bar but never content. The aggressive log in pop-up is far too obnoxious.

    I often reflect on how lucky I am to not have daily exposure to the stream of consciousness of friends and relatives. As far as old friends are concerned, better to remember them as they were. I’m just as guilty as anyone of posting a poorly considered or heated comment in the moment. That’s why I don’t participate anymore. Even good commenting is fundamentally flawed with the absence of physical cues that make face-to-face conversation work and the popularity rankings that help make platforms addictive. Thread participation too easily deteriorates into open hostility and bastions of groupthink at the expense of genuine thoughtfulness. I would argue that email and texting are fundamentally different, because they’re private, unscored, and mostly not anonymous.

    As far as hacks are concerned, I favor general inconvenience. For most of the last 18 months I haven’t had any home internet access. I keep a list of what I want to look up/download/buy as a reference for whenever I next go to the library or other WiFi hotspot. For the bulk of that list I tend to have no lasting motivation, and it gets discarded as too much trouble when I get online. When I’m there at the library or coffee shop, I don’t feel like spending time on comments or any other short form opinion or on panning for a rare good article link in places like Reddit, an activity that teaches you to tolerate more time on Reddit. (I noticed after not going there for a while that I had absolutely no patience for the format. I suspect the same is true for Facebook, twitter, imgur, instagram, and so on…) I don’t know if it’s the place in which I’m online that demotivates me or if it’s the expectation that I won’t be there for too long.

    I have another hack that might be particularly well suited for social media. Install an image block extension or turn off automatic image loading in your browser preferences. I use both an image block and flash block to reduce the data load and stop any auto-play flash video. It’s also had a considerable impact on what I judge in the moment to be potentially interesting. At least in my case, images can have a draw that headlines alone do not have. The same is probably true if I’m trying to decide whether or not I need to buy something even if I think I’m above that kind of manipulation.

    • Thank you for this long and considered comment. I’m very impressed with this no wifi in the house strategy and it’s something that Kelly suggested a long time ago.

  30. I got part way through signing up for Facebook a few years ago but found the information they wanted too intrusive and never finished registering.
    I want to know how come facebook still tells me in a regular basis that I have x number of notifications? How can I have them when I am not registered?? The whole thing bothers me in terms of the privacy (or lack thereof) of my online life.
    I know I miss out on a bit if what goes on in various groups I belong to but it’s not a big deal.
    Claire in Melbourne, Australia

    • I have the same problem with Linkedin. I deleted my account years ago and still get lots of annoying notifications!

  31. I use Facebook, and try not to let it use me. I blocked every “news” site that used click-baity headlines in the last election, or had fake news. I unfollow anybody I don’t really know very well, but don’t quite want to disconnect 100% with. I block every sports page that a friend shares (boring), I block all the ridiculous FB pages that are just weird memes that I don’t even think are funny. I have blocked every horoscope page that comes up when i get a new friend. There’s so many things to block. Oh, I block all the games, too, even if I play them on my phone. I unfollow anybody who posts more than approx 3x/day, because then my wall becomes all about them.

    I only use the “most recent” feed, because FB does not get to determine who/what I see, I do. (this is not 100%, but it’s a help).

    I find Events to be a great help in my life, and I am a member of many groups that do bring me joy. I happily leave any group that I deem “annoying”. FB still continues to be useful to me, and I’m not ready to quit it, but I keep it off my phone.

    I get your blog thru feedly, and this may be the first time I’ve come to your website, I use adblock on my desktop, and I know I’m not contributing financially to you at this time. To counter-act this, I will often buy a book or merch from someone I like, especially the longer I follow their work.

    I’ve decided that social media consumption can fall under the heading of “conscious consumerism” that probably is something this community considers. I don’t know why, but that definition helps me when I consider these things.

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