As many of you know I have been struggling with the Facebook conundrum. You can read my bold statement made last November about how (and why) I was going to slowly leave facebook here. I did everything I said I was going to do except the final step of fully leaving. I worked on building my newsletter list in order to better communicate with people that way, I put energy into MeWe, an alternative social media platform, and heavily promoted it on (irony!) Facebook, and finally I took a giant step away from Facebook beginning around the start of the year, only occasionally checking in and participating. I posted about classes, but only after sending out the information in newsletter form, and once in a blue moon I made a personal or political post. Mostly my relationship with Facebook since last fall has been one of contemplation rather than participation.
I put a significant amount of time into searching for alternatives to Facebook and settled on MeWe as being the best option. Why?
• It’s ad free
• doesn’t data mine your personal information
• doesn’t sell your information to anyone
• doesn’t manipulate post presentation order
• doesn’t make fake accounts with the names of friends it has stolen from your phone
• and is, for the most part, exactly like Facebook but without all the bad stuff. Okay, there is some bad stuff. Because the racist sexist alt right, who have their own reasons for wanting to leave Facebook, found it first. And because MeWe, unlike Facebook, doesn’t keep you in a bubble, only showing you what it knows you like, if you look for groups to join on MeWe you are going to see some rather mean spirited groups. These groups exist on Facebook as well, it’s just that if you are a kind hearted person (liberal or conservative) you are less likely to see them. Also, MeWe can be used to promote horrible things just like Facebook has been used. One of the reasons I want to leave Facebook is because of the role it has played in genocide and bullying. It has literally been a tool of death. The only social media platform I have found that seemingly can’t be used this way is Mastadon, which is a lot like Twitter, but adheres to strict “no Nazis” rules. Unfortunately Mastadon is a Twitter replacement, not a Facebook replacement - it simply serves a different role. I don’t use Twitter, so I haven’t put my energies into understanding that realm, but for those of you who do, please go check it out.
Anyhow, I rallied and pleaded with people to take the five minutes that it would take to set up an account over on MeWe (or any other good alternative social media platform) and start using it - because it’s only going to work if everyone goes over there and pours energy into it even while it’s quiet and boring, to get it going. Some people did, but not many; and those who did quickly stopped using it when they found no one there. It broke my heart a little. People talk a lot about all the bold and big things that they want to do to save the world, but when it comes right down to it just leaving a rather evil corporation, when there is an easy alternative, is more than most are willing to do. I understand, all of our friends are on Facebook. And for a small business owner, it has become the single most useful tool for connecting with clients/patrons/customers/patients there is. I really understand.
And so I have sat with this for many months. This conundrum. I pulled away from all social media, MeWe too, because it was just making me sad. And I thought about it.
For me, the ethical need to support something like MeWe instead of Facebook is at odds with the ethical need to be a strong participant in community, and for now, community is on Facebook an awful lot. I am an activist, and when I see an event that I want people to attend to help fight human rights abuses or the environment, I want to tell people about it. And when I see a charity that seems to be actually helping to get children out of cages on the U.S. Mexican border, I want to shout about it. And when I read an article that gives hope when so many are feeling hopeless, I want to share it wide and far. And right now there is something going on that we have to use every single tool available to us to fix, and that thing is climate change. We are on a train that is headed straight for a cliff, and worrying about the ethics of the tools on the train that might be used to stop it is simply not an option. Until people move elsewhere, Facebook is a tool on the train and I cannot justify ignoring it even if it’s a tool that has been used for violence and cruelty and privacy violations. We have an election coming up in which the winners (president, state and country senators and representatives, all the local positions…) will be the ones who determine if we take the train over the cliff or if we stop it. There are some people out there who find reason in the things I say and share. And if I can help even one person to support a candidate who will enforce laws that mitigate climate change, then I must. If I can get one person to call their senators and reps and beg them to support a bill that lowers climate changing emissions, then I must. If I can get just one person to give money to a charity that is working to protect the environment then I must. Because my son, who just turned 18, is in the first generation in known history to have a shorter life expectancy than his parents; because of climate change.
So, I’ve decided to rejoin Facebook for now, and to continue to support the growth of MeWe by double posting everything and using Facebook to promote it because populating MeWe with posts is the only way we can possibly grow it to a point where people will be willing to leave Facebook. My Facebook rule will be that I never use it without simultaneously supporting the growth of a viable alternative. It doesn’t have to be MeWe; if people find something else that is ethical that they like better, I’ll move my efforts. I’m not branded, I just see it as the current best alternative.
I will also continue to alert those on my e-mail newsletter list first whenever a new class opens for registration on my website, or other things of relevance occur. Since my classes have been filling fast lately, I’m hoping this will be an incentive to join. I also put little tidbits of what I hope are interesting and fun Thai related things on each newsletter. Like recipes, or Thai medicine information, or Buddha dharma snippets.
Many thanks to all of you who applauded my initial post about leaving Facebook. Your support of the effort is appreciated. I still hope to be able to follow through someday. And you may all find another post soon flip flopping again, as I may find that rejoining Facebook just feels too icky. We shall see. Right now I believe that fighting climate change is the single most important thing that any of us can be doing though, and if I can use Facebook toward this, and other important ends, then I must. It’s been a lot of contemplation; thank you for coming along for the ride. Much love and hope to all.