Reader Feedback About Facebook

Root Simple readers had many thoughtful reactions to my exasperated and cranky blog post about Facebook. I also posted in Facebook to explain my frustrations with the medium and received a similar set of comments.

Responses fell into a range between those who have deleted their Facebook profiles to those who use software and browser extensions to remove objectionable content and features. Several mentioned a generational divide: older people tend to use Facebook while young people are on Instagram and Snapchat.

The leaked Facebook memo that prompted my social media meltdown revealed that the company has the ability to monitor, in real time, our moods and exploit them. I find the real time component especially nightmarish. As Mark Pesce points out in an article, “The Last Days of Reality,” this real time ability sets up a kind of feedback loop that tilts us all into a dangerous epistemological crisis. And the practice of making children more depressed so that you can sell them stuff they don’t need is deeply and profoundly disturbing.

At the same time, in a common modern ethical conundrum, I feel trapped in a system I don’t support. Like many commenters mentioned, I need to hear about events distributed via Facebook. I suspect there are many of our readers who share this problem or have to use Facebook at work to promote a business. So it’s not an easy decision for everyone to just leave social media entirely.

That said, as is not surprising for a homesteading blog, many have never used Facebook or have pulled the plug on Facebook entirely. An anonymous commentor said,

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.

As for other hacks, workarounds and apps that make Facebook into a less objectionable technology, Milton says, “I have un-followed everyone in my news feed. It’s a surprisingly effective way to break Facebook.”

Vince Stross, a guest on episode 5 of our podcast, says,

The F’book is a joke Erik, I totally agree. Also, fwiw been using uBlock Origin for years as a browser extension that does a great job at blocking all tracking and ads except for the sites where you want to allow it. Also, have been playing with the Brave browser lately, which aims to completely disrupt the revenue model of independent content creators on the net.

On Vince’s suggestion I downloaded Brave, an open source web browser with built-in ad blocking and anti tracking features. So far I really like it.

Root Simple reader C.M. writes,

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.

You can read more of C.M.’s thoughts on Facebook in a blog post she wrote, “Adios Facebook! The Six Reasons I Deactivated My Account

Wayne says, “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.” Of course, I want to set up a browser that only shows cat related content.

Others mentioned open source Facebook alternatives such as Diaspora and Mastodon but I have a hard time believing that these services can compete with Facebook and they don’t address the core problem: social media’s promotion of isolation over community.

Along the lines of building an entirely different internet Adam says,

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.

Hubzilla requires some technical prowess that I don’t possess but it’s the kind of solution that we in the DIY homestead world need to consider. We’re about making and doing things, right? One of those tasks might be creating the open source and decentralized internet we were promised in the 1990s before large, thuggish robber barons like Facebook arrived on the scene. I’ve blogged in the past about mesh networks set up with old routers and, apparently, this is what’s being done in Puerto Rico right now in the wake of the hurricane.

I have used Facebook in the past to link to blog posts on Root Simple. This is standard promotional advice for bloggers and authors. Unfortunately Facebook’s algorithms actively thwart any attempt to link to outside content on a personal blog without (of course) paying Facebook and creating sketchy clickbait content. And if a link to our blog in Facebook does get seen I suspect that people are just looking at it and “liking” it without actually clicking through to our blog. So, for the time being, I’m going to starve Facebook of content and not even try to link to Root Simple.

Thank you all for your comments. For independent bloggers and authors such as me and Kelly it means a lot to have supportive readers.

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8 Comments

  1. I use Feedly for RSS and it works very well. But I am going to try to come to the blog more often to comment rather than just read and move on.

    Regarding FB – I just use it to look at profiles of my family when the post pictures of my nieces and nephew. Plus there’s the GardenFork Discussion group. I do find the issue of not being able to disappear from it hard. I’m involved in a community group in my town and everyone loves messenger for everything. They post all events on FB.

  2. Your post touched a bit on security and ad/tracker blocking, so here are my two cents worth.

    I use five extensions in Firefox–my browser of choice–that help protect my privacy, block trackers, eliminate (or reduce) ads, and help me to avoid time-wasting websites (or limit how much time I can spend on them):
    1) HTTPS Everywhere, produced by EFF Technologists: Use this to “protect your communications by enabling HTTPS encryption automatically on sites that are known to support it”.
    2) Privacy Badger, produced by EFF Technologists: “Protects your privacy by blocking spying ads and invisible trackers.”
    3) Leechblock NG, produced by James Anderson: Use this to “block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day.”
    4) UBlock Origin, produced by Raymond Hill: “Finally, an efficient blocker. Easy on CPU and memory.”
    5) NoScript Security Suite, produced by Giorgio Maone: “Allow active content to run only from sites you trust, and protect yourself against XSS and Clickjacking attacks, ‘Spectre’, ‘Meltdown’ and other JavaScript exploits.” [This one has a bit of a learning curve, and I sometimes disable it, especially with trusted sites.]

    Besides these extensions, I have set Firefox to always enable its built-in tracking protection, and I use the “strict protection” blocking list. Also, I have configured Firefox to not allow third party cookies, and to not remember browsing/download/search & form history.

  3. I always go directly to the blog, simply because it’s easy, but I don’t mind Facebook. Every now and then I deactivate my account for a week or a month if I find myself slipping into an unhealthy behavior. But, over time, I have self-regulated away from commenting on things and going down pointless rabbit holes. I enjoy seeing posts and photos from my family and friends and knowing the cool things they are up to. More and more, I try to post what I am actually up to, versus reposting something else, even if that something else is highly intelligent. I Unfollow A LOT of people, more lately. Basically, if you’re who my friends refer to as “Your Really Racist Aunt Cody”, you eventually just get unfollowed. That toxic behavior can’t be changed on the internet, but it can be muted and ignored. Racist Aunt Cody doesn’t get my time anymore. But, lots of people post interesting projects and pictures of flowers and animals and there is no shame in enjoy those.

  4. I’m nearly 70 and I have survived all those years without once needing to have a Facebook account. Can’t see any reason for one now either…

  5. Pingback: Reader Feedback About Facebook – A Widow's Web

  6. A day without facebook is like a day WITH sunshine.
    I do use it for my small farm and every now and then- a thought out loud with photography. Helps my family and friends back home to catch up. Is it a necessary evil? For now, yes…but I hope to eliminate it’s hold on me and necessity for farmstand offerings to make it in daily newsfeeds. Sigh. People have become disassociated with the real world, the trees, stars, sun and seasons. May take some time to reconnect to actual earth than just pictures of it, the less people actually experience an association with the environment- the more detached they become to it, seems destroying it won’t matter so much. I intend on singing the praises of nature and gardening- hopefully it will sink in- the important spontaneous beauty of “it”. Take care, and thank you.

  7. I’m not the type to get caught up wasting my time on Facebook, making comments on contentious subjects during my cocktail hour (oh yeah I’ve done that in the past!) or susceptible to marketing so I feel okay about staying on FB. I’ve created a lot of photo albums and it’s the easiest way to share and comment with my family and close friends. Plus I do follow several interest groups and I like the community of it all. But I knew that it was inevitable that this app would decline as the owning corp would have to make money. Or else be shut down. It is too bad as the platform is so compatible to sharing and communicating. The nastier parts of it I ignore otherwise I’d get too upset.

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