Facebook Must Die, and It Will, but in the Meantime…

You can’t swing a virtual cat without coming across an article about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The cynicism of these people is quite stunning. Facebook is pretending that they didn’t do anything wrong (“What, us?”), and Cambridge Analytica – whose CEO was just suspended by the company’s board – is saying the same sort of things.

Don’t forget that CA is partly owned by Robert Mercer, a leading conservative donor, and that Steve Bannon was vice-president of the company.

But back to Facebook; it will die, eventually. Or it will morph into something different. It’s not new; their abuse of user data has been apparent for several years. Governments are going to take the company apart, and rightly so. It may survive, with a different business model, or it may be replaced by something else.

I’ve been using Facebook since 2007, and use it in a limited manner. I keep in touch with old friends, and some colleagues, but I long ago got tired of all the quizzes and fake news that people were sharing, and unfollowed a lot of people. What I do use it for, however, is groups. These have replaced forums for many people, and are very accessible: people don’t need to understand how forum software works, and they don’t need to create new accounts. I belong to groups about cats, photography, music, local groups, and more.

Many people use Facebook groups now, because they are so easy to set up. For example, I’m taking an online photography course, and the instructor created a Facebook group for people to post photos and discuss the course. This is very practical, and these groups generally aren’t polluted with the dregs of Facebook.

If Facebook goes away or changes, this is one aspect of the service that I would miss. These groups suffer from all the usual Facebook problems of an algorithm deciding what to post on your timeline, but you can view all posts in a group (though navigation isn’t practical). But they’re like the best of Usenet; they allow communication without too many problems of spam, since they’re easily moderated.

In any case, I hope Facebook gets destroyed. What they’ve done – even more so than Twitter – is to monetize people’s data and share it in ways they should not have done. The fact that if one of your friends plays a game or quiz and your data can be shared should be – and may well become – illegal. Facebook has gotten too big, and needs to die. I’ll stay there for a while, mainly for groups, but I agree that it’s just not fun any more.